Man oh man, here we go. This isn’t some fresh off the press debate. I’m sure, just like me, your feed has been inundated with blogs and articles and all kinds of noise surrounding Target and their bathroom policy. Lots of folks have varying opinions surrounding this topic so whether you are for gender-neutral bathrooms, someone using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, or their gender from birth, I will always choose a space of love and acceptance.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about then A) you live under a rock and B) maybe that’s a blessing. Not so much a blessing that you are clueless, but more because you don’t have one more thing hanging over your head making you sick to your stomach at the state of our humanity. Cause that’s me 24/7. Every day is a new headline that sends my anxiety swirling and makes my heart ache for our world and the future my children will be left to do life in.
There are so many things I can say about this specific issue. So many feelings I have and so much I want to write completely uninhibited, but the truth is my words will likely get lost in the madness. I’ve been sitting on this topic trying to think of a way to say something powerful enough that people will listen. Something that can create meaningful and impactful dialogue.
With all that said, I think I will start by breaking things down a bit and talking some facts:
It seems one of the biggest oppositions is that Target’s stance on inclusivity will make it easier for predators to gain access to their victims. Here is a quote from the American Family Association:
“Target’s policy is exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. And with Target publicly boasting that men can enter women’s bathrooms, where do you think predators are going to go? Clearly, Target’s dangerous new policy poses a danger to wives and daughters.”
So first of all, this is not exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims. The majority of sexual assaults aren’t happening in public. They are happening where victims are comfortable. In their homes, their schools, and their churches. That’s right, the majority of sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows and trusts (82% to be exact). It’s not some dude dressed like a woman hiding out in the Target bathroom. It just isn’t. It’s your classmate, parent, grandparent, clergy, coach, or teacher. Perpetrators select their victims carefully. They go to great lengths to appear normal and friendly and they groom their victims over time. Where you choose to pee in Target is a blip of nothing on these people’s radars cause this just simply is not where they choose to attack.
Secondly, if you think this policy poses a danger to wives and daughters only, then there is still more to learn about sexual assault. Men get raped. 1 in 33 men are sexually assaulted in their lifetime and this stat doesn’t even reflect the true reality of male survivors. Why? Because sexual assault is atrociously underreported. In fact, according to Rainn.org sexual assault is one of the most under reported crimes, with 68% still being left unreported. Why? Well for starters we live in a culture rampant with victim blaming attitudes. Attitudes that place blame on the victim and question what they could have done to prevent their assaults in the first place. Attitudes that marginalize the victim and make it harder for them to come forward and report the abuse while also reinforcing to the perpetrator that violence is ok. Even more, our boys and men are taught from go to be tough and not show emotion, traits not often associated with a victim of sexual assault.
I seriously could talk all day long about the ins and outs of sexual violence and the ways our belief systems are at the heart of the issue. How rape culture has normalized sexual assault and created a terrifying epidemic in our country. But the reality is this can be said for any public health or social justice issue. They make people uncomfortable. They are laced with fear and misunderstanding. They are fueled by change and change is innately resisted. So while a change in bathroom policy may seem small, it is actually the beginning of something greater, something more systemic and longer lasting. And that terrifies people.
So while many out there are outraged by Target’s decision to stand for equality, it’s not a new fight. And the rationale behind the resistance to it is the same too. I mean it wasn’t that long ago African-American’s weren’t allowed to use “white” restrooms. And during that time in our history, similar fears were discussed surrounding safety and the need to protect the white people most affected by the changes taking place. If we make it an issue to our own personal safety or react with a need to protect, then it eliminates the moral struggle. It dehumanizes the ones feared in the first place. Which is exactly my overall stance on everything. It might be potty wars today, but tomorrow it’s just a different war with the same fears.
Regardless of anything, there is one thing I hold onto in the madness. I care and I’m teaching my tiny humans to care. I care about humans. I care about them in Target and outside of Target. I care about them no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, or where they choose to pee. I care about them because they are human. Because I am human. Because I was taught to always show kindness and love. But more than anything I believe change is possible. I believe discomfort and fear can transform into acceptance and understanding. That humanity can break the cycle of hatred and evolve into something more inclusive and equality driven and that my tiny humans can one day navigate a world where everyone loves Target again.