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Target’s return to Pride merch upsets designers and LGBTQ supporters

Target came under scrutiny this week after the retail giant announced it was pulling LGBTQ-themed merchandise following what a company spokesperson said. described as “threats affecting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being at work.”

Target customers posted videos on TikTok showing displays of Pride merchandise had been moved to less visible locations, including the back of the store.

“So disappointed in @target right now,” one TikTok user wrote in a caption of a video apparently recorded at a Target location in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “You literally hid your LGBTQ ‘support’ so as not to offend narrow-minded haters. Don’t seem too concerned about offending your own employees and loyal customers.

Target’s corporate communications department did not immediately respond to an email with a list of questions, including which Pride items were removed and the nature of the threats against employees.

In a statement late Tuesday, a Target spokesperson said the company “has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month” for more than a decade. But “since the launch of this year’s collection, we have faced threats affecting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being at work.

Pride month merchandise on the front of a Target store in Hackensack, NJ on May 24, 2023.Seth Wenig/AP

“Given these volatile circumstances,” the spokesperson said, “we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing elements that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behaviors. Our goal now is to go moving forward with our continued commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing by them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.

The company did not immediately respond to a question about how the company’s decision might be perceived by members of the LGBTQ community.

In some stores in the South, Pride displays appeared to have been moved to less visible areas.

In a target in Cary, North Carolina, two employees who did not want to be named said the Pride collection was displayed at the front of the store just last week. The display is now further back, in the women’s clothing section, and women’s swimwear has been placed closer to the front. One employee said management told them to “change things up” but weren’t given a reason.

A TikTok user claimed that Target in Cypress, Texas moved its Pride collection to the back of the store after a customer complained to senior management.

In a phone interview, the Cypress, Texas store manager referred NBC News to the company’s offices, but said moving the Pride collection to the back was a “total decision of the company.” business” that had “nothing to do with the store”.

The withdrawal does not appear to affect all stores. Brian Sing, senior merchandise planner at a Target store in Brooklyn, New York, said the store’s large Pride display was installed about two weeks ago and employees were given no instructions to remove it.

Target’s wide selection of Pride merchandise also comes at an unprecedented time for LGBTQ rights in America. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, 480 landmark anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country this year. provisions.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, right-wing personality Matt Walsh wrote that his “goal” was to “make ‘pride’ toxic” to brands.

“If they decide to throw this trash in our faces, they should know they will pay the price,” he wrote. “It won’t be worth what they think they’ll win.”

Walsh alluded to the firestorm surrounding Bud Light after the beer brand teamed up with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney this spring. Bud Light sales plummeted following an online campaign and boycott calls.

“First Bud Light and now Target,” Walsh tweeted. “Our campaign is progressing. Let’s continue like this.

Other conservative activists almost declared victory, too. In a tweet, self-proclaimed “anti-reawakening” activist Rogan O’Handley celebrated Bud Light’s declining company value and Target stock’s plunge on Wednesday. “This is what victory looks like,” he tweeted.

Target hired LGBTQ designers for its Pride collection last year, saying it wanted to “authentically celebrate the community,” according to a company press release. This year, the brand continued its partnership with queer designers for its collection.

Tory activists took particular issue with the collection’s clothing for children and a ‘tuck-friendly’ swimsuit for adults. Clothing items for children include slogans of support, including “Just be you” and “Trans people will always exist!” »

British designer Erik Carnell, one of the Pride Collection’s LGBTQ collaborators, has had his products removed from the company’s website in recent days. He called the retailer’s decision to pull its products – which included clothing with supportive messages, such as ‘cure transphobia, not trans people’ and ‘we belong everywhere’ – both ‘wrong’ and ‘justified. “.

“It’s difficult because on the one hand I’m obviously completely against it. I think they have to respect their principles. If you’re going to have a Pride line that’s centered on and created by LGBTQ people, then… you have to stick with that,” he said. “However, if I was working as a retail employee in a Target store, in an open state of transport, I would not feel safe. So, I understand their thought process about removing certain items. Whether it is justified or not, the safety of their employees must be paramount.

Carnell’s partnership with Target has come under scrutiny from opponents of the company’s Pride collection largely for its use of satanic symbolism in some of its designs. None of Carnell’s products sold at Target contain satanic imagery. However, that hasn’t stopped the “hundreds and hundreds” of threatening emails he says he’s received in recent days.

Pride month merchandise on the front of a Target store in Hackensack, NJ
Pride month merchandise on the front of a Target store in Hackensack, NJ on Wednesday. Seth Wenig/AP

“I was overwhelmed by the great opportunity it could represent – the number of people who would see my work who would never have been exposed to it otherwise, the people who are locked up who needed to see something positive when they walk into a retail store,” Carnell said. “And within a matter of days it was all completely taken away from me and I just have to deal with the death threats and deal with the mail hateful and dealing with grooming accusations with absolutely no support from Target.

In a statement on Wednesday, LGBTQ rights organization GLAAD said “anti-LGBTQ violence and hatred” will persist “until business leaders become heroes for their LGBTQ employees and consumers and do not give in to fringe activists calling for censorship”.

“Having a small group of extremists threaten disgusting and harsh violence in response to Target continuing its longstanding tradition of offering products for everyone should be a wake-up call to consumers and a reminder that people, places and LGBTQ events are under attack with threats and violence like never before,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said Target’s actions reflected a “superficial” commitment to its alliance with the LGBTQ community by “signalling that they care more about harassing hatemongers than stand with communities that need support,” he said.

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