If you’ve kept up with the news or social media at all in the past week or so, you’re no stranger to the arguments over pee. That’s right, the newest political debate isn’t over our unproductive Congress, or what we can do to improve our nation’s economy. Americans are literally arguing about pee.
So here I am, with a to-do list a bajillion tasks long, and instead of working on assignments or crying over my nearing high school graduation (3 days!!!), I am creating a blog post just like a million other people. I’m writing on an issue that has divided Americans while at the same time bringing together numerous “concerned” mommies and daddies who are simply trying to “protect” their children. So let’s think about this for a second.
On April 19, 2016, Target announced that they “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room that corresponds with their gender identity.” This announcement was apparently a shock to the majority of the people preaching in my Facebook feed, but this is actually something that’s been happening for years, and not only in Target. This seriously isn’t new. Since when have Target staff been assigned to police which gender walks into which restroom? Sure, gender identity signs on the outside of restrooms might be nice, but they wield zero power. These signs do nothing to prevent anyone from walking into any restroom at any time.
Let’s just get right to it: the blanket assumption that the allowance of transgender people into the restrooms that they feel most comfortable in will somehow lead to a revolutionary increase in sexual assaults is downright discriminatory, and altogether false. In my (almost) 18 years of life, I’ve never heard a news story about a trans person sexually assaulting someone in a bathroom. But what I have heard stories of is preachers, Bible teachers, camp leaders, uncles, aunts, friends, moms, and dads–people championed by their communities and societies–sexually assaulting young children. Where are the rally cries for the end of sexual violence in homes? The end of rape culture, especially on college campuses? The halting of sexual activity between church leaders and the children they’re leading? I’m not hearing cries for the protection of these victims. Instead I’m bombarded with cries over pee.
Not only is the close-mindedness of the “my children will be sexually assaulted” argument bothersome, I’m also troubled by the privileged view that Americans are taking to this issue. Unicef reported this year that one billion people–about one-seventh or one-eighth of the world’s population–don’t have access to any sanitation for using the restroom and openly go to the restroom in fields, mud pits, or wherever else they can find. The World Health Organization also notes that 2.4 billion people don’t have somewhere safe to go to the toilet. This means that one third of people in the entire world can’t even imagine what it would feel like to walk into a place called Target to pee, because they can’t even fathom going to the bathroom without the threat of being attacked by ISIS, Al Qaeda, or another local terrorist group. And here we are, in our privileged homes, complaining because someone who is identifying as our gender but maybe wasn’t born as our gender is (GASP!) wanting to PEE in our ultimate safe place, TARGET? How dare they!
No. How dare us.
Here’s a fact that’s not making the news: the lack of toilets in third world countries makes women and girls a strong target for sexual assault because they often have to go to the bathroom in the open, late at night. They are also more likely to get bitten by snakes as they squat in the grass to relieve themselves. So where are the activist groups from the “concerned” parents for the children in Africa who are actually suffering because of their bathroom situation? They don’t exist. Because we’re too concerned about our local grocery store.
(A quick note specifically to my Christian friends–I’m sure some of you are reading this wondering how I can call myself a Christian and support bathroom gender neutrality. Let me be clear: if I am called to live and love like Christ did, then I sure as heck better be okay with people using the bathroom in whichever room they want, because my Jesus peed in dirt holes. And I bet women probably used the same ones.)
Maybe you’ve concluded by now that I’m passionate about this topic. And I’ll admit it, I really am. I’ll confess that I’ve spent hours over the past few weeks reading blog posts and articles about this Target bathroom fiasco, and have shared numerous conversations with friends over how ridiculous I think this issue is. I think we need to take a step back, evaluate the logic of some of these arguments against gender neutral bathrooms, and garner a new perspective.
It’s just pee. It’s just Target. There are billions of other bathrooms and billions of other stores. In fact, 46% of children’s rapes are from family members (New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault). 4,000 U.S. priests have faced sexual assault allegations in the past 50 years (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). So if you have a problem with Target continuing a policy that they (and a million other stores) have been practicing for years, then maybe try using the restroom in your home or church.