A transgender designer who developed some of the products in Target’s 2023 Pride collection says he has received multiple death threats and other hateful messages online amid the right-wing backlash to the collection.
U.K.-based designer Erik Carnell’s company Abprallen designed three items — a sweatshirt, bag, and fanny pack — for the company’s annual Pride collection, which has sparked particularly vicious outrage this year from anti-LGBTQ+ bigots, including calls to boycott Target.
Carnell told The Daily Dot that he has been attacked on social media, after a conservative influencer tagged him in an Instagram reel identifying the products he designed for Target and accusing the company of promoting Satanism and indoctrinating children. (Carnell notes that a handful of Abprallen’s products, none of which are available at Target, mention Satan in a tongue-in-cheek manner.)
“I’ve had a lot of death threats. I’ve had a lot of threats of gun violence,” Carnell said, adding that he has lost count of the more than 500 hateful messages he’s received. “If I was in the U.S., then I would absolutely feel frightened.”
In an interview with PinkNews, Carnell said that Target has yet to reach out to him about either their plans for the products he designed or the backlash. “They haven’t tried to contact me once,” he said.
“I think it was anticipated that there would be pushback, I don’t think anybody anticipated that it would be quite this extreme,” he added. “I think with Target, it’s very much a case of everyone scrambling to do what they think is the best thing for the next five minutes. I don’t think they have a plan for what they’re going to do going ahead with the rest of this collection.”
Since the retailer unveiled the collection in early May, anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives have begun recording their visits to the store, either to criticize certain items or to harass employees about the displays. Target locations in South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia have reportedly relocated their Pride displays to the back of the stores and removed Pride apparel from mannequins to reduce their visibility.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Target claimed that it would be “making adjustments to our plans” for this year’s Pride collection “including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior” in an effort to ensure the safety of its store employees. The decision has drawn criticism from members of the LGBTQ+ community, who accuse the company of caving to right-wing extremists, as both Bud Light and the L.A. Dodgers have recently.
In a statement, Target said that the company is now focused “on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Target has not yet responded to a detailed list of questions sent by LGBTQ Nation about the company’s plans for its 2023 Pride collection, its “commitment” to the LGBTQ+ community, and the harassment Carnell has received.
Carnell told PinkNews that criticism of the company’s decision to remove Pride products and minimize its Pride displays in certain stores is “entirely justified.”
“I think that, with the current political climate in America, huge companies like Target absolutely need to take a very clear stand on how they feel about LGBTQ+ people,” he said. “Walmart has a Pride collection as well, but that hasn’t seemed to receive any negative press.”