Was Target ‘Boycotted’ for Not Discriminating Against Transgender Shoppers?

The Target retail chain faced a right-wing boycott in 2016 for refusing to discriminate against transgender customers or workers.

The boycott was organized by the American Family Association (AFA), a Mississippi-based Christian group, in response to Target announcing that it would “welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.”

Besides this policy, Target also signed on as part of a coalition of more than 500 companies supporting the Equality Act of 2015, a Congressional bill that would have amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to bring sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex under its protection. However, the bill ultimately did not advance out of the House.

As the AFA petition reputedly amassed more than a million signatures and Target became fodder for bottom-feeding “satire” and other trolling sites, the retailer released a statement saying:

We believe that everyone — every team member, every guest, and every community — deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals, and opposes action that enables discrimination.

In our stores, we demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive experience in many ways. Most relevant for the conversations currently underway, we welcome transgender team members and guests to use the restroom or fitting room facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

As the Washington Post reported at the time, Target CEO Brian Cornell further defended the policy in public appearances, saying that it fell in line with the company’s policies.

“A couple of weeks ago, one of our team members sent me a note reminding me that if we went back to the mid-60s, our company was one of the very first to use African American models in their advertising,” Cornell said in a CNBC interview. “And back then, you know, it wasn’t well received. We had a lot of tough feedback, but sitting here today, we know we made the right decision.”

The boycott also failed to deter the company from selling clothing tailored around LGBTQ Pride month celebrations:

That practice has continued into 2022, as Refinery 29 noted.

“While there’s still the issue of rainbow capitalism to be discussed, we’re convinced the people over at Target hired some internet-informed gays to design this year’s collection,” the blog pointed out.

Since 2015 three other versions of the Equality Act have been introduced in the House. The latest version, the Equality Act of 2021, passed in the House in February 2021, but it has failed to advance in the Senate since then.

Update 5/12/2022, 10:57 p.m. PST: This article has been revamped and updated. You can review the original here. — ag