Target accused of "selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists" after pulling Pride merchandise

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the move was part of a "systematic attack on the gay community" around the U.S.

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published May 24, 2023 1:23PM (EDT)

Take Pride, merchandise display, Target Store, Queens, New York. (Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Take Pride, merchandise display, Target Store, Queens, New York. (Lindsey Nicholson/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Target will pull some of the LGBTQ merchandise from its annual Pride Month collection after receiving threats and backlash, the company announced Tuesday.

Target, one of the largest retailers in the country, said it had offered Pride-positive products, including rainbow shirts for men and a children's book about pronouns, around June for decades, according to The Washington Post. But this year, spokeswoman Kayla Castañeda said in a statement, the pro-LGBTQ collection sparked backlash and threats against staff safety.

"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," she said.

Though the company did not specify which items were being removed or changed, recent misinformation around children's bathing suits that were falsely labeled "tuck-friendly" has circulated among conservative groups and media. The Associated Press clarified that Target's tuck-friendly swimwear, which offers extra coverage for trans women and non-binary people without gender-affirming operations to conceal their genitalia, only came in adult sizes.

The conservatives who took issue with the swimsuit reportedly escalated their vitriol and directed it toward company CEO Brian Cornell, calling him a "pervert groomer" and falsely claiming that the retailer is "destroying our kids" by selling the bathing suits to toddlers.

Some right-wingers also called for a boycott of Target because of its sale of certain items from U.K.-based brand Abprallen, which they allege touts Satanist designs. The brand's pieces include a sweatshirt with an image of a snake and a line that reads "Cure transphobia, not trans people," as well as a messenger bag embellished with the phrase "We belong everywhere."

An earlier Instagram post conservative media flagged from the Abprallen designer reads: "Satan respects pronouns," explaining that Satanists only invoke Satan as a symbol of passion rather than believing in the figure.

According to Reuters, Abprallen's disputed products will be removed from Target's U.S. stores and website.

A spokesperson for Target told The Daily Beast that despite the removal and review of some LGBTQ Pride merch, "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."

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Daily Wire podcaster Matt Walsh, a leading voice in the right-wing anti-trans campaign and one of the media personalities fueling the online backlash, attempted to take credit for the merchandise takedown in a Wednesday morning tweet.

"The goal is to make 'pride' toxic for brands. If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they'll pay a price," he said. "It won't be worth whatever they think they'll gain. First Bud Light and now Target. Our campaign is making progress. Let's keep it going."

In April, conservatives boycotted Bud Light for weeks after it partnered with trans actress and influencer Dylan Mulvaney, resulting in a drop in sales for the beer company and prompting its CEO to release an open letter.

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom criticized Target's CEO for "selling out the LGBTQ+ community to extremists" online Tuesday, mocking the action as a "real profile in courage."

"This isn't just a couple stores in the South. There is a systematic attack on the gay community happening across the country," he continued. "Wake up America. This doesn't stop here. You're black? You're Asian? You're Jewish? You're a woman? You're next."

The hosts of "The View" also hammered the retailer on Wednesday.

"I'm sick of people telling me that my friends are different because you don't understand them. I'm sick of it. This is America. You're supposed to be able to be whoever you are. You know, stop with all this stuff. You want to talk about snowflakes? Who are the snowflakes really?" said host Whoopi Goldberg.

"We need good corporate citizens," she added. "I'm very disappointed that a chain like Target couldn't stand their ground and instead put the LGBTQ+ community in the back of the bus."

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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