by Reid Fitzsimons
The Target Corporation, which describes itself as “an upscale discount retailer” and operates almost 1,800 stores, has recently emphasized its commitment to transgender activism, specifically where it pertains the to use of its bathrooms. Brian Cornell has been at the helm as the CEO since August 2014 (total compensation since his affiliation $28,164,024) and recently made a statement, largely in Q&A format, to address any concerns his bathroom policy has engendered.
His preamble reiterated Target’s diversity philosophy: "individuality may include a wide spectrum of attributes such as personal style, age, race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language, physical ability, religion, family, citizenship status, socio-economic circumstances, education, and life experiences." He added the following: “We live in exciting times, from not only a corporate/business perspective but from a cultural one. We at Target believe the greatest human endeavor is to facilitate people in finding personal fulfillment and satisfaction in life. We are proud to be at the forefront in advocating for people too long marginalized by society simply because of the manner in which they gender identify. We believe the greatest gift we can give our valued customers is a shopping experience where all feel welcome, accepted, and embraced regardless of such factors as sexual orientation or gender identity.” He then answered questions asked by customers about Target’s bathroom policy:
Q: I consider myself a progressive and am supportive of Target’s social justice goals in general. However, while shopping one day with my 8-year-old daughter she told me she was big enough to use the bathroom by herself. I proudly waited outside the door but she came out she was crying, saying she was frightened by a man in the bathroom. I don’t think he did anything but I didn’t know what to say to reassure my little girl. What do you recommend?
A: We are pleased that many Target shoppers are as enlightened as you. We look at this type of situation as an opportunity to educate your daughter, not just in terms of explaining that the person may have looked like a man but inside he felt like a woman, but to broach the subject of her own gender identity. 8 years of age is an ideal time to begin exploring all aspects of one’s sexuality, including orientation and gender. Perhaps you could go with her into the men’s bathroom and allow her to see similarities and differences. She might be intrigued with the idea that males stand up to urinate, for example. Perhaps she’s thinking she might like to try being a boy, and with the nurturing and guidance from sensitive, progressive parents she could begin to consider the many options of identity and orientation available to her. Thank you for your insightful question.
Q: I am a woman and was in a Target ladies bathroom the other day and was surprised to see a grown man inside. Somehow I got the impression he was loitering more than anything else, and was very uncomfortable. I quickly left and reported the incident to management but they didn’t seem concerned. Is there any recourse?
A: At Target we know that social change can be uncomfortable, but it helps to keep in mind our ultimate goal of a feeling of full inclusiveness. We have confidence in the integrity of our shoppers, and it’s possible this person was uncomfortable as well. Perhaps he/she has yet to decide on a gender identity and was using this bathroom experience as a means of exploration. Additionally, we are now recognizing that gender identity need not be a fixed thing, but a variable one. Nobody should have to comport himself or herself as a male, for example, if at the moment they feel more like a female. We hope you and all of our customers make the effort to help all people feel welcome in whatever bathroom they choose, and our policy is to support people in their bathroom choice. Hence, in the absence of an overt threat of some sort, we have no procedure for concerns such as yours. If, however, you witness any type of discriminatory behavior, toilet related or otherwise, we encourage you to report it to our Inclusivity Team at our customer service desk, located near the ATM machines. I would recommend the next time you have such an encounter you approach the person and congratulate him/her for their courage and ask what you can do to enhance their bathroom experience.
Q: I have an opinion rather than a question. I hover between tolerance and apathy- in practical terms I don’t care if a person considers himself or herself to be whatever gender they desire. I am not religious so I don’t think in terms of sin, nor do I view, with perhaps a few exceptions, transgender behavior as pathological. What I do believe, however, is that this ubiquitous concern for all things under the banner of sexuality and identity to be the by-product of excessive wealth, and its attendant greed and selfishness. Our traditional ethics- work hard, be grateful for what we have, basic courtesy in our dealings with others, etc- have been supplanted by desires and demands, yearning to sense outrage and victimhood, and always wanting more. Materialism has replaced meaning, or has possibly been confused with meaning. We have to struggle for nothing, yet we want to be perceived as struggling for everything. In many ways we have created a cultural void, where our satisfaction and self-worth are based on the Tweets of celebrities and the number of “likes” we receive on our latest Facebook posting. I think it is in this vacuum, this universe of materialism and meaninglessness, in which identify movements find a home.
A male states he is really a female, but how does he know? Certainly there are characteristics of femalehood (lacking a better term) that he may find appealing, but how can he really know beyond the superficial. I suspect the pervasive aimlessness associated with our absurd wealth creates a deep dysphoria and disconnect, and our response takes on the mentality of “if only.” In other words, “I am dissatisfied with my life, therefore if only I was a different gender, had even a bigger TV or faster smartphone, a grander vacation, a more luxurious car, bigger breasts, etc, I would find contentment.” Perhaps it can be summarized as follows: I am inclined to believe that people seek a different identity because they are unable and/or unwilling to confront their personal conflicts, which can be difficult, whereas Target and its fellow travelers believe that becoming something than other than what they are is a means to happiness.
As I mentioned, I am fine with any person deciding to identify him or herself as whatever sex they want to be. Indeed if someone needed a hand, I would reply with, “Sure, glad to help,” regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, etc. My objection is that I am essentially being coerced into accepting that identity, despite what I know and what I see. I feel that Target’s bathroom policy is in fact encouraging people to run away from who they are and seek affirmation under false pretenses. Please respond.
