The Religious Right quickly threw a tantrum over Target's decision. The American Family Association (AFA) announced a boycott of Target later that week, demanding that Target should uphold separate restrooms for men and women and a single occupancy unisex restroom for transgender. The AFA's boycott statement shamelessly pandered to their supporters' fear by claiming that Target's bathroom policy "poses a danger to wives and daughters" and is "exactly how sexual predators get access to their victims".
I doubt that the AFA has enough critical mass behind its boycott to weaken Target's bottom line. However, I'm alarmed at how the AFA and other Religious Right figures are demonizing transgender persons as supposed sexual predators. By depicting transgender persons as predatory monsters, the Religious Right dehumanizes the transgender community.
First, according to Right Wing Watch, anti-LGBTQ activist Dave Daubenmire protested Target's restroom policy at a Target store in Heath, Ohio on April 26th. In a video of his protest, a Target employee asked Daubenmire to leave after he stood in the store with a sign that read, "Caution: Men may be in women's restroom!" He insisted that he was merely protecting female shoppers. "There's no warning that a man could walk in that restroom. There's no warning at all," Daubenmire told the employee. "I just feel that I have a moral obligation to warn women. That's what my sign says, that a woman could be in danger in the restroom if a man could come in." In another video, police ask Daubenmire to leave the property.
Christian radio host Rick Wiles was particularly disgusting in his assessment of Target's restroom policy. During the April 25th edition of Trunews, Wiles joked about relieving himself on Target's floor, claiming that the company was soiling America. At the 24:44 mark of the show, he had this to say to Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"How about if I just urinate on your floor? How about that, Molly? Because you’re defecating on this nation."Stay classy, Rick.
At the 13:14 mark, Wiles denounced transgender rights advances as symptoms of "sickness" and "moral depravity" in American society. He urged listeners against being passive while "toilet rights" advance.
"One of the biggest retailers in America, and it is going all-out to promote the LGBT radical militant toilet rights campaign. This is how far we've gone down the path of sickness. The biggest issue politically now in America is toilet rights. How sick can a society become when people are demanding toilet rights? It's an indication of the moral depravity of the United States of America ...At the 18:40 mark, Wiles inflamed his audience's fears with lurid warnings about transgender predators staring at them or worse in Target restrooms.
People are going to have to make a decision right now. Are you going to put up with it? Are you just going to sit there and do nothing, twiddle your thumbs and just say, 'oh, it's terrible, it's terrible', or are you going to do something about it? You better do something about it, because they're not going to stop at toilet rights."
"Guys, it means a transvestite may be staring at you the next time you're standing at a urinal in a Target restroom. Think about that. Get that uncomfortable feeling. Ladies, it means that if a man decides he feels like being a woman today, he has the right to enter a women's restroom in any Target store. Moms and dads, it means that Target stores management is more concerned about the rights of sexual deviants and perverts than your sons and daughters. Would you allow your ten year old daughter or granddaughter to enter a Target restroom knowing that men could follow her into it?"Alarmingly, some transphobic figures are using violent language when discussing transgender people in restrooms. Tracy Murphree, a Republican candidate for the Denton County Sheriff seat in Texas, wrote a hateful message about transgender women on his Facebook page, according to the Dallas Observer. "If my little girl is in a public restroom and a man, regardless of how he may identify, goes into that bathroom, he will then identify as John Doe until he wakes up in whatever hospital he may be taken to. Your identity does not trump my little girl’s safety," Murphree reportedly wrote.
Equality Texas, an LGBTQ rights organization, condemned Murphree's transphobic post. When Equality Texas reached out to Murphree, communications with Murphree's office were "abruptly cancelled".
Murphree is not the only person using inflammatory language. Liberty Counsel president Anita Staver (wife of Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver) created controversy when she vowed to bring a gun with her into restrooms. On April 22nd, she posted a Tweet stating, "I'm taking a Glock .45 to the ladies room. It identifies as my bodyguard. #BoycottTarget" If she does so at Target, she will run afoul of Target's ban on firearms in its stores.
The Religious Right is so desperate to undermine LGBTQ equality that it is not only endorsing homophobic and transphobic legislation, but promoting vile myths about LGBTQ persons. This violent, dehumanizing language against transgender persons is dangerous. Will transphobic hate crimes increase in the wake of these vicious statements? Will someone kill a transgender person in a public restroom out of paranoid, unwarranted fear? The Religious Right is playing a dangerous game by pandering to its followers' fear and hatred.