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The LGBTQ+ Community Has Thoughts On Target’s Pride Collection

June is right around the corner, which means Pride Month is fast approaching. Stores are already rolling out Pride collections, such as Target’s Pride collection, and big cities are getting ready for celebrations. From parades to festivals, community events to educational programs, it’s a time to honor the LGBTQ+ community while bringing awareness to issues in the community, such as underrepresentation and discrimination. 

The LGBTQ+ community has faced underrepresentation for years, such as the lack of same-sex couples in movies and storylines of books, and the fashion industry is no exception. Brands have attempted to include the LGBTQ+ community in their clothing with Pride collections and LGBTQ+ models, but sometimes their efforts fall short or come across as performative. Pride month has become a financial opportunity for many clothing stores, rather than a legitimate time to show support for the LGBTQ+ community. However, Target’s 2022 Pride collection is taking over TikTok, and the reviews are better than expected. 

The hashtag #TargetPrideCollection has over 6 million views on TikTok, and reviews have been swarming Gen Z’s For You Pages. As with any clothing collection, there are mixed feelings, but there were many positive reviews about Target’s 2022 collection and how it made the LGBTQ+ community feel seen. TikToker @sammy__whamm praised the collection in their videos for being simplistic while spreading a message. TikToker @sfram commended Target in their videos for their representation in Pride books and accurately depicting LGBTQ+ history in their designs.

 just because a store hangs a rainbow flag in their front window during Pride month doesn’t mean they are an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.

Though Target is popping off with their minimalist pieces and relatable designs, their past Pride collections were not a hit with the LGBTQ+ community. The 2021 Target Pride collection was nothing short of disappointing, and the TikTok community made it known. The same TikTokers that are hyping it up this year also hated it last year for trying too hard, being performative, and well, being rather ugly. 

Past Target collections were one of many examples of how brands perform rainbow capitalism. Rainbow capitalism is the commercialization and commodification of the LGBTQ+ community and especially Pride month. Rainbow washing and capitalism turn the marginalized LGBTQ+ community into a market for a profit, stripping away the significance of their struggles and decreasing awareness and representation. Simply put, just because a store hangs a rainbow flag in their front window during Pride month doesn’t mean they are an ally of the LGBTQ+ community — it might just mean they are hoping you think they are so that they can bring you in as a customer. Those same stores are donating to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians, hiring very few LGBTQ+ employees, or are only showing their “support” during June. 

So, what is different about this year’s Target collection and why is it a step in the right direction? To avoid rainbow capitalism, you have to start with inclusivity behind the scenes and for once, Target understood this. This year, they hired LGBTQ+ designers to curate a collection that represents the community accurately and non-stereotypically. Alice Butts created pieces focusing on the inclusion of everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as showcasing designs that represent Black individuals in the community.

Jermel “Blu” Moody curated pieces that were minimalist with earth tone colors that spread a message deeper than the design, such as highlighting the historical start of Pride. Robin Lewallen designed a tank top that is playful and colorful while resonating with the LGBTQ+ community. Jay Miller designed both pet accessories and clothing that showcased all of the LGBTQ+ flags. Olly Gibs provided a whimsical spin on Pride clothing with clothing pieces that say you should be proud to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Lastly, Bird & Marc produced pieces inspired by nature that feature flowers symbolizing the LGBTQ+ community and designs capturing aspects of LGBTQ+ culture.

Designs in this year’s collection also played on hobbies, passions, or cultural favorites that the LGBTQ+ community has in common, such as being a plant parent or overindulging in iced coffee.

On top of hiring designers behind the scenes, they also collaborated with popular queer-owned brands, TomboyX and Humankind, to bring inclusion and visibility. The TomboyX collab features clothing for the transgender community, such as compression tops and packing underwear. Humankind’s line is a collection of gender-affirming swimsuits from swim trunks to swim tanks. Gender-fluid clothing and trans-inclusive pieces are rarely stocked in stores, making it challenging for the LGBTQ+ community to find pieces they feel comfortable in and fit how they identify. However, these two collaborations are a stepping stone for accessible, everyday clothing for the non-binary and transgender community. 

