Target became one of the first major retailers to state that transgender customers are welcome to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender of their choice.
Alex Wong--Getty Images
By Kerry Close
April 20, 2016

Target is again proving itself a trailblazer on social issues.

The Minneapolis-based retailer announced on Tuesday that transgender customers will be allowed to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. Its declaration ranks Target among one of the first large retailers to clearly state its position on the contentious issue.

The decision comes amid debates in some state legislatures over restricting public restroom access—primarily in government buildings and public schools—to the gender listed on a person’s birth certificate. In North Carolina, where state lawmakers recently passed anti-transgender legislation, rocker Bruce Springsteen cancelled a planned show in Greensboro and Cirque du Soleil took their planned performances in Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh off the calendar.

A Target spokeswoman said the store’s policy is not new; rather, it wanted to clarify its position after receiving questions from customers and employees amid recent controversy. In the corporate world, Target doesn’t stand alone in opposition to North Carolina’s measure in particular. More than 100 companies—including Starbucks, Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook—have signed a letter asking the governor of North Carolina to repeal the law.

“Inclusivity is a core belief at Target,” the retailer said in a statement on its corporate website. “It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.”

Analysts told the Star-Tribune that Target’s public declaration was likely a smart move. Retailers are usually better to declare their positions on contentious issues before a speculative conversation erupts about it on social media. “It’s now a really relentless environment in which retailers have to clearly state their beliefs,” said retail consultant Carol Spieckerman.

While Target’s position may not be popular with all customers, it will likely resonate with its younger, more urban core shopper base, one analyst predicted.

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This isn’t the first time Target has thrown its hat into the ring of public controversy. In 2014, it publicly came out in support of gay marriage, and last fall, it was the recipient of praise and criticism when it removed gender-based signs in its toys and kids’ bedding sections.

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