A U.K.-based designer targeted in the intense anti-LGBTQ backlash against the sale of Pride products at Target says he has received a deluge of threats and hateful comments — alongside an “unprecedented number of orders” from supportive customers.
Erik Carnell owns Abprallen, a brand that provides art and accessories for the “proud, loud, and colourful,” according to its Instagram page. Earlier this month, Carnell announced a partnership with Target
on three products sold in the retail giant’s stores and on its website. The range comprises an adult sweatshirt emblazoned with “Cure transphobia, not trans people,” a “Too queer for here” tote bag and a “We belong everywhere” fanny pack.
“I wanted to ensure that any young people who saw Abprallen in Target would know that who they are is beautiful, purposeful, and worth expressing,” Carnell wrote in an Instagram post May 9. The products are no longer available on Target’s website, and the designer has been targeted amid a right-wing backlash against Pride products at the retail giant.
Abprallen’s online store is now temporarily closed, according to a statement on its website Thursday. “Thank you all for the unprecedented number of orders! Your support during this extremely difficult time means more than I can express,” he said in a note on his Etsy page Thursday. “I am putting my shop on holiday mode and not accepting new orders until I catch up on the ones I currently have.”
Related: Target on the defensive after removing LGBTQ-themed products
Target has been offering a range of Pride-related products in the run up to June’s Pride Month. However, the chain has removed some LGBTQ-themed products and hidden Pride Month displays in certain Southern locations following online complaints and in-store confrontations that the company says placed employees at risk, the Associated Press reports.
The controversy was exacerbated by false claims the retailer was selling “tuck-friendly” swimsuits for kids, according to the AP. Target has been selling adult “tuck-friendly” bathing suits for trans women who have not received gender-affirming medical care.
Related: Target removes some LGBTQ merchandise from stores ahead of Pride month after threats to workers
“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” a Target spokesperson said in a statement provided to MarketWatch. “Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”
“Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year,” the spokesperson added. Target has offered Pride-related products for more than a decade, according to the spokesperson.
Amid Carnell’s inclusion in the backlash against Target, some social-media users have also accused him of promoting Satanism over a handful of items in the broader Abprallen collection referencing Satan, such as a pin emblazoned with the phrase “Satan respects pronouns.” Matt Schlapp, the chair of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, similarly accused Target of facilitating “demonic messaging” in a letter calling for the company’s CEO to cut ties with Carnell.
The pin is tongue-in-cheek and has been taken out of context in bad faith, Carnell told the Daily Dot. “I don’t believe in Satan. I don’t believe in the Bible. … It’s a metaphor,” he said.
See: ‘Cleaner’ Target enjoying margin recovery, analysts say
The designer also told the Daily Dot that he has been inundated with hate and transphobia. “I’ve had a lot of death threats,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of threats of gun violence.” Carnell is a gay trans man, according to his Etsy page.
None of the Abprallen designs sold by Target referenced Satan, and Carnell was not involved in the design of adult “tuck-friendly” swimsuits at Target.
Related: Target stock swings to a gain as an earnings beat helped offset a downbeat near-term outlook
The designer told Pink News that Target hasn’t been in contact with him over the furor over his products at the retail giant. “They haven’t tried to contact me once,” he said. “In terms of informing me what I can do with my product, I’m very, very, very low priority.” (Asked about this, the Target spokesperson did not respond directly and instead referred MarketWatch to the company’s statement.)
Carnell did not immediately return a MarketWatch request for comment. Target’s stock ended Wednesday’s session down 2.8%, compared with the S&P 500 index’s
gain of 0.5%.