A: Wow, that was quite a longwinded statement but my response will be brief. First, we are fortunate that people of your ilk are no longer directing the course of our culture. For all your words, I can distill everything in one phrase- Blame the Victim! Putting the onus of responsibility on someone for their own dysphoria, using your phrase, is just another form of harassment and intimidation, which is specifically what gender uncertain (or perhaps certain) people don’t need. They need love and acceptance, not a moral drill sergeant. Also, please don’t confuse tolerance with a virtue, it’s just another code word for bias and oppression, something for a bigot to hide behind and rationalize their contempt for people different than themselves.
Q: I admit I am a “bowel shy” person and don’t like using public bathrooms with people of my own sex, let alone the opposite sex. I dread being caught in a Target store if the “urge” comes. How might I get over this?
A: First, remember that a male who identifies as a female is in fact a female, and vice versa, so you needn’t worry about the opposite sex. Now, at Target we are well aware of the reluctance of some people to urinate and defecate in public facilities, though we believe this is an unnecessary culturally derived perception. Nevertheless we have several exciting initiatives to help people overcome their shyness. We have recently published a booklet, Embracing Elimination (made possible with grants from the Clinton Foundation and US Dept. of Justice, Civil Rights Division) that guides people to acceptance and celebration their natural functions and those of others in public bathrooms. This is available for download at Target.com for only $1.99.
Additionally, we are beginning a pilot program to infuse our bathrooms with soothing music that will help mask the somewhat unpleasant sounds associated with defecation. Also, we are installing single use dispensers of Pooperi, a wonderfully fragrant substance that, when placed in the toilet before a bowel movement, helps cover the associated odors. These cost a low $0.79 per single use (only $0.49 for our Right on Target Preferred Customer cardholders, just swipe it to get the discount). At Target we are always looking for ways to enhance the shopping experience!
Q: It seems that Target’s progressive social justice agenda is at odds with some religions, specifically more conservative Christianity. While not a Christian myself, I have known many who have dedicated their lives to compassion- helping the impoverished, the hungry, and the sick, often in the most trying locations. When I hear these people maligned and marginalized by the social justice activists, I can’t help but feel disheartened. Does Target Corporation, as a facilitator of progressive culture, have a pejorative view of religion?
A: Target Corporation celebrates religion and religious persons. Our singular issue is when a particular religious doctrine or scripture is at odds with our belief of inclusiveness. When is happens, it is the responsibility of the offending church and its members to reject those beliefs, at which point we can we can walk in unison towards a better world. Remember that compassion is not found in action but in attitude. Not to sound flippant, but anyone can buy a plane ticket to a poor third-world country and serve hungry kids a plate of rice and beans. Real compassion, and courage, is demonstrated when someone stands up for people who are rejected simply because they want to be accepted for who they perceive themselves to be. Personal identity in general, and gender identity specifically, is the greatest human rights struggle of modern times. Many if not most people affected by these issues derive their self-worth from how others feel about them, and it is incumbent upon all of us to send message to them: we love you and totally accept you as you want and believe yourself to be. Helping people find personal fulfillment and satisfaction is, or should be, a fundamental goal of all true religions.
Q: I have read on the internet that some say transgender people are mentally ill. Is this true?
A: The answer is a resounding “NO!” Progressive, forward thinking society has determined that people struggling with gender identity issues are victims of culture, not patients in need of therapy, and in fact President Obama has called for an end to such therapies aimed at “repairing” gay, lesbian and transgender youth.
Q: Doesn’t Target’s transgender bathroom policy conflict with my right to privacy?
A: A common and legitimate question. In a multicultural and diverse society we may need to balance rights because sometimes there are minor conflicts. For example, you certainly have the right to free speech as long as your words are consistent with the beliefs and desires of Preferred and Protected People and don’t offend them. Whereas your right to bathroom privacy is respected, it is outweighed by the right of a transgender person to use the bathroom of their choosing. Keep in mind that the “right to privacy” is a fine phrase but it was really intended to obfuscate the voices of the so-called pro-life movement and perhaps it is now best left behind when considering other issues.
Q: I have spent several years working/volunteering in some of the poorest places on earth, and have on more than one occasion held children and babies in my arms as they died from the ravages of diseases such as malaria. I think I have witnessed more worldly reality than most Americans, and when I see a privileged college-educated young person declare they are now of a different gender and demand they be fully and universally accepted as such, I say to myself, “There must be a higher calling.” To be honest, despite somehow being framed in guise of altruism and justice, it seems so petty and self-absorbed. I don’t think the individual is necessarily selfish, but rather has been raised to perceive themselves as victims, to believe they are of exceptional importance, and that their whims need to be addressed favorably and with haste. I wish our energies would be devoted to issues of greater importance, and fault Target Corporation for validating something so vacuous and perhaps even damaging. Might you reconsider?
A: While we at Target applaud your work in distant places we believe our cause is pressing and vital, tantamount to any other humanitarian effort. Reality is frequently employed by those opposed to progressive advancement, but in reality it is a concept used to prevent people from achieving their personal aspirations, to deter people from pursuing their dreams. You might see, for example, someone in the ladies bathroom who looks to you to be an overweight middle-aged male, but in reality he/she could well be a young girl (we believe in the future personal age determination will become a basic human right), because until we agree that perception is reality, we will not fully obtain our noble goal of full inclusiveness and acceptance. We need a world in which facts and truth no longer dictate who and what we are, but a world in which we can be whatever we yearn to be without the impediment of reality.
The CEO of Target Corporation then concluded his conversation with customers by stating the following: “We are excited to be a corporate leader in progressive diversity and inclusiveness. We believe our model of social justice combined with discount pricing and a wide selection is a winner, and ask our customers to join us in our noble journey. We aim to make Target your Go To store, where you can enjoy a comprehensive and meaningful shopping experience. Don’t forget to check out Target.com!”