LGBTQ advocate scolds Target’s ‘rainbow capitalism,’ says it missed opportunity after pulling Pride displays

LGBTQ advocate Heather Hester scolded Target’s “rainbow capitalism” after the retailer dialed back Pride displays, insisting polarizing items such as “tuck-friendly” swimwear are vital while urging Americans to have uncomfortable conversations to help the community. 

“Really what Target ultimately did was show that they were in this just for the money,” Hester told Fox News Digital. 

“Rainbow capitalism is essentially, you know, selling Pride products for profit and not necessarily standing behind the community with support,” Hester continued. “That’s what happened, right? There are a lot of things that go into that, but that is what happened at the end of the day.”


The saga began last month when a Target insider told Fox News Digital that customers were so bothered by some Pride merchandising displays that corporate decision makers would take steps to avoid a “Bud Light situation,” particularly in southern rural areas of the country.

“We were given 36 hours, told to take all of our Pride stuff, the entire section, and move it into a section that’s a third the size. From the front of the store to the back of the store, you can’t have anything on mannequins and no large signage,” the Target insider said.

Target then confirmed “adjustments” were made to in-store Pride displays with some items being removed altogether. Target said it was tamping down the Pride merchandising to help keep employees safe, claiming rank-and-file staffers have been threatened and harassed. But now, allies of the LGBTQ community –including some employees — feel abandoned. 

“This is a huge betrayal because this is your livelihood saying, ‘We don’t see you. We don’t care who you inherently are as a human being. What we care about is our bottom line,’” Hester said. 

Hester dedicated herself to helping the LGBTQ community when her son came out as gay six years ago. She initially couldn’t find resources to help him, so she took matters into her own hands. Hester now hosts the podcast “Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen,” writes for an in-depth website Chrysalis Mama, and speaks with everyone from parents to high-powered executives about how to support kids who come out.


She believes Pride displays, like the initial versions that Target dialed back, are vital.

“It is representation. So it allows LGBTQ+, you know, kids, young adults, adults, to see themselves, to have a product that is for them,” she said. “It’s like having representation in media, or in books, or any of those things. It’s important.”

Hester said her son, now 22, was “angry” about Target’s decision, adding it proves the big-box retailer is simply “another corporation showing their true colors.” 

“They don’t actually support us,” she said. “They only care about money.”

Hester said Target essentially ran at “the first sign of bullying or intimidation” and could have handled the entire situation in a way that benefited both the LGTBQ community, its detractors and Target staffers. She said management should have properly trained employees how to deal with customers who critiqued the displays, and extra security could have been brought in to protect workers in high-tension locations. 

“There were definitely lessons they could have learned from the Bud Light situation,” she said. “Because now what they’ve done is alienate themselves from everybody. Everybody is mad, right? Which is, I don’t think, what they wanted to happen.”

In a perfect world, Hester feels Target could have responded to critics in a way that would have advanced the national conversation surrounding polarizing issues. 

“They could have really come out of there smelling like a rose,” Hester said. “This could have been a really cool opportunity for them to really solidify themselves as an ally.” 

Instead, Target’s stock dropped for nine consecutive days and billions were shed from its market cap. 

Critics of Target’s Pride displays objected to a variety of products, with female-style swimsuits that can be used to “tuck” male genitalia initially making waves on social media. But many were only concerned with the issue because of children, as the LGBTQ community’s influence on America’s youth has been a hot-button issue. Target placed the tuck-friendly swimsuits near items for kids, offered coloring books of same-sex couples kissing, sold a plethora of merchandise with various Pride slogans for children, including onesies for newborn babies, and displayed it all with colorful rainbows directly in the front of stores. 

Hester dismissed the term “grooming” that many use to describe Target’s initial Pride displays. 

“Grooming is a very negative word and, it’s really, frankly, a distraction and a scare tactic from people who are on the other side of this issue, right? It really takes the focus away from what we should be focusing on. So, I think that this word is thrown out, and it’s become irrelevant,” she said. “It’s meant to scare you. So, do I think Target Pride products groom children? Absolutely not.”

While Hester is annoyed that Target tamped down the displays, she insists none of it was too over-the-top.

“I think the point is we don’t think it’s a big deal if we see straight people kissing, right? And they’re kissing, right? I mean, adults kiss,” Hester said. “It’s just trying to normalize that all people kiss.”


The now-infamous Target Pride swimsuits boasts “tuck-friendly construction” and “extra crotch coverage,” presumably to accommodate male genitalia, even if they are made in an otherwise female style. Hester said it’s “important” that such an item is available to anyone who desires it. 

“It’s something that’s not been readily accessible for trans people. And trans people are people,” she said.

“It has historically been something that you have to look really hard to find, and are typically at higher price points, so to have something that is available and to be able to be like, ‘Oh, wow, that’s me and there is something for me,’” Hester continued. “There’s so much value in that. People are just uncomfortable because it’s new. But being uncomfortable is not a bad thing.”

Hester, who has been open about the story of her son, said young LGBTQ people “just want to be seen and loved for who they are.”

“This is who they are. Just love them,” she said, adding that she feels Target can bounce back despite the “missed opportunity” to connect with the LGBTQ community. 

“It’s just going to take a little sensitivity… you know, some conversations. Don’t be afraid of the conversations,” Hester said. 

Target didn’t respond to a request for comment about the threats it says have been made against its workers.


Read More