Target to remove LGBTQ merchandise following threats to workers

The decision comes as the rights of LGBTQ people in the US have been targeted by conservative lawmakers.

A Target store seen from outside
The US retail giant Target has said that its decision to remove some LGBTQ merchandise was prompted by threats to store employees [File: David Zalubowski/AP Photo]

The retail chain Target has announced that it will withdraw some LGBTQ merchandise from its stores across the United States ahead of Pride month, following violent threats against its employees.

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said that it was removing certain items, although it did not specify which ones.

In recent weeks, however, conservative groups have expressed outrage over the presence of bathing suits for transgender women at the store, with some social media users falsely claiming the swimsuits were for children. Items from the London-based brand Abprallen also attracted scrutiny for what critics have denounced as “Satanist” themes.

“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” the statement from Target read. “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.”

The decision came amid a wave of legislation in Republican-led states rolling back the rights of transgender residents and other members of the LGBTQ community, through bills limiting healthcare options, representation in the education system and drag performances. Proponents of these bills have often used discriminatory rhetoric that depicts gay and transgender people as targeting children.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ rights bills have gone before state legislatures across the country since the beginning of the year.

Many of these laws have taken aim at the ability of transgender people to identify themselves with their preferred pronouns, access gender-affirming care, speak openly about their identity and utilise facilities such as toilets based on their gender identity.

The LGBTQ rights group GLAAD also reported that more than 160 drag shows across the country have been met with protests or “significant threats” since early 2022, some involving armed members of far-right groups such as the Proud Boys.

The Associated Press reported that some Target stores have moved LGBTQ merchandise from displays in the front to areas where they are less visible, following the harassment of workers.

The store’s decision met celebration from anti-LGBTQ rights activists, some of whom previously campaigned against the beer brand Bud Light for using transgender comedian Dylan Mulvaney as a social media spokesperson.

“The goal is to make ‘pride’ toxic for brands,” writer Matt Walsh, who was active in the effort to pressure Target, wrote on Twitter. “If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they’ll pay a price. It won’t be worth whatever they think they’ll gain. First Bud Light and now Target.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies