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rainbow captialism

A display of Pride merch at a local New Mexico Walmart, Sunday, June 11 2023.

EDITORIAL: Rainbows are disappearing amidst broad unsafety for Queer folk


It’s that time of the year again: you walk into just about any convenience store and are flooded by a plethora of temporary rainbow branding. Except, has it?

As you walk around Target and Walmart, or scroll on Twitter, there certainly seems to be less rainbows.

During the month of June, companies often participate in rainbow capitalism.They change their branding to rainbow gradient or sell pride-themed products to attract more business, but in most cases, they end their allyship there. The companies sometimes even simultaneously donate to anti-Queer organizations.

Throughout the years, I have argued against the practice because it is a half-hearted attempt at allyship rooted in profit. This year – amidst the growing anti-Trans and Queer legislation introduced and 72 anti-LGBTQ laws passed in 2023, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Rainbow capitalism — or lack thereof — feels a little different.

Target annually presents a display of Pride themed clothes, accessories and household goods at the front of the store, sometimes collaborating with Queer artists on collections. This is nothing profound, but in a climate where it feels less and less safe to be Queer or Trans in the majority of the nation, openly selling rainbow merchandise can be a small act of reassurance.

However, instead of being able to do the bare minimum, in many stores, Target pulled some of their Pride items and moved the displays away from the front.  At Albuquerque’s Uptown location, you now have to walk to the back of the store to find the display.

Target cited that the collection was, "impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being" for the pulling of goods, according to NPR.

This feels like a lame excuse. More so, Target is giving into the demands of fear and bigotry.

One of the items they removed is tuck-friendly swimwear, according to AP. This is a product that can help trans-feminine people – who have not had bottom surgery – to feel more comfortable in their body. It is also a considerably rare product to find in stores.

By removing this item, Target is removing an accessible resource for gender affirmation. Many might not have the resources or option to order a similar product to their home, due to possible unsafe living situations many Queer folk face.

Target is not alone in this decision. The U.S. Navy, Major League Baseball and NASCAR all uploaded and then deleted social media posts or profile photos celebrating Pride month after receiving backlash, according to Forbes. Come on.

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I find it hard to believe that these organizations were unaware of the state of society and anticipated no backlash. This makes it seem as though they thought they could still gain something from the performative allyship, despite the state of the political climate. But as soon as they started  facing attacks, they backed down as quickly as possible. If they wanted to support Queer people, they would have left them up.

Earlier this year, Bud Light did a marketing campaign with Dylan Mulvaney – a trans content creator who has shared her transition journey with the internet. The response was stark.

The campaign included a can of Bud Light with her image printed on it gifted to Mulvaney,  as well as an Instagram ad on Mulvaney’s page that was less than a minute long. This campaign led to Mulvaney receiving personal attacks and well-known conservatives leading a boycott against the company, according to the New York Times. It was disheartening to watch.

The trend of hate and backlash didn’t just start this June. Queer people have faced homophobia and hate for centuries. We were only given the right to marry legally in all fifty states in 2015, if that says anything. The right to marriage far from constitutes equal rights or safety.

Corporations have never worked in the favor of Queer people, but the fact that many are so blatantly turning their backs on Queer people in a time when our livelihoods are all the more under attack, proves how hollow their allyship was and is just another unnecessary jab.

Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at on Twitter @maddogpukite 

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