'Target opened Pandora's Box over transgender bathroom policy'

© Kai Pfaffenbach
Over one million people have signed a petition to boycott US retailer Target after it announced a controversial decision that allows men to use women's toilets and fitting rooms, and vice-versa, if they 'self-identify' with the choice.

Calls to boycott Target have sparked a range of reactions online with some people noting the boycott itself will make bathrooms safer. Many have pledged not to shop at the chain, claiming its policy endangers their safety.

Contrary to Target’s decision, a town in Alabama has passed a law to make using a bathroom that doesn't correspond to the person's biological sex a criminal offense. Offenders face a 500-dollar fine, or up to 6 months in jail.

RT discussed the issue with Pastor Greg Locke from the Global Vision Bible Church, and Carla Howell, political director of the Libertarian Party.

RT: Greg, what do you think of Target's decision?

Greg Locke: I’ve been very vocal about it when I first made the video that initially went viral within 24 hours… It was no surprise to everybody that I was vocal about it. I actually went to Target and found one of the managers – I’m well aware of the fact that it’s a corporate decision - but I wanted to find out what the public stand was on our Target in town. They basically said I can go to whatever restroom I self-identify with that particular day. I was a little shocked. I wanted to make sure I was getting it correctly, so I said, ‘You mean to tell me that if I feel like being a woman I can go to the women’s restroom right now?’ And they said, ‘Yes, and if that’s what you feel and anybody is uncomfortable with that then they can come talk to the management.’ Of course, I was shocked.

RT:This decision by Target is about civil rights. How can the rights of transgender people be protected?

GL: This is not a transgender issue, because… heterosexual men aren’t going to dress up like women and go in and abuse the system. But the problem with Target is that they don’t have to dress up like women; they can just march in there if they want to with their Iphone - there has already been a number of glaringly perverted cases that have already come to fruition in just in the last couple of weeks. So it’s not that these transgender people will be doing this. People understand my stance on the LGBT community. But this is not that.

This is more of a safety and morality concern of men - and even women - today in our culture that are going to bend this new policy as an opportunity to go in and undress in front of little kids, whatever it may be, or see women, be a peeping tom, take a phone in there. That is what I am concerned about, the safety aspect of it, not necessarily the transgender aspect, because they’ve been around and again, they only make up a very small percentage and so I don’t think we should change all the rules and policy just for that. But I think in trying to make them feel comfortable and appreciated, I think Target has opened Pandora’s Box to predators. That is basically been the idea behind why I made my video.

RT: Almost half a million people have signed a petition to boycott Target over its bathroom policy. How strong is opposition in the American society towards such initiatives?

Carla Howell: There is the reaction you see when you watch a video like Pastor Locke’s or when you see a petition being signed, but for everyday people it is not the number one issue for them. It's not a voting issue for most people. So, I can’t tell you exactly what is in the hearts and minds of every American. It is a news item, something to talk about. But whether it is something to vote for or not, I am not so sure.

RT: How do you prevent criminals from abusing such initiatives? Surely you can't check every person's self-identification in terms of gender.

CH: Of course, it is illegal to be a sexual predator. From what I understand, I am not an expert on this subject, but incidents of men posing as women and being sexual predators there is no evidence of that that I heard of. Typically men present themselves as their heterosexual selves when they are aiming to do something like that, so I don’t think this law is likely going to affect many peoples’ lives one way or another, other than people like Pastor Locke who has strong feelings about that one way or the other. That’s my take on that.

RT: Do you think sexual predators will attempt to take advantage of this bill?

CH: It is impossible regardless of what the law is and regardless of what Target’s policy is, you ultimately cannot prevent what people do. You might deter them with certain policies. But the important thing from a Libertarian point of view here is that this is a policy that has been adopted by Target and that’s the way it should be. It should not be dictated by law. It should be the choice of Target to set their policies on their own property anyway they want just as it should be the prerogative of a church to set the policies they want on their private property. And that’s the main concern of Libertarians is honoring personal private property. We also certainly believe in personal freedoms but in someone’s own property they should be able to do whatever they want.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.