Lessons Learned from Target: How to Celebrate Pride Month at Work

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Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Over the past 5+ years we have really seen Pride merchandise, and the corporate celebration of Pride take off. However there has been a lot of discourse on whether the commodification of Pride is a good thing. Can Capitalism really help those who are oppressed, and what good is it to have a rainbow slapped on something like a bottle of mouthwash outside of profit?

Target has been one of the leaders when it comes to Pride and celebrating LGBTQA+ folks. 

A Brief History of Target & Pride:

In 2010, Target lost the trust of LGBTQA+ consumers when it leaked that Target had donated to the Minnesota Forward fund, a group which was spending money on anti-gay Republican Congressman Tom Emmer. Boycotts, followed by an apology that fell flat had LGBTQA+ folks and Target at odds with one another. In 2011, Lady Gaga dropped out of a planned partnership to release a special album with the retailer. In 2012, Target put themselves out there with a release of a Pride t-shirt, and voiced their support of LGBTQA+ folks with a campaign supporting marriage equality. From there it seems as though Target has really “perfected” what it means to commodify Pride, each year their Pride line gets bigger and bigger. Yet every year there is discourse on the internet as to what Target has gotten right and or wrong in regards to their Pride line. 

Using Target’s Pride line is a valuable case study of sorts as to the hits and misses an organization can make when it comes to Pride Month and supporting LGBTQA+ employees, along with some tips at the individual level.

Hits and Misses and How Organizations Can Learn From Target 

Hit: Supporting Trans Folks During Bathroom Bans

In 2014 when bathroom bans were making their way into legislation, Target spoke out against bathroom bans and allowed guests to choose the bathroom that felt the most comfortable for them.

Lesson Learned: Stand in solidarity with Trans and non-binary folks with your policies. Your policies show who is valued, and who belongs in your organization. This is overall an inclusive way to show support and solidarity within the LGBTQA+ community.

Hit/Miss: Offering trans-friendly clothing and undergarments 

In 2022, Target added binders (also known as compression tops, which are often worn by trans men, nonbinary people, and others who want to reduce the size of their chests) to their product line, marking one of the first mass-market big-box stores to make this available across the country. This is a MAJOR step and puts Target way ahead of others when it comes to inclusion of trans, non-binary and gender fluid folks.  However the company they are partnering with (Tomboy) has been accused of not being inclusive when working with models. 

Lesson Learned: Do a deeper dive into the companies you are working with to see what their past might hold. It’s a great first step that a safe option like binders are widely available, but it is a slight misstep when the partnering company has been problematic in the past. 

Hit/Miss: Using QTPOC Artist in 2022

This is the first year Tagret is using exclusively Queer artists. While this is a great move, Target has been promoting this line for years, and it’s hard to give kudos when it should have been something they’ve always done. 

Lesson Learned: During Pride, or really any month, be sure to use vendors from underrepresented populations, but especially when you are celebrating and Identity month. 

Miss: Using the Silence + Death Logo on a T-Shirt

Target does not have permission nor are they giving any money to the ActUp! Organization when it comes to the profits of the t-shirt. They have since pulled the shirt, but overall it showcases a huge amount of awareness to use a logo that ties in a key point in LGBTQA+ History.

Lesson Learned: Ensure any logos, graphics etc., tied to causes are benefiting that cause and that you have explicit permissions to use them.

Overall despite the misses, Target is really leading the charge when it comes to Pride lines. No matter what we may interpret as the motive behind this, it does hold some weight that a big box store is showcasing rainbows, flags and even binders nation-wide, in a way that so many other organizations are not. Being the first is never easy, and Target certainly has a long way to go to improve. However, as a Queer person I do look forward to June and seeing what is included in the Target line.

If we were to push the conversation a step further, it would be incredible to see stores and large, national organizations like Target elevate LGBTQA+ artists/ people at all times of year- not just in June. In light of recent events (Anti-Trans Bills, and Reproductive Justice) it is clear more than ever that LGBTQ+ need their allies to show up and show out. The power of organizations celebrating LGBTQA+ joy, not just the pain and suffering so many face, would be a light in the current landscape for LGBTQIA+ folks. 

That is our biggest call to action and lesson learned to share with your organization: celebrate LGBTQA+ joy all year round, not just in June, and not just when it’s convenient.