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Wichitans react to Target's transgender bathroom, fitting-room policy

Vivian Lowe says she’ll still shop at Target, although she opposes the store’s transgender-friendly restroom and fitting-room policy.
Vivian Lowe says she’ll still shop at Target, although she opposes the store’s transgender-friendly restroom and fitting-room policy. The Wichita Eagle

A transgender-friendly policy for Target store restrooms and fitting rooms is prompting concern among some Wichita shoppers and some argument among local politicians and activists.

The nationwide chain announced its policy in a news release, saying inclusivity is a core belief of its business and that transgender individuals can use the facilities where they feel the most comfortable in Target stores.

“In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways,” the statement said. “Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

The company said it felt it was necessary to state its policy because of efforts across the country to pass laws limiting restroom use according to individuals’ gender at birth.

North Carolina has faced a business backlash after passing such a law last month, including star performers canceling entertainment events and a decision by online-payment giant PayPal to scratch a $3.5 million expansion plan in Charlotte.

The Kansas Legislature is considering a bill that would require public school students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their birth gender.

After Target’s announcement, state Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita, took to Facebook and Twitter, where he called it “yet another example of political correctness.”

He linked to a post by the conservative Faith, Family, Freedom Alliance of Kansas that said the Target policy “allows sexual predators unfettered access to your daughter and your wife.”

No matter how you choose to self-identify, or what surgery you’ve had, it doesn’t change your biological gender at birth.

Kansas Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita

“For me it’s pretty straightforward,” Whitmer said. “No matter how you choose to self-identify, or what surgery you’ve had, it doesn’t change your biological gender at birth.

“We’re trying to accommodate a very, very small minority and we’re disenfranchising, for want of a better term, a majority of folks who don’t want to go in a men’s restroom and find a gal there, and vice versa, go into a ladies’ restroom and find a guy.”

Thomas Witt, executive director of the LGBT rights group Equality Kansas, applauded Target’s decision and said that state government officials, expecially Gov. Sam Brownback, should take note of it as they consider the Kansas bathroom bill.

What business is saying is that people need to be treated fairly and equally. He (Brownback) should take that as a hint.

Thomas Witt, executive director, Equality Kansas

“Gov. Brownback wants to be friendly to business,” Witt said. “What business is saying is that people need to be treated fairly and equally. He (Brownback) should take that as a hint.”

In west Wichita, site of two Target stores, the idea of sharing a restroom with transgender individuals made some store regulars uncomfortable.

“In my opinion there should be a family restroom which those people or any people could use,” said Carol Dooley. “I would not feel comfortable taking my small granddaughters into a women’s restroom in which there were men dressed any way.”

Vivian Lowe, wearing a dress that she bought at Target, said the transgender policy conflicts with her Christian religious beliefs.

“I’ll continue to shop at Target, but you know, God will be the judge,” she said. “I won’t be using the bathroom.”

Witt said he’d expect opposition to Target’s policy in northwest Wichita, a Republican conservative stronghold.

Equality Kansas will sponsor a “Stop the Bathroom Bills” rally at the Capitol in Topeka at noon April 29, two days after the Legislature returns for its annual wrap-up session.

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