Metro Weekly

Target Removes Pride-Themed Merchandise After Threats

Target has removed some Pride-themed merchandise after receiving threats, but LGBTQ groups accuse the company of "caving" to extremists.

Target Pride Display – Photo: Phillip Pessar, Flickr

Target is removing some Pride-themed merchandise from its stores after outrage from conservatives over items marketed explicitly to the LGBTQ community.

The outrage from conservatives over the Pride line has been ramped up by videos on social media with customers ranting over Pride-themed merchandise, confronting store employees, or destroying displays. They claim the company is seeking to indoctrinate people — particularly children — into either being LGBTQ or accepting LGBTQ people as normal.

On Tuesday, May 23, the big box retailer said portions of its “Pride collection” will be removed from stores “amid threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work,” Target spokesperson Kayla Castaneda said in a statement to Newsweek.

“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.”

Among the “adjustments” Target plans to make are pulling from both store shelves and its website a line of adult swimsuits marketed for its ability to “tuck” genitalia for transgender women, and some Pride-themed children’s merchandise.

Conservatives have taken issue with the use of rainbow colors or items of clothing in colors stereotypically associated with a particular gender, such as boys’ shirts with floral designs, in pastel colors, or pink.

Some conservative media outlets falsely reported that the “tuck-friendly” swimsuits were marketed to children, but the Associated Press later confirmed the swimsuits were only for adults.

Other conservatives demanded a boycott of Target over its partnership with the U.K.-based brand Abprallen, which they claim glorifies Satanism due to the individual designer’s religious beliefs.

Some of Abprallen pieces Target was selling included a sweatshirt reading, “Cure transphobia, not trans people,” a tote bag reading “Too queer for here,” and a messenger pack that reads “We belong everywhere.”

The designer, Erik Carnell, has come under fire and received death threats for allegedly using Satanic symbolism in some of his designs — though not in pieces sold at Target, according to NBC News.

He criticized Target for failing to support or defend him from hate mail, including people who have accused him of “grooming,” but also noted that the store was wise to pull some of his products to ensure employee safety.

It is unclear what other changes to Pride-themed or LGBTQ-marketed merchandise Target will make.

“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,” Castaneda, the company spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Some conservatives claimed victory with the company’s announcement. However, others argued that it was not enough, maintaining that the mere presence of LGBTQ-themed merchandise in stores — even if stashed away in a corner, out of view of most customers, as some Target stores in the Deep South have done — is unacceptable and could be considered “grooming” because children might see the display.

In a tweet on Wednesday, right-wing personality Matt Walsh wrote his “goal” was to “make ‘pride’ toxic” for companies, accusing corporations of pushing an agenda on Americans by having LGBTQ-themed merchandise or advertising campaigns.

“If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they’ll pay a price,” he wrote. “It won’t be worth whatever they think they’ll gain.”

Walsh — who previously tweeted about the need for the political Right to ruthlessly boycott companies believed to have adopted “woke” ideology — alluded to the current controversy surrounding Bud Light.

Sales of Bud Light have tanked amid an ongoing conservative boycott after the beer giant partnered with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a social media promotion earlier this spring.

“First Bud Light and now Target,” Walsh tweeted. “Our campaign is making progress. Let’s keep it going.”

In follow-up tweets, he wrote, “I think this Target boycott has real staying power. Target has now branded itself as a far left organization, to the point where it’s embarrassing to shop there. This is the branding that makes the boycott stick. It happened to Bud Light. I think it’s happening to Target.

“This is what conservatives have missed in the past with failed boycott attempts. It’s not enough to simply tell people not to shop somewhere or buy something,” he added. “You have to make it so they don’t want to.”

Conservative activist Rogan O’Handley celebrated Bud Light’s drop in company value and Target stock dropping on Wednesday, tweeting, “THIS IS WHAT WINNING LOOKS LIKE.”


Target is also being criticized by LGBTQ organizations — and could potentially face a backlash from LGBTQ consumers — for removing the Pride-themed merchandise and “caving” to conservatives.

“So Target is reportedly taking down Pride displays,” tweeted transgender journalist Erin Reed. “Really forgetting how the lesbian target demographic is so strong it’s a cliche. Corporations are not your friends. Target better not put up a rainbow logo this year if this is true. You don’t cave to fascists.”

In a follow-up, she noted how quickly Target caved to appease anti-LGBTQ conservatives:

“Rather than increase security, they double down. This isn’t the first time Target has faced threats like this — earlier, for instance, we saw videos like this around mask policies. They acquiesced here, though, without second thought.”

“Anti-LGBTQ violence and hate should not be winning in America, but it will continue to until corporate leaders step up as heroes for their LGBTQ employees and consumers and do not cave to fringe activists calling for censorship,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. 

“The fact that a small group of extremists are threatening disgusting and harsh violence in response to Target continuing its long-standing tradition of offering products for everyone should be a wake-up call for consumers and is a reminder that LGBTQ people, venues, and events are being attacked with threats and violence like never before.”

David Johns, the executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, called Target’s response “beyond disappointing” and accused the company of “caving to violent political extremists.”

“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,” Johns said in a statement. “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.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!