This article has been updated to include new information.
Target announced this morning via a press release that they would be removing certain items from their 2023 Pride collection. The statement reads:
“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month. Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”
Target has yet to formally announce which items they are removing, however, based on its removed from the site and stores, the Pride Adult Bikini with optional tucking features for the comfort of transgender and nonbinary individuals is among them. The bikini has been at the center of much anti-LGBTQ+ backlash with the false claim that it is part of the children’s section of apparel. The suit clearly states “Pride Adult Bikini” but that has not stopped videos that claim the suits are for children from going viral. A video by TikTok user kayleelaytont (now suspended from TikTok) claiming the suit is for children has garnered over 1.5 million views. In the video, kayleelaytont reads the label referencing tucking out loud and then says, “They’re giving it to your kids. If that doesn’t give you a reason to boycott Target, I don’t know what does. But this shit is getting out of hand.” (News Is Out will not link to the video as we do not amplify misleading information.) Queer TikTok influencer Courtney Craven also debunks this video in their own response.
The creator of the swimsuit, Humankind‘s owner Haily Marzullo spoke out on TikTok, letting viewers know that all of Humankind’s products were removed from Target’s website without notice and that she had yet to hear from the company.
Also going viral are videos of customers complaining to Target staff and ripping down Pride decorations.
Like Anheuser-Busch Companies which was also on the receiving end of anti-LGBTQ+ backlash this year, Target has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ+ for over a decade. The swimsuit at the center of much controversy was a collaboration with GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Also like Anheuser-Busch, Target has consistently been listed on the Human Rights Campaign’s list of Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality. Just last week, Target CEO Brian Cornell spoke with Business Insider and addressed backlash saying, “When we think about purpose at Target, it’s really about helping all the families, and that ‘all’ word is really important,” Cornell said. “Most of America shops at Target, so we want to do the right thing to support families across the country.”
Prior to this announcement, Target confirmed that in some rural areas of Southern states, the Pride section had been moved to the back of the store.
Currently, Target customers are also reporting that when attempting to purchase Pride items like flags and socks, they are not ringing up and registers and no longer available for purchase.
The past week has also seen a back-and-forth from the Los Angeles Dodgers who have been celebrating Pride night for a decade. The Dodgers, who initially invited the charitable LGBTQ+ organization The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to their Pride night, rescinded the group’s invitation after backlash from the Catholic League and Sen. Marco Rubio (FL). After LGBTQ+ groups responded with their own backlash and groups like LA Pride dropped out of the event, the Dodgers posted that they had apologized to the Sisters and reissued the invitation.
People on Twitter had these thoughts about how the LGBTQ+ community should respond.
Writer and speaker Dana White shared, “This is not the time to buckle under pressure from bigots. It sends a message that affirming LGBTQ+ lives is not worth the risk, that it’s not important to stand firm in visible allyship as our human rights are under attack.
Head of LGBTQ+ streaming service Fearless, Matkai Burmaster tweeted, “Target removing LGBTQ products from the shelves is worse than if they never offered them to begin with. It’s a blatant statement that queer representation is merely a product for them and not a priority. Target had an opportunity to take a stand and chose to retreat instead.”
Queer fashion company Gay Apparel Clothing tweeted, “Not surprised. Hurt but not surprised. Giant corps don’t have our backs. They don’t care about anything other than profit. If they can’t make money, they aren’t going to even pretend to care.”
Designer and developed Monica Monroe tweeted about her experience finding out first hand from employees this week. “I think they’re caving to the wrong people. I found out about them removing these displays over the weekend from employees and let’s just say most of them were okay with their standing their ground and are upset about this.”
Twitter user ShayShayShane has a different perspective on the situation. “Companies are caught in between our division as a nation. I’m under the impression it was only at a few stores in Chicago. They are not removing their support for the Queer community, they are putting their employees safety above profits. That’s what shows their integrity.” They added, “They are still selling the merchandise in other stores and online. Target has been a longtime supporter of the community even before it was “cool.” I have no problem with them prioritizing employees safety. This is the reality of the state of our country.”
What are your thoughts on Target and other LGBTQ+ supporting businesses pulling their support over fears of anti-LGBTQ+ boycotts and backlash? Is this a case of fair-weather Rainbow Capitalism or a real concern over financial impact and safety? Please let us know what you think by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.