SONDA Revisted
May 21, 2004

BREAKING: due to Target’s trans policy, voyeur accessed women’s changing room?

A case of voyeurism that has gripped the media was initially reported on a local Idaho news station:

A man who identifies as a transgender woman has been arrested after they took photos of other women inside of the changing room at Target in Ammon.

On Monday the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Ammon Target store where an adult female says a person taking pictures of her while she was inside a changing room trying on clothes. The woman noticed the person reaching over the wall of the changing room with a cell phone to take pictures. The victim confronted the subject who ran from the store.

Detectives interviewed witnesses and security footage from Target which led them to 43-year-old Sean Patrick Smith, who also identifies as Shauna Patricia Smith, a transgender female. After interviewing Smith she was taken into custody by Detectives and booked into the Bonneville County Jail for one felony count of voyeurism.

Detectives are still investigating to determine if any more victims exist relating to this incident.

This initial report was picked up and later edited to fit a certain preferred narrative. Apparently numerous media sources have chosen to blend the facts with certain less than factual narratives to seemingly substantiate the claim that this criminal incident was facilitated by Target’s trans-inclusive policy.

We at the TransAdvocate, of course, fact checked this popular narrative. We contacted the Target store and spoke with staff who described the changing room area. Additionally, we physically visited the store in which the crime took place to verify the information the Target employees provided us.

The Target store in question has a unisex changing area. Unisex changing areas were rolled out in Target stores years1 prior to Target’s announcement of its trans-inclusive policy. Nonetheless, here are a few examples of the way some media outlets are spinning this fact to make it seem as if Target’s transgender policy facilitated this criminal behavior in a non-unisex changing area:

Source: DailyCaller

“Sean Patrick Smith, 43, was allegedly dressed in women’s clothing when he entered the fitting room in the women’s section of the store… Target announced in April that “transgender team members and guests” were welcome “to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.” – Fox News

“The victim told deputies a man dressed in women’s clothing had gone to the fitting room in the women’s clothing section of the store… The incident comes months after Target made headlines after it announced in a statement in April that it welcomes transgender employees and customers to use the restrooms and fitting rooms that correspond to their gender identity.The announcement led to protests and a petition to boycott Target that collected more than a million signatures from Americans vowing to stay away from the chain’s stores in protest of its inclusive restroom and fitting room policy. The American Family Association (AFA), a Christian group, launched the petition saying Target’s rules put women and children at risk ‘by allowing men to frequent women’s facilities’.” – DailyMail (Note: this Daily Mail article includes a years old photo from a non-unisex Target store changing area from another state, enhancing the reader’s perception that this crime was facilitated by the store’s new trans-inclusive policy.)

“Smith was arrested, charged with one felony count of voyeurism, and booked into the Bonneville County Jail on Wednesday… The suspect’s alleged actions are complicated by the store’s policy of allowing men who claim to be women to use the women’s facilities whenever they want. In April, Target announced it was formally inviting anyone to use any bathroom or changing area they want at any given time.” – BreitBart

“Police say 43-year-old Sean Patrick Smith of Idaho Falls entered the women’s changing area of a Target in Ammon, Idaho, on Monday dressed as a woman… Police say 43-year-old Sean Patrick Smith of Idaho Falls entered the women’s changing area of a Target in Ammon, Idaho, on Monday dressed as a woman.” – LifeSite

“A middle-aged man who identifies as transgender was arrested Tuesday for taking photos of a customer while she changed in the women’s fitting room at an Idaho Target store. Police booked Shauna Patricia Smith into Bonneville County Jail for one count of felony voyeurism.” – Townhall

“A customer said she was in the women’s changing room at the Target in Ammon, Idaho, on Monday when she noticed someone reaching over a wall with a cell phone and snapping pictures of her changing clothes. The victim confronted the suspect, who fled the store on foot.” – Inquisitr

In fact, the media representation that this Target has a non-unisex fitting area is so widespread, even Snopes reported that this crime occurred in Target’s (non-existent) “women’s changing room”:

Source: Snopes.com

The TransAdvocate could find no news article that noted that Target rolled out unisex changing areas around a decade ago. Additionally, the TransAdvocate found no article which made readers aware of the simple fact that a policy that is less than a year old could not have instituted a fitting room policy that is almost a decade old. Instead, many media reports seem happy to simply invent the existence of an otherwise nonexistent women’s changing area while yet others seem happy to merely imply a link between the crime and the store’s transgender policy.

Currently the TransAdvocate is investigating the background of the perpetrator of this crime, reviewing legal documents related to the case, and conducting interviews with those familiar with the case and the criminal. This post will be updated as we are able to substantiate facts. Needless to say, in cases like this, the TransAdvocate unequivocally supports prosecution.

Read the sworn police affidavit here:

UPDATES:

7/14/2016: Preliminary accounts from our ongoing investigation seem to indicate that Smith attempted to reach out for support from the local trans community but was instead routed to a fairly new advocate who lived in another state. Instead of referring the troubled individual to counseling, groups, or local support, the neophyte-advocate cut off interactions when the troubled individual mentioned cars. This particular neophyte-advocate was happy to be interviewed by large media outlets and has taken to social media to provide her thought’s about the crime and the Smith’s true state of mind.

Note: The trans community has a term for largely new and relatively inexperienced trans people who seek media attention and who oftentimes give out false or misleading information about complex issues affecting the trans community. That term is: insta-advocate.

