For the past several years, Target has included a Pride Month inspired clothing collection that showcases LGBTQ+ designers. The 2023 collection was abruptly removed from stores following right-wing backlash. The corporation maintains a decades long partnership with the Gay Lesbian & Straight Educational Network (GLSEN), which works towards LGBTQ+ inclusive education in schools.
However, this year, the store was met with a barrage of attacks from right-wing influencers and media personalities aggressively criticizing the collection. Some even went as far as destroying merchandise, claiming that it grooms children.
In wake of the backlash, the corporation pulled the Pride merchandise without warning. Even one designer whose clothing designs were being sold as a part of the collection was reportedly not notified, as he told Pink News.
In recent days, footage has been shared across social media showing anti-LGBTQ+ bigots visiting #Target outlets and destroying its #Pride displays, berating employees and questioning other customers using the business. The videos come amid growing backlash towards the brand’s 2023 Pride collection which includes colourful apparel, accessories, jewellery, homeware, #partysupplies and even pet products. In the footage, individuals can be seen removing clothes from their racks and throwing them onto the floor, breaking product displays, screaming at staff and pushing conspiracy theories that LGBTQ+ people are inherently out to ‘gr00m’ children. One unnamed person filmed employees and customers in a Targetstore, and when staff tried to remove the person filming, labelled them and the business as “Satanic”. A Twitter user, who goes by the username Trumps Nephew, called for a boycott of the brand, writing: “We must protect our children”. In a video posted to his #Twitter account, he is seen questioning a book about Pride and an item of clothing in the children’s section promoting love, whilst wearing a #Republican MAGAhat. In another video, an individual shouts in a store that Target needs to take the children’s items out of the Pride section and claims the business is “going down like Budweiser”, for which he presumably meant BudLight. The boycotts and conservative outrage follows a growing trend of anti-LGBTQ+ backlash against various companies for their Pride and LGBTQ+ inclusive campaigns. In April, Bud Light collaborated with trans influencer #DylanMulvaney and gifted her a single can of beer with her face on. Anti-trans activists were quick to slam the brand on social media but the vile rhetoric quickly moved offline. A number of prominent right-wing influencers and country music stars filmed themselves shooting cans of Bud Light with guns, whilst several people were arrested for smashing boxes of Bud Light in supermarkets across the US. The backlash saw billions of dollars wiped off the brand’s share value. The horrific response was quickly replicated against other brands, including Adidas, #Walmart and TheNorthFace. #targetboycott #queernews #uspolitics
The designer did note that while disappointed, he understood if the merchandise was removed on the basis of protecting customers from mass shooting hate crimes.
The Public Reaction
200 LGBTQ+ organizations joined together to push Target to take a firmer stance as an ally to the community. The coalition of groups demand a statement from Target regarding their decision to pull the Pride merchandise, and for the merchandise to be reinstated in stores.
Target’s choice to pull the merchandise comes after months of right-wing attacks on LGBTQ+ advertising campaigns. Notably, transgender TikTok creator and actress Dylan Mulvaney was met with an onslaught of transphobia across social media after Bud Light sponsored her in a viral Instagram post.
The spike in homophobia comes after months of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation spreading across the country. Florida led the charge with the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” with Tennessee following suit and attempting to ban drag performances “anywhere a minor can see them.” Several other states additionally introduced bans on gender affirming healthcare for minors. The legislation comes amid a mass effort to censor public education, including the elimination of critical race theory.
Among the lengthy list of organizations involved are the Interfaith Alliance, the I Am Human Foundation, the Women’s March, and more. The coalition’s statement was met with mixed responses. While some supported the efforts, others fear that the efforts could only bring more danger to the LGBTQ+ community.
Extremist backlash to LGBTQ+ inclusion is not new. It’s an old, stale playbook that’s now hastily being labeled as ‘anti-woke’ from folks who want us back in the closet. These extremist groups and individuals continue to employ hate and intimidation. https://t.co/UrCnhcaxqK
— Kelley Robinson (@KelleyJRobinson) June 5, 2023
Many remind the right-leaning personalities criticizing Target that the collection did not actively sexualize LGBTQ+ people, and therefore the argument that the collection sexualized children was invalid.
200 LGBTQ groups have a voice too. If you think rainbows are bad for kids but shoestring 2 piece bikinis are ok 4 developing 11-14 yr old pre-teens to wear on a beach but say not a word about it, Just shut your mouths and don't shop at Target then…easy solution.
— Missy (@NitwitMisfit) June 6, 2023
Target is yet to release a statement on the matter.