The retailer said its actions were aimed at ensuring the safety of its employees at a time when conflict over LGBTQ rights is simmering.
Following Target’s announcement last week that it removed products and relocated Pride displays to the back of certain stores in the South, activists in the LGBTQ community are calling for new campaigns to convince corporate leaders not to cave to anti-LGBTQ groups.
“We need a strategy on how to deal with corporations that are experiencing enormous pressure to throw LGBTQ people under the bus,” said California state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, a member of the LGBTQ legislative caucus.
“We need to send a clear message to corporate America that if you’re our ally — if you are truly our ally — you need to be our ally, not just when it’s easy but also when it’s hard,” he said.
While the retailer said its actions were aimed at ensuring the safety and well-being of its employees after protesters knocked over Pride signs and confronted workers in stores, the controversy comes at a time when conflict over LGBTQ rights is simmering.
Nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures around the country this year. At least 18 states have enacted laws restricting or banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors.
The hostile environment has prompted some groups to hire security consultants to advise them on activities planned for Pride Month, which begins on Thursday.
“We are forced to think differently about how we handle security at our events and whether or not we can post our staff’s names and emails on our website,” said Janson Wu, executive director of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, a nonprofit legal rights organization based in Boston.
Debra Porta, executive director of Pride Northwest, in Portland, Oregon, said there have been discussions about a possible boycott, a letter-writing campaign and other actions directed at Target, but plans for an organized protest haven’t yet materialized.
“Because the news is fairly new, more actions may be announced, especially as Pride Month gets here,” said Porta.
Target isn’t the only company grappling with public criticism.
Bud Light is still dealing with fallout from its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who in April posted a picture on Instagram of a beer can with her face on it. In response to the hate-filled and transphobic backlash that followed, the company said it “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” but didn’t directly address the rhetoric or signal clear support for Mulvaney. Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, is tripling its U.S. marketing spending
In early May, several gay bars in Chicago stopped selling Anheuser-Busch products to protest the company’s response.
Chicago’s 2Bears Tavern said the company’s response “shows how little Anheuser-Busch cares about the LGBTQIA+ community, and in particular transgender people, who have been under unrelenting attack in this country.”
“Since Anheuser-Busch does not support us, we will not support it,” said the company.
Sidetrack, the largest gay bar in the Midwest, did the same, saying Anheuser-Busch “wrongfully validates the position that it is acceptable to acquiesce to the demands of those who do not support the trans community and wish to erase LGBTQ+ visibility.”