Target gets backlash for LGBTQ+ support, pulls some Pride month clothing
Target is removing some items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month after intense backlash from some customers who confronted workers and tipped over displays.
“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” Target said in a statement Tuesday. ”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 said that customers knocked down Pride displays at some Southern stores, angrily approached workers and posted threatening videos on social media from inside the stores.
The Minnesota-based store declined to specify Wednesday which items it was removing but among the ones that garnered the most attention were “tuck friendly” women’s swimsuits that allow trans women who have not had gender-affirming operations to conceal their private parts. Designs by Abprallen, a London-based company that designs and sells occult- and satanic-themed LGBTQ+ clothing and accessories, have also created backlash.
“I think that Target is putting out products that are really offensive to people. I think what we’re seeing from this kerfuffle and from other recent events with other corporations is that people just don’t want to have their values trashed by mega-corporations,” said Moses Bratrud with Minnesota Family Council.
The Pride merchandise has been on sale since early May. Pride month is held in June.
Target CEO Brian Cornell recently defended the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policy in an episode of Fortune’s ‘Leadership Next’ podcast on May 17.
“I think the facts are in, the results for us, and the things we’ve done from a DE&I standpoint, it’s adding value, it’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests,” Cornell said on the podcast, adding, “and those are just the right things for our business today.”
Target and other retailers including Walmart and H&M have been expanding their LGBTQ+ displays to celebrate Pride month for roughly a decade. This year transgender issues — including gender-affirming health care and participation in sports — have been a divisive topic in state legislatures and the backlash has turned hostile.
“I’m incredibly disappointed about where our country is right now. But I understand the steps that Target has taken to protect its team members,” said Ellie Krug, who is part of the Minnesota trans community. “We’re not here trying to indoctrinate anybody. We’re just simply trying to make our way as humans looking for the same things that are out of life, to love and be loved.”
However, University of St. Thomas business professor David Vang says Target is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“Doing things that might upset a lot of your customers could hurt your stock price,” he said. “And on the other side of the equation, you have these institutional investors saying we won’t buy your stock unless you do these things.”