An individual identifying as a transgender woman has been arrested on charges of trying to record video of a woman changing in a fitting room at a Target in Ammon, Idaho. Contrary to reports from various anti-LGBT hate groups, this incident had nothing to do with Target’s policy of welcoming transgender customers to use store facilities that match their gender identities.
The American Family Association, which launched the inflated and ineffective Target boycott back in April, sent out an action alert Thursday alerting recipients that this was the latest example of “why Target’s policy is dangerous.” Calling Target’s policy “reckless,” the alert recommends avoiding Target when doing back-to-school shopping. “Target’s lack of action on this issue has proven that their main concern is not the safety of their customers. Target management is more concerned with political correctness and pleasing the sexual deviants than protecting women and children.”
On Facebook, the Family Research Council shared a link to an article about the story and asked, “How many more cases like this will take place before we decide, as a nation, that the right to privacy and safety matter?”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, which has advocated against transgender protections across the country, spoke to the New York Times about the incident. Spokesman Greg Scott said that policies like Target’s “make girls and women more vulnerable to those who do have bad intentions.”
But even as these groups, along with countless conservative outlets, crow about this story and claim that the video recording took place in the “women’s fitting room,” nothing about Target’s policy allowed for this incident.
Firstly, there is no women’s fitting room. Over at The TransAdvocate, Cristan Williams has confirmed that the fitting rooms at the Ammon, Idaho Target aren’t even gender-segregated. Instead, the Target offers a unisex changing area.
In fact, Target has had unisex fitting areas in its stores for at least a decade.
The website Snopes, which investigates internet rumors, notes that there are conflicting reports about the fitting rooms at the Target, but points out that it doesn’t really matter. “Likely neither the gender status of the suspect or the dressing area was a significant factor in this crime,” the site explained. “A perpetrator wearing a wig and a dress (as the suspect in this case was) could probably get into a dressing area and take pictures of women without initially raising alarm, regardless of whether the dressing area was women-only or unisex, and regardless of whether the perpetrator was genuinely transgender or not.”
Likewise, voyeurism is a crime regardless of who is doing it in whatever kind of facility.
The suspect, Shauna Patricia Smith, faces one count of felony voyeurism. Many sensationalized details about her identity and her intentions have been reported, but Smith has not yet had an attempt to share her own story publicly. KPVI-TV has reported that Smith only came out as transgender earlier this year, separating from her wife as a result. Williams’ initial investigations have similarly found that Smith had reached out to the transgender community for support.
Rev. Franklin Graham has used Smith’s story to claim, “Target is the one inviting sexual perverts into their stores.” But Sierra Gormsen, who previously ran the Eastern Idaho Transgender Support Group, told BuzzFeed that “being transgender has nothing to do with this and really is an unnecessary detail.”