It’s Not Just Corporate Pride Boycotts—Right-Wingers Are Escalating Their Anti-LGBTQ Campaign

It’s Not Just Corporate Pride Boycotts—Right-Wingers Are Escalating Their Anti-LGBTQ Campaign

It’s Not Just Corporate Pride Boycotts—Right-Wingers Are Escalating Their Anti-LGBTQ Campaign

As the far-right backlash has become more emboldened, belligerent, dangerous, and hysterical, so has its war on the LGBT community.

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We’re nearing the end of Pride month, and even right-wingers are getting confused about what they’re supposed to boycott next. Since just April, conservatives—enraged over ads demonstrating any hint of LGBT-inclusiveness—have launched boycotts against the Los Angeles Dodgers, LEGO, Kellogg’s, Nike, North Face, Kohl’s, PetSmart, Build-A-Bear, J. Crew, Maybelline, Adidas, Citibank, and the video game Call of Duty. Aspiring journalist and podcaster Megyn Kelly seriously fretted aloud that teen boys won’t want to jerk off to a trans woman’s Sports Illustrated cover. The unintentionally hilarious Texas Family Project earnestly sad-tweeted that they “take no pleasure in reporting that Cracker Barrel has fallen” in response to the restaurant chain’s pro-Pride messaging. Fox News, which has a generic Pride month post on its website, was accused of being on the “woke bandwagon” and targeted for protest by several big, dumb conservative Twitter accounts. Every other day, another company vaguely signals its most milquetoast support for LGBTQ folks, and conservatives are finding it impossible to keep up. It’s enough to send right-wingers into fits of delusional paranoia. For real.

“I’m going through my kitchen, I’m going through my refrigerator, and I’m starting to ask the question, ‘Well, is this ketchup bottle woke?’” election denialist and Christian nationalist Charlie Kirk recently admitted. “Is this mustard? I mean, literally.”

It’s tempting to trace these meltdowns to April 1, when Dylan Mulvaney, a trans woman social media influencer, posted an instagram video revealing her new role as a Bud Light brand ambassador. In response, transphobic right-wingers posted videos of themselves pouring cans of Bud Light they’d already paid good money for down the drain; one video caught a rampaging man in a Walmart destroying case after case of Busch Light, which is the wrong brand. Of course, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Marsha Blackburn, and Ron DeSantis had hateful commentary to add. A few weeks later, the right was again up in arms over Target selling Pride merch, which then seemed to snowball into an anti-LGBT free-for-all. Multiple outlets shortsightedly pointed to the Bud Light ad as the genesis for it all.

But that’s a weirdly forgetful take. The outpouring of hatred we’re currently seeing is just the right wing escalating its already ongoing, virulently anti-LGBTQ campaign. Brands including Ulta Beauty, Kate Spade, Crest, Neutrogena, SodaStream, and a slew of others had already been attacked before April for using Mulvaney in ads; Pantene, Gillette, and Hershey had also received right-wing blowback for trans inclusion going back to 2019. DeSantis has been at war with Disney since 2022, and Libs of TikTok has been falsely labeling LGBT folks “groomers” since 2021. None of this is new. It’s just that, as the far-right backlash—which includes the white backlash and the Christian nationalist backlash—has become more emboldened, belligerent, dangerous, and hysterical, so has its war on the LGBT community.

Look. We all know that it’s ludicrous to think corporations will free anybody. “Pink washing,” aka “rainbow washing,” was always, at its heart, a capitalistic venture. Companies hoped to siphon off LGBT dollars through token representation and gestures toward queer support. Target’s first LGBT-focused campaign ran in 2012, and its first Pride displays went up in 2015. It’s been nearly 30 years since the first overtly queer-aimed Bud Light print ads ran, and it first partnered with GLAAD back in 1998. Even as they pushed LGBT-marketed ads, they were supporting those who are fighting against LGBT equality. Anheuser-Busch Inbev gave four times as much money to Republican political campaigns last year than to Democrats, and Target slipped far more dollars into right-wing pockets than Democratic ones. White-wingers are clapping themselves on the back for dethroning Bud Light as America’s number-one beer, but new titleholder Modelo Especial’s American distributor, Constellation Brands, is the brand that gives most of its politics-influencing dollars to Democrats. The point is, these companies don’t market to LGBT folks because they’re down with the cause, they do it because LGBTQ folks represent $1.1 trillion in annual purchasing power. One wonders why right-wingers suddenly hate the free market so much.

Even knowing how cynical those campaigns are, it’s still a bummer to watch the brands that launched them cravenly succumb to right-wing bullying. Target acquiesced to the lunatic mob by pulling some Pride merch off its shelves, a move that didn’t stop the boycott and, unfortunately, only encouraged this grifting, trust-funded MAGA rapper to write this garbage song. Bud Light essentially apologized for its partnership with Mulvaney—not once, not twice, but three times!—only for “woke” Fox News to dismiss each attempt as not apologetic enough. The fact is, while these conservative tantrums might affect numbers in the short term (and people much mathier than me suggest that Target’s losses aren’t actually the result of the boycott) they’re largely ineffective in the long-term. That’s sadly true for good boycotts as well. Remember how that anti-Trump Goya boycott just kinda went fizzᶻzᶻzᶻzᶻzᶻzᶻᶻᶻᶻᶻ? Yeah.