Designs in this year’s collection also played on hobbies, passions, or cultural favorites that the LGBTQ+ community has in common, such as being a plant parent or overindulging in iced coffee, without crossing the line into harmful stereotypes. TikToker @Justflintisfine explains in a video that the flower designs on the Bird & Marc shirts are symbolic of the queer community, such as violets representing the lesbian community and the green carnation popular in the queer community because of its presence in poems by gay poet Oscar Wilde. 

Another key aspect of the LGBTQ+ culture is the drag community. Drag is a gender-fluid art form that puts self-expression and LGBTQ+ pride at the forefront. The drag community has become a safe space for LGBTQ+ members and disrupts heteronormative ideals by empowering different sexualities and encouraging gender expression. Target highlighted this by creating merch for some of Gen Z’s favorite drag queens, like Gottmik and Bob The Drag Queen.

Though this collection is a breath of fresh air, Target still work to do to tear down rainbow capitalism in their own stores — as do other brands.

Besides being culturally relatable and inclusive, the collection garnered positive reviews due to its unique takes on Pride merch. Two common themes of rainbow capitalism are marketing rainbow clothing as Pride merch and not giving back to the LGBTQ+ community. Target managed to walk the walk on both fronts: Though they still feature the LGBTQ+ flag because it’s a symbol of the community, they created more simple designs that represented the community and incorporated the colors of the flag in subtle ways, such as this off-white “Busy Thinking About Girls” t-shirt and their abstract rainbow collection. Target is also teaming up with GLSEN to support their mission of creating a safe space in schools for LGBTQ+ students. 

Though it seems like Target has made some progress and listened to the critiques from last year, some members of the LGBTQ+ community are still disappointed with their collection. Some TikTokers are questioning who the clothes are really for — are the clothes for members of the LGBTQ+ community, or just an attempt to be relatable to bring in money to the store? In a video, TikToker @dontcallmemegan was disappointed in Target’s Pride pieces and they made her laugh because of how all over the place the designs were. In a Business Insider article, a member of the LGBTQ+ community commented on the lack of aesthetic appeal for POC in the community. They agreed there were a few pieces, but not nearly enough compared to the rest of the collection. The bottom line is: Target has made progress to become more inclusive and supportive, but that should be considered the norm, rather than being praised as an exception compared to most corporations. 

Hiring and partnering with LGBTQ+ designers for the 2022 collection allowed for an accurate depiction of the community and for a chance to be seen. The collection celebrates pride rather than just viewing it as a financial commodity. Though this collection is a breath of fresh air, Target still work to do to tear down rainbow capitalism in their own stores — as do other brands. Highlighting pieces like these year-round rather than just in June is a step in the right direction. 

Hannah Tolley is a contributing writer under the Entertainment and Culture vertical. She covers entertainment releases, fan theories, pop culture news, and more. Aside from Her Campus, Hannah was also a member of the Florida State University (FSU) Her Campus team. During her time with the chapter, she served as a staff writer for three semesters, where she wrote biweekly pieces across campus, culture, and personal verticals. She also was a content editor for two semesters, where she led a team of 6+ writers and oversaw and edited their articles. Hannah was also an editorial intern for Her Campus during her spring and summer term of her second year in college. As an intern, she worked alongside the full-time edit team to curate timely and evergreen pieces across life, culture, career, and style verticals. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from FSU in May 2023, with a Bachelor of Science in Media/Communication Studies with a minor in English. When she's not dissecting the latest pop culture events, you can find her reading a cheesy romance novel or establishing parasocial relationships with fictional TV characters. She loves to rewatch her favorite shows (Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and Friends) or spend the day going down a rabbit hole of reality dating shows.