Target removes Pride merchandise following customer threats

The popular US store removed several pieces of LGBTQ+ merchandise ahead of Pride month after staff was subjected to violent confrontations.

Rainbow themed clothing in Target store's Pride section.
Image: Twitter @brazilpress

Popular US retailer, Target, is removing several items from its stores after staff faced threats and violent confrontations from customers over Pride merchandise.

The company issued a statement explaining: “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 centre of the most significant confrontational behaviour.”

The Pride collection includes over 2,000 items with everything from rainbow imagery and “love is love” t-shirts to children’s books called Bye Bye, Binary and Pride 1,2,3.

While Target has not commented on which items have been removed from its US stores and website, the pieces that sparked the most controversy from far-right customers include tuck-friendly gender-affirming swimwear for adult women. The company has debunked false claims that the trans-inclusive swimwear was marketed to children.

On Twitter, the #BoycottTarget hashtag contained videos from conservative customers complaining about the Pride collection, knocking down Pride displays, and threatening employees.

Far-right customers also criticised Target for partnering with Abprallen, a London-based design company that conservative voices have called “Satanic” because they sell a “Satan respects pronouns” badge. While this badge was not part of Target’s collection, the US store was selling other Abprallen items, including a tote bag that says, “too queer for here” and a jumper that says, “cure transphobia, not trans people”.

The trans designer behind the brand, Erik Carnell, has clarified that he does not believe in Satan. On his Instagram page, Carnell urged people to disengage with the whole Target situation and instead show up for the community and support local LGBTQ+ creators.

Target CEO, Brian Cornell, initially defended the Pride collection, saying: “I think those are just good business decisions, and it’s the right thing for society, and it’s the great thing for our brand,” but the company since decided to remove some of the merchandise.

With endless anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the US ranging from criminalising drag shows to ending gender-affirming healthcare and limiting trans athletes’ participation in sports, far-right customers have been more vocal in expressing their homophobia and transphobia this year. Target and similar US retail stores have been offering Pride collections for over a decade, but for-profit corporations are most concerned about protecting their profits.

Target appears to be following the same pattern as the Bud Light beer company, where the brand first faced conservative backlash for partnering with a trans influencer, and then criticism from the LGBTQ+ community for failing to maintain support. In some states, Target has relocated all of the remaining Pride month merchandise to the back of the stores.

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