Don't Boycott Target Over Transgender Bathroom Issue

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of The Christian Post or its editors.
(Photo: Reuters/Dan Riedlhuber/Files)Employees work at a Target store at St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, January 15, 2015.

Advocates of traditional family values are calling for a boycott of Target in response to the retail giant's announcement that they allow transgender people to use the restroom and dressing room that aligns with their preferred gender identity. The other way of saying this is that grown men have unrestricted and no-questions-asked access to bathrooms designated for women and girls.

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Carmen Fowler LaBerge is president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee.

Via their website, Target announced, "[W]e welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. …Everyone deserves to feel like they belong."

Critics allege that this move is less common sense than nonsense by putting women and girls at risk of increased predation because sexually predatory men will use Target's policy to gain access to female victims. These are very serious concerns, and should not be minimized.

So how can we act to protect the most vulnerable in our society and actually effect change?

Three considerations to tamp down the hair-on-fire call to boycott Target:

1. While it is true that sexual predators exploit the freedom and trust in our society, predatory behavior remains illegal at all times in all places. Target is on notice that there is concern and fear that their policy invites predation. They should be given the opportunity to prove to be a good corporate citizen by announcing specific plans to insure the safety of all people while in their stores.

2. We need to step back and acknowledge what's actually happening on a larger scale and deeper level. The culture has shifted and nonsense has replaced common sense in many sectors. What was once considered absurd now demands not only accommodation but cultural adulation. That brings to the reality that transgender people feel as uncomfortable in a restroom that does not align with their gender identity as you feel with the idea of sharing a restroom with a person whose anatomy does not align with the sign on the door.

This is complicated and culturally contentious but raising the alert level to full-scale-screaming does not help. There is a clear contest underway in our culture: is gender a God-designed binary reality or is it a mutable fluid of the individual?

If Christians start boycotting every corporation that operates out of progressivism's politically-correct profit-motives, our choices are going to be very narrow, our voice further sidelined and our influence further diminished.

3. The boycott war is neither persuasive nor effective. States, colleges, professional sports associations, global corporations and performers have all joined the boycott of states whose laws require that in public environments, people use the restroom that corresponds with their birth certificate. So maybe boycotting Target is tit-for-tat turn-around-is-fair-play. But what does that accomplish?

Maybe a corporate engagement strategy through Target stock shareholders or a proactive campaign that seeks to fight predation of women and girls and addresses the dehumanizing abusive bullying of transgender people would yield superior results. The current boycott war is only driving us further apart from those with whom we disagree and those whose challenges we don't understand. (And yes, I'll be escorting my minor children to the bathroom while simultaneously exercising my second amendment right.)

Alternatives to a boycott:

How might we influence the conversation without threatening withdrawal and boycott? Is being further sidelined and isolated really the most effective approach for Christians who hope to positively influence the culture? How can we help insure every person's privacy and protection, including women, girls and transgender people? Is there a simple and reasonable accommodation that satisfies all concerned? What about the addition of single access, single occupancy restrooms or changing rooms?

Suggesting that boycotting Target misses the target is not to say that as consumers and citizens we should be silent or passive.

Each of us and all of us need to be proactive about our own protection: if you are a woman and you are by yourself and need to use the restroom or changing room, ask a female associate to monitor the facility. If a person who presents as male seeks entry, the Target employee should inform that customer that the facility is occupied and currently unavailable. If they can't wait, they could be directed to the single occupancy facility. If they protest, they should be informed that although their right to use the restroom or changing room of their choice is Target's policy, that policy holds for every guest and team member. And the guest or team member currently using the facility has asked for a reasonable accommodation of their safety. And if we're talking about your child, you should be in the facility with them at all times.

Instead of boycotting, why not call on Target to insure the safety of women and girls while they are also providing reasonable accommodation to transgender individuals? Instead of widening the chasm why not find the common concern of privacy and safety which stands at the center of concern for both groups?

If you'd like to weigh in personally, call Target Guest Relations at 1-800-440-0680. Share your concerns on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/target.

Originally posted at ReconnectWithCarmen.com.

Carmen Fowler LaBerge is president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee.