Pride month is celebrated every June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots, and to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights and culture. Activists and people who identify themselves are part of the LGBTQ+ community celebrate the month with queer film festivals, pride parades, and pride merchandise to wear and/or own like clothing, pride flags, and other accessories.
Target, one of the 10 largest retailers in the United States of America, for about a decade, has been selling Pride merchandise ahead of June pride month in their stores across America. This year, however, Target has pulled back the merch in some states owing to complaints, threats of vandalism, and death threats to their employees.
Target employees, according to Kayla Castaneda (a spokesperson for Target), were confronted and harassed by shoppers, the displays for their pride merchandise were knocked down, and many videos and posts were uploaded to social media threatening the corporation and its employees from inside the store.
Popular right-wing media figures and politicians have directed their hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community towards a particular line of women’s swimwear sold at Target which were advertised as “trans-friendly” for their ability to hide the male genitalia. Social media posts and conservative news outlets spread misinformation claiming these products were targeted at children, which they clearly were not as they were in the adult section on their website.
Another point of attack on Target was UK-based trans designer Erik Carnell who designed a bag, tote bag, and sweatshirt for adults with queer-positive phrases like “We belong everywhere” and “Cure transphobia”. Erik Carnell was attacked because he in the past has designed merchandise with satanic symbolism, none of which were sold at Target.
These products made for adult sizes were again the victims of misinformation that these were targeted at children. These 3 products by Carnell were just a drop in the bucket of over 2,000 products that Target had available at their stores and websites.
This situation comes right after the Anheuser-Busch backlash when right-wing conservatives got angry at the beer company- Bud Light because they partnered up with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The public anger towards the minority and anything associated with them is fuelled by the increasing number of anti-LGBTQ+ (especially anti-trans) bills and legislation by Republicans across mainly the southern states in the USA.
The severe threats against Target for simply selling Pride merchandise have already won. Target has pulled back pride merchandise in several stores to protect their employees. Many activists and corporate communications experts have criticised this move as it alienates the LGBTQ+ community and the right wing and neither will shop at their stores happily.
“It does seem like you’re caving into a bully,” said Paul Argenti, a corporate communications professor from Dartmouth University. The withdrawal of their products sets a precedent for other companies to do the same and for the right wing to further threaten LGBTQ+ rights and everything associated with them.