A man donning a long blond wig, skirt, and silver crucifix necklace stood outside a SuperTarget in Colorado Springs Tuesday to protest the chain’s recent affirmation of its trans-inclusive policies.
Store security eventually asked Joseph Martone Jr. to leave the premises, reports The Gazette, a Colorado Springs newspaper. But the paper also reports that “minutes later, [Martone] was able to walk inside the store … as a customer and enter the women’s restroom unchecked.”
“I just want to make a point to Target, about what they’re allowing the transgender [sic] to use the women’s restroom,” Martone told the paper. “So that’s what I’m saying, for a moment, I’m going to identify as a woman and go in there.”
Explaining that he was “totally against” Target’s long-standing policy that customers and employees can use the restroom that best matches their gender identity, Martone promised he didn’t have anything against LGBT people.
“It’s not so much about the transgender themselves,” Martone told the paper from what appeared to be inside a restroom. “It’s about people putting on a disguise. I’m not transgender, I’m trying to make a point. It’s putting people in danger. How about crazy people, guys that will dress up like me, to spy on you while you’re going to the bathroom?”
During his one-man protest outside the store, Martone carried a sign that read “Trust God, End Abortion.” Although The Gazette did not ask Martone about that sign, a December article from U.K. newspaper The Guardian identified Martone as a “regular anti-abortion picketer.” The Guardian noted that Martone was outside the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood office just weeks after three people died and nine others were injured at the location when a deranged man opened fire on the clinic; the shooter was reportedly shouting about “baby parts.”
In live coverage posted to Facebook Tuesday, Gazette reporter Eric Singer parroted the soundly debunked “bathroom predator” myth, which claims that sexual predators will exploit trans-inclusive policies like Target’s to “pretend” to be transgender and assault women and children. In truth, there has never been a verified report anywhere in the U.S. of such an incident, nor are there any confirmed reports nationwide of a transgender person assaulting a cisgender (nontrans) person in restrooms or locker rooms.
However, several right-wing activists in recent weeks have caused disturbances in Target restrooms, apparently hoping to highlight the “danger” of the store’s trans-affirming policies. The American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as an anti-LGBT hate group, organized a boycott of Target and earlier this month announced that it is sending cisgender men into restrooms to “test” the store’s policy.
In his live coverage, Singer inaccurately described Target’s trans-affirming policy as the one that “allows LGBTs to go into alternative bathrooms; in other words a man, going into a woman’s bathroom, or a woman, going into a man’s bathroom, or a transsexual situation.”
In reality, Target clarified its long-standing policy last month after North Carolina passed its transphobic law known as House Bill 2. The big-box retailer affirmed that all customers and employees at its stores nationwide are free to use the bathroom and fitting room that corresponds with their gender identity. The company also came out in support of the federal Equality Act, which would update the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
At the conclusion of his live coverage, Singer did challenge Martone with the fact that sexual predators overwhelmingly identify as straight, noting that sexual assault already happens, regardless of whether a venue has trans-inclusive restroom policies.
Martone ceded that fact, but said trans-inclusive policies are “making it easier” for predators to gain access to sex-segregated spaces and harm others. He went on to misgender and deadname Caitlyn Jenner, saying she “needed a good Christian shrink” to counsel her out of transitioning, but then admitted that transgender people are “not necessarily the bad guys when it comes to having a woman or child in danger. But it is the sickos who will dress like I’m dressing,” he continued. “It is about the crazy people that will do what I’m doing: dressing up and going into the women’s restroom and putting women and children in harm’s way.”