Activists Urge Target and All Businesses to Push Back on Anti-LGBTQ+ Campaigns

Target store and Bud Ligth
Target store and Bud Ligth

LGBTQ+ activists are denouncing Target’s decision to remove some of its Pride merchandise in light of threats the company received and calling on all businesses to stand up to homophobia and transphobia.

Target announced this week that it was removing “items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.” Customers have antagonized Target workers, damaged merchandise displays, and made threats via social media.

The company did not specify what goods it had ceased selling. But right-wing ire focused on a few specific ones. Critics falsely claimed a “tuck-friendly” swimsuit, designed to conceal male genitals, was being marketed to children, when in fact it’s for adults.

They also objected to merchandise from trans designer Erik Carnell. Some of his products feature skulls, demons, and other scary images, but Target wasn’t carrying those, instead selling tote bags and sweatshirts from the designer; they were imprinted with pro-LGBTQ+ slogans. The Washington Post is reporting that Carnell’s merchandise was among that removed.

Also, Target employees in the South told Business Insider that the company has quit marketing some trans-focused Pride items and that the “tuck-friendly” swimwear is no longer available. In some stores, Pride displays have been moved from the front of stores to less prominent areas, according to various media reports.

A coalition of major LGBTQ+ organizations issued a call Thursday for Target to “release a public statement in the next 24 hours reaffirming their commitment to the LGBTQ+ community,” “put Pride merchandise back on the sales floor and online in full,” and “ensure safety of team members who are on the front lines.” As of Friday afternoon, Target doesn’t appear to have responded.

The coalition consists of Family Equality, GLAAD, GLSEN, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and the National Black Justice Coalition.

“Recent pushback against businesses such as Anheuser-Busch and Target, blatantly organized by extremist groups, serves as a wake up call for all businesses that support the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve seen this extremist playbook of attacks before,” said a statement from the groups. “Their goal is clear: to prevent LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation, silence our allies and make our community invisible. These attacks fuel hate against LGBTQ+ people, just as we’ve seen this year with more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that restrict basic freedoms and aim to erase LGBTQ+ people.”

“Target, and all businesses, can leverage the support of LGBTQ+ organizations to navigate this hate, so that together, we can let extremists know unequivocally that, just as with every other failed anti-LGBTQ+ campaign of the past, fear will not win,” the statement concluded.

NYC Pride issued its own statement, noting that Target had sponsored its events for several years. “NYC Pride has a duty to both support our partners and hold them accountable,” the statement said in part. “Like others in our community, we strongly call upon Target to reaffirm its commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community by reinstating all Pride merchandise on sales floors and taking measures to ensure the safety of team members on the front lines. We have stated our position directly with Target, and will continue to evaluate our partnership going forward as we strengthen our solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community.”