Just in time for back-to-school shopping, the virulently anti-LGBTQ American Family Association is reminding everyone how much it hates Target — and using a cisgender man’s crime to smear the retailer’s trans-friendly policies.
The AFA began urging its followers to boycott Target after the company announced in 2016 that it would allow customers and employees to use the restrooms and dressing rooms that comport with their gender identity. The Target announcement was a slap back at a North Carolina law, now partially repealed, that required transgender people to use only the facilities designated for the gender they were assigned at birth, when in government-operated buildings.
The religious right group has falsely claimed that Target’s inclusive policy endangers women and children. Now, in a press release it sent out Monday, the AFA is claiming that an incident of voyeurism in a Target store in Pennsylvania shows the policy is “dangerous and misguided.”
The problem with the AFA’s argument is that the suspect is a cisgender man, and he hadn’t been masquerading as a transgender woman, either. Sean Anderson, 41, of Elverson, Pa., is accused of drilling holes in the walls of dressing rooms at a Target in nearby West Pottsgrove Township in order to spy on and photograph women and children, according to local newspaper The Mercury. Police say his cell phone contained more than 50 images of females in various states of undress, most of them adults, but a few underage. He is charged with invasion of privacy, possessing child pornography, and other crimes.
In the AFA press release, the group’s president, Tim Wildmon, blamed Anderson’s alleged misdeeds on “an open-door fitting room policy that invites voyeurism,” adding, “As AFA has stated many times, our worries do not stem from fear of the transgender community, but rather from both the real and potential threat that predators and voyeurs would take advantage of the Target restroom policy to harm women and children — and there are plenty of incidents to show that they have.”
But what Anderson is accused of doing would be a crime no matter what policy Target had, and his arrest shows that Target and the police are treating it as a crime. There is nothing to indicate he was pretending to be transgender in order to access the dressing rooms, and he may not even have been aware of Target’s policy. And it’s beyond disingenuous for the AFA to say its stance isn’t anti-transgender. Anti-trans statements found in just a quick search of its website include “biology is not bigotry,” a description of trans people as “struggling with gender confusion,” and a warning against “normalizing childhood gender dysphoria” by supporting trans children.
Not many people appear to be joining in the AFA’s boycott. Target’s sales are healthy — in the first quarter of 2019, its sales were up 4.8 percent over the same period last year, a better-than-expected performance, according to the company (second-quarter results are to be released Wednesday). And the company recently increased the dividend it pays to shareholders. So the AFA doesn’t seem to be hurting Target, just as its inclusive policy isn’t hurting women and children.