A video of one woman’s crusade against Target’s inclusive bathroom policy went viral Tuesday, highlighting the latest action taken by supporters of controversial transgender bathroom laws.
In the video, the self-described mother of 12 can be seen marching through an unspecified Target store, waving a bible above her head as she shouts such rhetoric as, “Are you gonna let the devil rape your children?” And, “Target would have you believe with their Mother’s Day displays that they love mothers and children. This is a deception. This is not love, and they’ve proven it by opening their bathrooms to perverted men.”
The unidentified woman in the video is one of many people who’ve lashed out against Target’s recent pledge to “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”
Target launched the policy last month amid controversy over a North Carolina law, House Bill 2, mandating that people use the bathroom that matches their biological sex.
A little over a week later, more than 700,000 people had signed a petition, started by the conservative American Family Association, to boycott the national chain.
Best known as the “Bathroom Bill,” North Carolina’s HB2 has drawn widespread backlash from corporations such as Target; athletic organizations like the NCAA, the NBA, and ESPN; several musical artists; and the U.S. Department of Justice.
But for as much national scrutiny as the Bathroom Bill has received, it also has plenty of defenders — some who have even taken it upon themselves to police public restrooms beyond the borders of North Carolina.
Jessica Rush, for example, was born female and identifies as female, according to the Dallas Observer. However, her androgynous outfit was enough to arouse suspicion from one such vigilante who followed her into the women’s bathroom at the Baylor Medical Center in Frisco, Texas, last month.
When confronted by Rush, the man explained that he’d simply been acting out of concern for his mother, who entered the bathroom before she did.
“It was kind of confusing,” the man said, in an exchange caught on video. “You dress like a man.”
The conversation continued in the lobby, where the man further insisted that “the point is, I was helping my mom.”
“I was confused when I see someone entering the women’s bathroom looking like a man,” he said. “Each one of us is man or woman so … I wanted to make sure she was going to the right place.”
This wasn’t the first time Rush, who sports a blonde faux-hawk and, on this particular day, was wearing basketball shorts and a T-shirt, has been mistaken for a man.
“Trust me it’s not just a transgender problem,” she wrote beneath the video on her Facebook page. “This is just the first time I got video … Do you actually think I would choose this life?”
Aimee Toms claims to have encountered a similar experience at a Walmart in Connecticut last week. According to a video posted on Toms’ Facebook page, the 22-year-old — who is also not transgender — was approached by a woman in the Walmart bathroom who told her, “You are not supposed to be here, you need to leave.”
Confused, Toms says she stated that she did, in fact, belong there, to which the woman replied by giving her the finger and saying “You’re disgusting,” before storming out of the bathroom.
It wasn’t until after the woman had left that Toms, who had been wearing a baseball cap over her short hair, says she finally realized, “Holy s***, she just thought I was somebody who was transgender and she thought I was a dude who was hiding in the women’s bathroom.”
In just four days, Toms’ Facebook video has received close to 65,000 views and hundreds of comments, many of them supportive. But, Toms told the New York Daily News, the post has also elicited harsh words from anonymous critics calling her names like “lesbian” and “whore.”
“People have irrational fears, I’d like for them to know this simply isn’t something to be so angry about,” she told the Daily News. “Transgender people affect their lives in no way, shape, or form.”
Another video that went viral on Facebook last month shows police officers forcibly ejecting a masculine-looking woman from a public restroom.
In a recent Time column, writer and frequent CNN contributor Sally Kohn described how her own years’ worth of sideways glances, disapproving looks and “the occasional outright harassment,” not only have caused her to dread public restrooms, but also suggest that “as a non-gender conforming butch lesbian, I have my own tiny window into our nation’s current political debate about bathrooms.”
Rather than protect women from male predators in feminine clothing, as the laws’ proponents claim, Kohn writes that “what these ‘bathroom bills’ are actually about is enforcing traditional gender codes and norms in an increasingly diverse and shifting America.”
“Should women not only have to be born women to use the ladies room but wear skirts?” she asks. “Maybe have their hair a certain length and curled?”
It’s a question that will likely come up again as the state of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Justice proceed to countersue one another over the contentious legislation.