On Target and How I’m Parenting Through Controversial Issues

By Steve Austin | Best of Messy Grace

Apr 24

When abuse is your first memory, it colors who you are.

I was molested when I was a preschooler, and it has rippled through my life ever since. The “predator” was a 17-year-old kid who lived across the street. And knew my family well. It didn’t happen in a public restroom, or at a park, or in a store. It happened in my own yard. The pink crepe myrtle desperately tried to make this scene pretty, or at least a little less horrific, but it failed miserably.

Now I’m a Dad, and it is my priority to guard the innocence of my two toddlers. I remember the fear that simmered, just underneath the surface, when my son was the same age I was when it happened. I could never find the words to explain how I felt, but I still begged God to let him get through the year unscathed. I couldn’t imagine raising a son with the same terrifying experience as me. 

Then one day, we were in the car together, when he pointed out the window and asked, “What kind of bird is that, Dad?” I slowed down to look. As I glanced at him through the rearview mirror, what I saw was pure innocence. He’d made it. I felt myself breathe deep with relief. All at once I also felt something more: determination. I wanted to give him a different life. I want to cultivate and protect his innocence.

But none of that is Target’s business. Or their problem.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Dear @Target: It’s not your job to protect my children. #graceismessy” quote=”Dear Target: It’s not your job to protect my children.” theme=”style3″]

Target released this statement last week:

We welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity. Everyone deserves to feel like they belong.

People have expressed incredibly strong opinions over Target’s decision.

Here are a few Tweets:

@katieaboyle: Used the bathroom at @Target today and the most disgusting thing happened. Two people walked out without washing. #gross #targetbathroom

@alex_lilly: Watch out, guys! @Target is trying to kill your kids with tolerance and common sense. #targetbathroom

@katie4372: I was born a female, but I now identify as a consumer who will never give @Target another red cent. #targetbathroom

@BessoNDAKO: Are all the people boycotting #Target also boycotting church camps, team locker rooms and high school restrooms? #JustAskin

@EuterpePDX: #Target is promoting equality; so naturally all the LGBT- phobes are losing their minds.🙄 #bigot #targetbathroom

definition of a bigot by meriam webster dictionary

It’s not the job of a big box store with more inclusive bathroom policies than some people prefer to police my children as they use the restroom. Target isn’t the FBI or the local police department. They are a public retail store, open to people from all walks of life, including some who identify with gender in complex ways.

As a victim of childhood sexual abuse, urinals have always freaked me out. So I will awkwardly wait for a stall to open up in a men’s restroom, even if there is clearly a urinal or two available for use. I like my privacy.

I prefer a wall on each side of me and a door behind me. I don’t like the possibility of someone seeing me over the little half wall at the urinal. But that doesn’t mean I fear someone is going to rape me in the damn bathroom. My personal preference does not mean I’m in danger just because strangers are in the next stall.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I refuse to buy into the fear-mongering media’s lies. I do not fear the person in the next stall. #graceismessy” quote=”I refuse to buy into the fear-mongering media’s lies. I do not fear the person in the next stall.” theme=”style3″]

And another thing, I don’t send my kids into any public bathroom alone. Mostly that’s because I don’t want them making a huge mess or pulling off half a roll of toilet paper just for fun. But I am also fully aware we live in a screwed up world with some screwed up people who do prey on weaker ones. It’s not Target’s job to protect my children. That’s my job. And until my kids are probably ten-years-old, they won’t be going into a public restroom alone.

Abuse happens.

It is scary and horrific and life changing, and we victims are all terrified it will happen to our children the way it happened to us. I get the fear of my friends and acquaintances, I really do. But we have to be honest about where abuse happens. It is so very very rarely a stranger in a public restroom. It is much more commonly a grandfather, an uncle, a neighbor, a pastor, or a coach. Someone who knows the family intimately and is trusted.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Abuse is horrific, but it is rarely ever a stranger in a public restroom. #graceismessy” quote=”Abuse is horrific, but it is rarely ever a stranger in a public restroom.” theme=”style3″]

I have safeguards in place for my family, no matter where we go or what their policies are. Because it’s not a business’s job to protect my family. It’s mine. 

Protecting My Children? That’s My Job.

I never signed a contract with Target stating that they will uphold my moral, ethical, spiritual, or political values. We’re not in that kind of relationship. For me personally, as long as they keep selling cute clothes for my kids and good trail mix, I don’t care what their bathroom policies are.

I am not boycotting Target. If you choose to, it just means I won’t have to wait as long in line. And maybe I won’t have to wait for a bathroom stall to come open. I don’t care what kind of equipment you have. You can use the stall next to mine.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I don’t care what kind of equipment you have, you can use the stall next to mine. #graceismessy” quote=”I don’t care what kind of equipment you have, you can use the stall next to mine.” theme=”style3″]

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*Also proudly featured on HuffPost Queer Voices.

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About the Author

Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Mary says:

    I’m so sorry you were abused as a child. I cannot imagine the pain you went through and continue to face each day. You are bold in admitting this happened to you. However, I don’t agree with you on your Target stance. It is my job as a parent to protect my son, I agree. But my question is why must I now, as a female, be made uncomfortable at the expense of comfort for another? I am not comfortable having man parts (whether the owner identifies as male or female) in the same restroom with me. The same is true of my teenaged son. I guarantee that there will now be more uncomfortableness on my side than the other side. But thank goodness America sort of still has a little bit of capitalism left so Target can make their stand and I in turn have other options. I am not a boycott kind of girl but on this issue I do feel like I needed to stand. I am a very modest girl and need to do what is best for my family.Have a blessed day 🙂

    • Steve Austin says:

      You have a blessed day, too, Mary.

    • So, if I had a son that was 20 with disabilities that needed to use the restroom and also needed assistance, you wouldn’t want me to take him in the restroom b/c he has man parts? And just so you know, you have probably already used the restroom (while in your own stall) while a transgender woman was using the restroom (in her own stall) and nothing happened. And, do you use the restroom EVERY time you go to a store? If you are in your stall and someone walks in and enters a stall, how will you know if they were born male or female? There are a lot of questions that don’t get considered…all out of living out of fear. I encourage you to do some research on the topic before you decide that fear will guide your decisions.

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  • Thank you so much for pointing out that children are not in danger unless they let them go to the restroom alone!

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