Aw, heck. Target went and did it again.
There’s a lot of buzz going on right now about this “bathroom bill.”
I first heard about this whole deal on Facebook, and I have to be completely transparent here – I was not keeping up with state policy making. So as far as I knew, Target had made a statement out of the blue (or pink?) about bathrooms. I figured this was perhaps phase two of the gender neutralization of the toy aisle (which, for the record has changed nothing at any of the Targets I’ve been in since – and I go to Target often).
Then I read about HB2. In all seriousness, North Carolina politicians passed a bill stating that people must use the gender specific restroom that coincides with their birth certificate gender.
This bill has caused a stir among both sides of the debate – particularly, fear of transgender women (born male) entering women’s bathrooms is at the heart of it all. Some are afraid for the safety of their children, as if a transgender person is automatically a pedophile.
Look – I get it. We’re all deeply concerned for the safety of all people, including children. While I can’t possibly understand that to the fullest extent because I don’t have children of my own, I can get with being protective. As a Kids’ Pastor, parents entrust their kids to me every week at my church. I care about safety, and I deeply care about protecting the most vulnerable and innocent in our society.
But can we take a step back for a second? Maybe detach our emotions from the situation and look at some data? I know how difficult that is to do – I’m the first person to admit I like it my way. BUT – out of the 18 states that have adopted nondiscrimination laws, none have seen a rise in sexual violence or public safety concerns. Yet, 26% of transgender people experience physical assault at least once due to anti-trans bias. Who is at risk here?
Statistically, a child is more likely to be attacked by a person of the same gender in a public restroom (because, well, there are more of the same gender in gendered restrooms) – and the percentage of attacks in a public bathroom is extremely low. And even more statistically accurate, a child is more likely to be abused or assaulted by someone he or she knows rather than a stranger in a more familiar setting.
Is boycotting Target going to fix that?
Some extreme opponents of non-gendered restrooms are arguing that it becomes “legal” for indecent exposure with the removal of gender specific bathrooms. First of all – no it doesn’t. It also doesn’t legalize assault or rape. Second of all – if a transgender woman walks into a women’s restroom, no urinal exists in there. She will do her business in a stall like the rest of us. No indecent exposure there. It’s not like it’s the norm for women to undress openly in a restroom, so why would a transgender woman do that?
I’m also aware of this thing called the “Family Restroom” at Target (and lots of other places). It has one stall. Take your child there. And if you don’t want to go in there with him or her, tell your child to lock the door. Safety 101.
So in light of defending Target yet again, I present to you:
Ten Things More Dangerous than Target’s Gender Neutral Restrooms:
- Choking on the popcorn at Target.
- Paying too much for gendered Nerf Guns at Target.
- Contracting something from a non-vaccinated kid. At Target.
- Being in a car wreck in the parking lot at Target.
- Getting lost in Target (trust me – this happened to me all the time).
- Having your credit card declined at Target.
- Bumping into someone protesting with a gun at Target.
- Getting stuck in a shirt you thought was the right size – but not quite – at Target.
- Falling victim to the hilarious and naive belief that you can legitimately purchase that one thing – and that one thing only – you came into Target for (see #6).
- Forgetting that all people are made in God’s image.
We don’t all have to agree on this issue. But we Christians have a higher calling to identify and preserve the dignity and sacred worth in every single human being, regardless of their specific reproductive body parts. The first thing we learn about humans in scripture is that God created us in God’s image – and that’s very good. Somewhere along the way, we forgot that. So in order to make it as clear as possible, God took on human flesh to show us. During his time on earth, Jesus loved those on the fringes of society – the ones that couldn’t enter the the city gates (or perhaps a specific bathroom), the ones whom others feared for no reason, the misunderstood. This kind of radical Love is the very essence of who God is. And we’re all invited to participate in Love.
Let’s continue to have this conversation. But let’s do it with a holy perspective – refusing to name-call, striving for the safety and dignity of all people involved, and resisting the urge to equate difference with danger.