Reuters reported on Tuesday that retail giant Target had removed some LGBTQ merchandise from its stores following customer backlash.
Target launched its 2023 Pride Collection at the start of May, but is now pulling some products from its stores after facing customer backlash, saying it was acting to protect employee safety, the company told Reuters on Tuesday.
Target Corp initially was is offering more than 2,000 products including clothing, books, music and home furnishings as part of its Pride Collection. The items included books for children aged 2-8 titled Bye Bye, Binary, and I’m not a girl.
“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work,” Target said in a statement. “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.”
This year’s collection has led to an increase in confrontations between customers and employees and incidents of Pride merchandise being thrown on the floor, Target spokesperson Kayla Castaneda said. The products Target is withdrawing are being removed from all its U.S. stores and from its website, Castaneda said.
While Target has been acknowledging Pride for ten years, on March 25, Twitter users noted that that a number of LGBTQ books were inexplicably missing from Target’s website, despite a number of the titles having previously been listed for pre-order, according to Publisher’s Weekly.
While Target’s Pride Collection products are under review, the ones immediately removed were the LGBTQ brand Abprallen, associated with British designer Erik Carnell. Carnell has faced social media backlash for designing merchandise with designs of pentagrams, horned skulls and other occult imagery.
“It is beyond disappointing that Target is caving to violent political extremists and betraying its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community by removing and relocating items in its Pride Collection from some of its stores. It’s giving pride pimping, which is beyond problematic,” said Dr. David J. Johns, executive director, of the National Black Justice Coalition, the nation’s leading Black LGBTQ+ civil rights organization:
“Let’s be clear: removing items from its Pride Collection, or hiding them in the back of the store — is tantamount to insisting we all go back in the closet. At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and people are under attack, at a time when extremist political forces want to exterminate us, pushing our diverse history, experiences, and ways of being into the shadows — we need everyone to speak out for us including major corporations like Target, and Budweiser.
“This Pride, Target, like hundreds of other major companies will declare their support to the LGBTQ+ community, switch their logos to rainbow colors, drape everything in pride flags, and sell a range of products specifically designed to boost their bottom lines. They will do this because the vast majority of the American people support LGBTQ+ rights. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t only support human rights where you are ‘safe’ from confrontation. Shame on Target.”
President of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Kelley Robinson released the following statement:
“Target should not be responding so easily to criticism and threats from the likes of the Proud Boys. Target should put the products back on the shelves and ensure their Pride displays are visible on the floors, not pushed into the proverbial closet. That’s what the bullies want. Target must be better.
“Extremist groups and individuals work to divide us and ultimately don’t just want rainbow products to disappear, they want us to disappear. For the past decade, the LGBTQ+ community has celebrated Pride with Target—it’s time that Target stands with us and doubles-down on their commitment to us.
“Going into Pride Month – a protest for our fundamental rights and a celebration of visibility and queer joy – businesses play a bigger role than they ever have before in advancing LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation. The LGBTQ+ community has been experiencing our worst year on record for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation – over 520 bills that aim to strip us of our very existence, dignity and history, from the doctor’s office to the classroom to the sports field.
“Businesses that are silent or are retreating at a time when anti-LGBTQ+ hatred, from statehouses to social media platforms, is at an all time high are abdicating their responsibility to stand by their values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We’ve seen it again and again: businesses that stand up for the values they espouse send a powerful message to their employees, shareholders and customers that equality is not up for debate. Every time businesses stand up and speak out for LGBTQ+ equality, they come out on top, regardless of baseless, anti-business attacks.”