Since conservatives launched a boycott of Target last month over the retail giant’s inclusive policy for transgender customers and employees, they have successfully earned a lot of press for their efforts. Unfortunately, not much of that press has been good; in fact, opponents of transgender equality look as intolerant and paranoid as ever.
One of the main reasons the press has been negative has been the way many individuals have been inspired by the boycott to take their own actions at their local Target. Bible-thumping conservatives have been marching up and down the aisles or occupying the check-out area, candidly shouting their unfiltered rejections of LGBT people.
For example, the so-called “Radical Reverend” Ryan Simpkins entered a Target in Ontario, California this week to proclaim that he now “self identifies” as the new CEO of Target, proceeding to “fire” all the employees. In front of families and children, he condemned the store for “opening the door to pedophiles and sexual predators” and called everyone “sick twisted perverts” who are “going to die and go straight to Hell.”
Simpkins was one of many such protesters across the country who terrorized customers and disrupted store activities. One protest in Bradley, Illinois caused such a panic that it was reported as an active shooter. Police secured the area and arrested the suspect, but no weapon was recovered and it seems no shots were actually fired.
These incidents have been complemented by increasing reports of actual bathroom policing and infiltration by non-transgender people across the country. In fact, Sandy Rios of the American Family Association (AFA), the group leading the boycott, admitted in an interview with Breitbart News that non-transgender people have been going into the wrong bathroom at Target just to see if they could. “We’ve already had people testing this, going into Targets and men trying to go into bathrooms,” she said. “There is absolutely no barrier.”
The AFA has since insisted that the report that they’ve encouraged men to go into women’s changing areas or bathrooms “is completely FALSE,” but provided no context to explain Rios’ statements.
Other conservative groups have engaged in even more violent rhetoric, amplifying the idea that bathrooms are somehow inherently unsafe with a policy like Target’s. Anita Staver, president of the Liberty Counsel, explained on Twitter a few weeks ago just how she plans to protect herself:
In an interview this week, Alan Colmes asked Staver if she could identify any crimes that took place because of LGBT-inclusive policies. “I’m not a statistician,” she said, admitting that she couldn’t. Instead, she insisted that Target’s policy has “caused predators to know that women are easy prey in these places.”
When Colmes countered that she was actually inspiring more trouble by essentially advertising the idea that men have free rein in women’s restrooms, Staver simply offered, “I think it’s already an issue. We need to bring the spotlight onto it for women and let them know there’s a solution: Get armed, get trained, and only shop at the places where you can legally carry.” She guaranteed that “the perverts out there are actually targeting women and they know they can get away with it now that the publicity has come up.”
In addition to ironically being the ones to make stores less safe, conservatives are also incorrectly crowing that their boycott has actually made an impact. Focus on the Family, The Heritage Foundation, and the Family Research Council are all boasting that Target’s stock took a hit and the boycott is due credit for it.
Snopes, the site known for busting urban legends and internet rumors, intervened to point out that “correlation is not causation” and the claim should not be taken too seriously. Target’s drop was not unusually large, and WalMart’s stock happened to take a similar hit recently without any similar controversy to explain it. Though the timing of Target’s drop aligned with the AFA’s boycott, “it is unclear how closely the two events were related, or indeed, whether they were related at all.”
Target’s public reputation also seems to have fallen slightly according to some polling. Corporate brand analysts still believe, however, that “this will blow over,” if not actually result in more good will for the company in the end. Target continues to stand by its inclusive policy.
Don Boys, a columnist for the uber-conservative outlet BarbWire, believes “Target must be destroyed, not just boycotted and humbled into submission regarding their love affair with the LGBT crowd.” The way things are going, it seems pretty certain that none of those things will actually happen, but in the meantime, social conservatives like him will look as intolerant of LGBT people as ever.