When the news broke about your decision to remove items from your 2023 Pride Collection, our community (the LGBTQ+ community) was admittedly disappointed. You’re not the first corporation to ditch your rainbow flags at the first sign of anti-LGBTQ resistance, but for some reason we expected more from you.
Wasn’t it just last week that your CEO was sharing how beneficial an increased focus on DEI had been to your organization? How it had broadened engagement, boosted sales, and resonated with customers?
I guess I’ll just admit, for a small moment we got our hopes up.
We hoped that an organization as powerful as yours would use your influence and robust infrastructure to stand behind your decision to support trans designers – not for the sake of more corporate rainbow washing, but instead, because you unequivocally believe that transgender and queer folks deserve representation in your stores. We hoped you would stay true to your values and commit to continued advocacy for the humanity of LGBTQ+ folks.
But instead, you chose the path of least resistance; you chose erasure.
While this isn’t the first time you’ve let our community down, it’s still not too late to make things right. By acknowledging what went wrong, taking accountability for the impact it made, and recommitting to investing in safety for your most vulnerable employees and customers (trans folks), you have a chance to restore trust and showcase the values you’ve proudly touted.
At The Courage Collective, we’re committed to creating spaces of belonging for all and guiding businesses to do the same. As proud members of this community, we wanted to take a moment to share a potential path forward and call out three ways you can truly demonstrate care, live your values, and ultimately, elevate your impact.
We can start with your statement, which seemingly avoided accountability all together.
By choosing to use such intentionally vague language, you fail to acknowledge who is perpetuating the violence (hint: anti-LGBTQ+ groups, including the rightwing Conservative Political Action Coalition), who within the LGBTQ+ community is most impacted (hint: it’s trans folks), and what your actions will communicate to the community you’ve committed to standing by (spoiler alert: it’s not good).
The path forward starts with open dialogue and listening. When the LA Dodgers made a similar slip-up recently, they rectified their mistake by listening to the community and quickly springing into action to reverse course. Since your announcement, countless LGBTQ+ organizations, business owners, designers, and community leaders have come forward and expressed their disappointment with your decision. If you’re truly interested in showing up as an ally for our community, now’s the time to start listening and taking reconciliatory action.
The great Maya Angelou advised us that when people show us who they are, believe them. Well, Target, you certainly showed us what you prioritize: profits over people. During the height of the pandemic, employee safety seemingly wasn’t your biggest priority, so what changed?
Deep down, our community knows that employee safety wasn’t the main reason this decision was made because safety is not achieved through erasure. We’ve seen plenty of other companies backtrack on their commitments, and we’ve experienced this same kind of performative allyship before. And that’s why we know it’s not too late for you to do the right thing: reinstate the removed Pride merchandise and uplift the creators you abandoned. In doing so, you’ll take a small step in reaffirming your commitment to our community and send a clear message that Target has the LGBTQ+ community’s back.
This is about more than simply keeping PRIDE apparel on your shelves. The truth is, the lives of LGBTQ+ folks across the U.S are on the line. In 2023 alone, there have been over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed that target our community, most of which directly attack trans people. Our community needs more than a marketing campaign, we need your support.
The queer community, and trans folks in particular, are so often told we do not belong. For many of us, Pride month is the one time in the year when we’re uplifted and allowed to live as our most authentic selves. When you pulled down Erik Carnell’s apparel without forewarning, defense against false accusations, or a means to recoup the lost revenue, you communicated that the LGBTQ+ community is not worth defending. We were not the ones inciting violence, yet we are the voices you chose to silence.
True support cannot be conditional. True allyship is tested in the face of adversity.
Dwayne Wade – in a message to Ron DeSantis said, “People lie, but numbers don’t. When our trans children feel accepted… from their parents, from the world, it lowers the death rate. Suicide is high in the trans community, and so I’m going to step on the side of acceptance.”
Now is your chance to step on the right side of acceptance.
So what will it be, Target? Will you live by your values? Or will you continue to fold to right-wing pressure and leave our community behind?
The choice is yours, but we’re listening.
Image credit: target.com