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Spoiler Alert: Attack of T-shirts False Alarm

July 18, 2023

Seven Attorneys General recently sent a letter to Target where they wrapped the bogus blanket of “protect the children” around the attempt to prevent the retailer from selling any merchandise at all that displays anything related to Pride or to the LGBTQ+ community.

We’ve seen this kind of hate campaign before!

“As the chief legal officers of our States, we are charged with enforcing state laws protecting children and safeguarding parental rights. State child-protection laws penalize the “sale or distribution . . . of obscene matter.” A matter is considered “obscene” if “the dominant theme of the matter . . . appeals to the prurient interest in sex,” including “material harmful to minors.” 

Attack t-shirts? Dangerous swimwear? Terrifying mugs?

And, just in case the implied threat of consequences (none were stated) wasn’t enough to force the removal of the merchandise, the AGs raised the issue of fiduciary responsibility to shareholders.

“Target’s board and its management may not lawfully dilute their fiduciary duties to satisfy the Board’s (or left-wing activists’) desires to foist contentious social or political agendas upon families and children at the expense of the company’s hardwon good will and against its best interests.”

Where does an action like this fit into the strategic attempts to erase the LGBTQ+ community from our midst? Where have we seen this before? Well, we’ve seen it in fascist regimes. That’s a fact. And, most recently, we’ve seen it here in the United States in a tsunami of laws restricting or making illegal expressions of gender, sex, and sexuality.

The methods are the same: say something about a population (Jews, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, people of color) that gives the rest of the population a reason to be afraid of them. “They’ll take away your jobs.” “They own the banks and control the media.” And anything that references “sex” and “sexuality.” Sprinkle in a generous amount of “they’ll harm our children,” and you have a recipe for violence, exclusion, removal, and elimination.

Having set the stage with your campaign of fear, you can now wrap it all up in some of the most dangerous proposed and/or passed legislation in our nation’s history. These bills have names like “Kids Online Safety Act” or “EARN It” and “Stop CSAM” and are part of a wave of bills in various states that aim to label LGBTQ+ content under the “obscenity” falsehood. This includes banning drag shows, books that contain LGBTQ+ characters, and any speech in schools that references LGBTQ+ people.

This brings us to the perversion of language, the obscenity of declaring as “obscene,” anything that doesn’t represent the “pure,” white, heterosexual population. What’s worse is that in a bill like KOSA, the enforcement, the determination of what is and isn’t obscene will fall to the same people who crafted that letter to Target – the ones who want us to consider a t-shirt slogan as obscene and dangerous to children.

We have a fundamental human right to sexual freedom. Actions like these violate that right, as well as the human right to Freedom of Expression; Freedom from Discrimination; Right to Equality; Right to Personal Autonomy; and the Right to Cultural Expression. Merchandise affirming LGBTQ+ people is an important cultural expression for these individuals. PRIDE merchandise represents their history, struggles, achievements, and pride.

….and then they came for me.

Those of us who love freedom, who treasure this nation, who believe in our fundamental human rights have a responsibility to speak up and decry these abuses. Pay attention to the bills above and those being proposed in your state or community. Like any cancer, the earlier you diagnose it, the better chance you have of eliminating it. The cancer, in this case, is called “homophobia.” Homophobia is obscene. A PRIDE logo is not.


Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

A crowd is gathered in front of a building with the Target logo. The logo is red lettering with a red target shape. ((Max Bender))

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