Editorial: There's no going back

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday May 31, 2023
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Pride-themed merchandise is in the front of the store at the Target in Alameda. Photo: Cynthia Laird
Pride-themed merchandise is in the front of the store at the Target in Alameda. Photo: Cynthia Laird

Last week, Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced his 2024 presidential campaign with the tagline "Make America Florida." But the way things are going, he may not have to win the GOP nomination to do that.

Riding high after getting Bud Light sales to drop after the beer brand used trans TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney as a spokesperson, the leaders of the resurgent queerphobia in our nation have set their targets on ... well, Target — leading the company to remove some Pride-themed merchandise in some retail stores and, in some parts of the country, to move the apparel locations to less conspicuous parts of the stores.

The LGBTQ community has always had mixed feelings on so-called rainbow capitalism, and several community groups, including San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, joined the Human Rights Campaign in making a joint statement May 25 asking Target to "put Pride merchandise back on the sales floor and online in full" and "ensure the safety of team members who are on the front lines."

However, at least one person who identifies as a queer, trans Target employee feels the statement doesn't speak for them, stating on Twitter that "I would (personally) prefer the company be 'safe rather than sorry' bc I don't get paid enough to get threatened, assaulted, or possibly gunned down at work over a swimsuit." Indeed, Target's move came after videos of people accosting staff and destroying property made their rounds on the internet.

What's clear is that no matter what Target sells, or if or where it displays merchandise, the homophobia and transphobia won't stop there. We know this because the voices of hate have made it clear their goal is to make people afraid — through boycotts against corporations, blatantly unconstitutional laws, smear campaigns, and other attempts at intimidation — to be out of the closet.

"The goal is to make 'pride' toxic for brands," far-right political commentator Matt Walsh stated 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. Our campaign is making progress. Let's keep it going. ... The Bud Light boycott will prove to be one of the most significant conservative victories of this decade. It was never just about Bud Light. It was about sending a message."

Another time Walsh — the Daily Wire columnist who first made the rounds with his online film "What Is a Woman?" — stated, "Here's what we should do: Pick a victim, gang up on it, and make an example of it. We can't boycott every woke company or even most of them. But we can pick one, it hardly matters which, and target it with a ruthless boycott campaign."

Anyone who thought that homophobia would evaporate with Obergefell v. Hodges — the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide — or any of the other signs of progress we've seen, should be completely disabused by that notion now; as should any lesbian, gay, bisexual or other queer people who thought attacks on our trans siblings that began with questions about youth athletics or bathrooms wouldn't come to affect them.

In DeSantis' Florida, some Pride events this month are being canceled. The state is seeking to revoke business licenses from establishments that host drag shows. And as the B.A.R. has been reporting, queer Floridians are saying as loud as they can that he's taking these actions precisely because they will play well in a Republican presidential primary.

Before Target entered the headlines, it was the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, invited, uninvited, and then re-invited to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Pride Night, who were the "victims" — in Walsh's words — of the week. We wrote about that imbroglio last week.

If it really is unintentional that figures from presidential candidates to San Francisco's own Catholic archbishop are choosing this moment for their smears — a moment when the United States government is warning for the second time in a year about intensifying threats of violence against us — then it must be because they don't care.

This Pride Month is less a flood of rainbows and "love is love" T-shirts that you can still, blessedly, find at Target. It is more about standing firm and making it clear — to our allies, to those against us, and most of all, to ourselves — that the closet door has been shattered, and there's no going back.

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