Target and Bud Light could’ve just kept it moving by telling their critics to suck it like Hershey’s, Molson Coors, Nike, or several brands did. But since they caved, now they’ve incurred a counter-backlash led by LGBT folks and their allies, because in this age of right-wing insanity you can’t play both sides. Not as we’re witnessing a neo-fascist groundswell, sprung from the MAGA movement, that is posing demands that aren’t just hateful and irrational, but ever-changing and never ending.

Not to mention, made in nothing but pure bad faith. You might recognize the name of Christopher Rufo, who proudly admits to being a bullshit artist and professional liar who uses misinformation to make already racist and transphobic followers frightened about yet more stuff. Rufo made a name for himself back in 2021 by being a prolific disseminator of misinformation about “critical race theory,” and later bragged about his success in “turn[ing] the brand…toxic.” In the midst of Pride month last year, he announced his plan to lie about drag queens to effectively demonize them. “Conservatives should start using the phrase “trans stripper” in lieu of “drag queen,” Rufo advised at the time. “It has a more lurid set of connotations and shifts the debate to sexualization.” He was pivotal in the launching the latest gay panic—claiming that “gender ideology” is infesting elementary schools. But now, his fellow conservative fabulists are also following his lead.

“The goal is to make ‘pride’ toxic for brands,” Matt Walsh, conservative America’s head transphobe, tweeted—an almost verbatim copy of Rufo’s messaging.

If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they’ll pay a price. It won’t be worth whatever they think they’ll gain. First Bud Light and now Target. Our campaign is making progress. Let’s keep it going.

In another thread, Walsh wrote,

Here’s what we should do: Pick a victim, gang up on it, and make an example of it, We can’t boycott every woke company or even most of them. But we can pick one, it hardly matters which, and target it with a ruthless boycott campaign. Claim one scalp then move onto the next.

Another Daily Wire propagandist, Michael Knowles, regurgitated the same bile, telling his audience that “we need to make that symbol toxic, the Pride flag symbol, we need to make that toxic. We need to have companies think twice about it.”

When you give in to this kind of vitriol, as both Target and Bud Light did, you cosign the idea that these people are reasoned, sensible protesters when they’re anything but. You tacitly agree to the idea that LGBT existence is an issue to be debated. A Gallup poll released this month found the percentage of Americans who said “said gay or lesbian relations are morally acceptable” fell 7 percent over the last year to 64 percent, a decline mostly driven by Republicans, whose numbers over the last year on the question fell from 56 percent to 41 percent. In 2023 alone, conservative politicians have proposed 520 anti-LGBTQ at the state level, per the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and some 70 anti-LGBTQ laws have passed. Of course, 220 of those bills specifically take aim at transgender and non-binary people. Remember how conservatives said they just wanted to protect kids? Yet, now we’re seeing a slew of laws attacking trans health care for adults. It was never about kids. It was about blotting out trans existence. These people won’t be happy until trans folks are essentially disappeared.

It’s also a terrible idea to negotiate with terrorists, and I don’t use that phrase metaphorically. The right wing has consistently shown itself to be willing to use violence, both stochastic and real-world, to get what it wants. Kid Rock, the embodiment of talentless whiteness enriched by black cultural theft, posted video of himself shooting up cases of Bud Light with a fucking semiautomatic gun. Anheuser-Bush breweries and Target stores in three different states received bomb threats. Those kinds of threats are meant to intimidate and threaten, and they absolutely help incite further violence. Hate crimes against LGBT people rose 70 percent between 2020 and 2021, and 15 percent specifically for trans and nonbinary folks, according to numbers from the FBI, and that’s with only 60 percent of police agencies reporting. (Most hate crimes aren’t reported by survivors.) Black trans women have long been and remain at increased risk for violence and discrimination.

There have been numerous cancellations of local Pride celebrations in sites around the country—in Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh; Denver; Nevada; and, of course, all acrossGrand Wizard” DeSantis’s Florida—out of very valid fears of violence. For the first time in its 40-year existence, the HRC has declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ folks living in this country. A UCLA Law School survey conducted in mid-2022 found that more than 50 percent of “families headed by same-sex or gender-nonconforming parents are considering moving out of the state” of Florida. The study authors noted that many of those polled were households including people of color and/or LGBT kids, which only compounds their oppression.

Now is not the time to be wishy-washy. The smug and immoral Rufos and Walshes, the politically mercenary and bigoted DeSantises and Greenes, their vocal minority of followers who are always just looking for a reason to be pissed off so they don’t have to examine their own miserable lives—I’m so tired of them making life hard for the rest of us. These are people who absolutely lost it over a British Library tweet about a sex-changing fish. Sorry, but queer, LGB, trans and nonbinary people exist, and they aren’t going anywhere. Last year, a Gallup poll found the number of LGBT folks in the US hit “a new high of 7.1 percent, which is double the percentage from 2012, when Gallup first measured it.” The same study found that LGBT identification and acceptance are higher among Gen Z than any prior generations. It’s pretty dumb to focus on the fogies, who will thwart progress but never effectively stop it. The future marches on as dinosaurs become extinct.

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