For those in need of assistance, please contact the Idaho Falls/Eastern Idaho trans community. You can reach the local community through the following contact form:

7/14/2006: Snopes updated their investigative piece:

Source: snopes.com

7/14/2016: The hate group, the American Family Association, sent out a fundraising letter falsely claiming that crime was facilitated by Target’s trans policy:


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TipJar
  1. From 2007: “The fitting area is communal – men, women, kids – with a central desk where I was greeted by a friendly associate. I was happy to see that Target had implemented the “family fitting room” with larger rooms for the entire family…great idea”
Cristan Williams
Cristan Williams
Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of the transgender community. She started the first trans homeless shelter in the South and co-founded the first federally funded trans-only homeless program, pioneered affordable healthcare for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. Cristan is the editor at the social justice sites TransAdvocate.com and TheTERFs.com, is a long-term member and previous chair of the City of Houston HIV Prevention Planning Group.
  • Krista Olsen

    I lived in Idaho Falls for the last nine years and shopped at that Target store innumerable times. That dressing room area is the only one in the store and has been unisex for as long as I can remember. Ive seen both men and women use it.

  • Devyn

    You didn’t state anything contrary, but just for clarification, not all Targets have unisex fitting rooms. The ones I most often frequent (in the south Minneapolis, Minnesota suburbs) have men’s and women’s areas. They are next to each other, and it’s a staffed fitting room. I’m trans fem, never had an issue using the W’s side, and obviously appreciate target’s policy.

  • Chris

    Well done. Good information provided. Now, if only people will grasp it.

  • Lynn

    I would like to report to Snopes that their description of The American Family Association being a Hate Group is unjust and unfounded and there by as False as other articles that Snopes puts out. Snopes was founded by a liberal democrat who just like Google and Facebook is skewing their one sided agenda into what should be unbiased information. We The People are no longer Falling For It!
    Unite America! 🇺🇸

    • Nah, it’s one of the nation’s largest anti-LGBT hate groups. Point in fact: their attempt to fundraiser using demonstrable anti-trans lies.

    • MTF from Europe

      That Lynn from Texas? One of the central figures behind the hole anti-transgender hysteria?

    • Carla Eberle

      AFA is on the list of 892 active hate groups in the United States compiled by the SPLC. They have been on the list many years and are widely recognized as a hate group, like the KKK which is also on the list.

  • pink squirrel

    after the fake condoms in Toronto
    have to wonder if it was not a xian doing it undercover in order to discredit the store policy
    I would not put anything past American right wing xian transphobes

  • Laura

    I’m still skeptical about this person being trans. It just seems too perfect of ammunition for AFA.

    • Nik

      I mean… transgender people aren’t exempt from having a few perverts amidst the crowd. That’s the same for just about every demographic. I don’t think it was an AFA plant either, because they would have sent a mole to an actual women’s room instead of a unisex room. Being that the criminal could have just been an average-joe Cisgender dude and done the same thing without having to trespass weakens the argument that this whole situation is somehow conflated with Target’s policy.

      • Laura

        I’ve watched the police interview with this person. Their body language indicates someone who is far too pleased with themself, like a troll reveling in the coming s**tstorm they’ve created. Watch this person’s bank account, that’s all I’m saying.

  • Olivia

    Grrrr this person.

  • Pingback: Well, this didn't take long: - Page 14()

  • Nik

    One correction for your fact-checking hunt:
    Target’s policy isn’t less than a year old. They reiterated the policy in April of 2016 but the policy has been traced back to at least 2011 when Minnesota state laws protected trans* people’s rights to use public accommodations. Minnesota is, of course, where Target is headquartered.
    But, you’re right that the shift to unisex changing rooms is totally unrelated. It was a cost-saver. The mens’ changing rooms were hardly ever used and were taking up valuable retail floor space.

    • Thank you! Would you happen to have a source so that I can substantiate that in 2011, Target rolled out its national trans policy?

      • Tracy

        I don’t have anything (yet) on the 2011 date for the policy, but the press release in April said that it was not a new policy, but rather that they were publicly restating their policy in light of the news of things like HB2.

        Here is the Target release, which says they were reiterating existing policy: https://corporate.target.com/article/2016/04/target-stands-inclusivity

        • Tracy

          How did I get an author tag? O_o

      • Nik

        I’m having a hard time finding the 2011 date specifically. I’ll need to figure out where I first got that. I had read somewhere that the shift coincided with MN’s non-discrimination policy.

        I do, at least, have this:
        http://www.startribune.com/target-says-transgender-people-can-use-bathroom-that-aligns-with-their-identity/376256911/

        It states that per Molly Snyder, a Targer spokeswoman, the policy isn’t new. but the retailer wanted to clarify its position given questions it has received from both customers and employees amid the national debate. Executives sent an e-mail to store leaders earlier this week to convey the message.

        “It’s a restatement of a policy,” she said. “It’s just us being very overt in stating it.”

    • Also, I LOVE that TA readers keep an eye out for ways that a story can be more nuanced!

  • Evee

    If this is a transgender person, I hope they get the proverbial book thrown at them. I want them to get the maximum sentence possible for this incredibly stupid and societal damaging crime.

    • Kelli

      YES

    • Jessica

      I agree the book should be thrown, hard.

      • Carla Eberle

        It makes no difference if they are trans or not. If the allegations can be proven they should be prosecuted. It is difficult to tell when allegations in news reports are true. Often they are planted by hate groups, such as the ones promoting the Target boycott.

        Someone should be prosecuted. If the allegations are true, it should be the alleged perpetrator. If the allegations are not true, it should be the persons making the false report. In the past the AFA and related hate groups have escaped any consequences for making false accusations.

        In this case the fact that it was a unisex changing area makes the person’s trans status and Target’s inclusion policies irrelevant.

  • Good digging, as always. Thank you!

  • Geena Phillips

    An important correction: The Snopes article cited is from April, and is about a totally different story.

    • The Snopes article was published July 13, 2016:

      Snopes

      Thank you for keeping an eye open for errors!