June is now upon us, which means short sleeves, beach vacations, and cold ice cream. However, June is also significant to the LGBTQ+ community. Pride is a celebration of self-love and acceptance for the community and to commemorate the efforts of every individual of the past, present, and future. Pride is meant to be a colorful and joyous occasion, often being celebrated with parties, parades, and large festivals. That being said, there will always be an opposing force to such celebrations, believing them to be a sinful act and a detriment to modern society.
Another aspect of Pride is the sudden surge of support from large companies and organizations, usually offering Pride related clothing and merchandise. While some of the LGBTQ+ community may find it pandering, others look forward to the new merch lines that drop every year. Of those companies was Target, who started selling Pride related merchandise for over a decade. They sold summer clothing splattered in colors, often with small phrases in support of the community, with a month-long advertising campaign to promote their summer lines. Short sleeves and tank tops were as far as the eye could see, only for them all to be pulled from shelves.
Rising threats were being made, aimed at Target workers and the company as a whole for their continuing support of the LGBTQ+. On May 24th of this year, Target released an official statement straight from corporate. “Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work” Target stated. “We are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant and confrontational behavior.” This of course, is in reference to the rising threats and destruction of property inside of Target stores, specifically any Pride related advertisements and merchandise.
Photo by Julia “Sonny” Voyack, 2019
While Target also went on to state their “continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community,” is it truly support when a conglomerate yields to the will of the loud minority? Yes, such campaigns can appear pandering, but to those who look forward to this celebration every year, it can be seen as a slap to the face in regards to those it affects. After all, fashion is a huge part of Pride as a celebration and to the LGBTQ+ community as a culture.What someone wears often helps that person express themselves in a way that makes them feel comfortable and confident. How we dress also displays other assets of our personality such as interests, gender, and color preference. Fashion in and of itself is a display of self expression which is a core value of the LGBTQ+. Following the “enclothed cognition” model, the wearer is almost always affected by the clothes they have on rather than simply seeing clothes on a display or on a rack. According to The British Psychological Society, “clothes can have profound and systematic psychological and behavioral consequences for their wearers.” While little is mentioned about how people perceive one another based on their clothing, it’s shown that what we wear affects our perception of ourselves and our abilities.
All of that being said, it’s clear as to why the clothes the community wears are often a reflection of themselves and how they want to be perceived. For many, stepping out of the metaphorical closet is an important aspect of what Pride is. So, wearing their flag on their sleeve (literally in this case) is a form of self expression. Not many people have a lot of artistic ability or the money to purchase from a small retailer. So, when larger companies are able to offer them products at a cheaper price, it makes for a good profit. It is also an opportunity for companies to show their support for the LGBTQ+ movement as well. Some, of course, may view this as false activism on the part of these companies, but for others, they supply merchandise that reflect how they identify themselves.
To conclude, Pride is a powerful, celebrated movement aimed to accept everyone for who they are and who they chose to be. It does not matter your background, race, gender, sexuality, class, or education. So, to wear that pride plainly is a large aspect of the celebration that many big name companies can and do aim to profit from. While that is a rather insensitive business model, the fashion of pride is something people take very seriously. For those who can’t make their own clothing, the clothing offered by companies such as Target is where people chose to go. To take that away due to fear of losing business is a very slippery slope to go down for both the company and its employees. Safety should always come first, but perhaps such policies should be aimed at the aggressors and not their customers.