Target Bashes Gays Again (and Other Tales of Queer 2010)

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By Mark Costello
Special to the Clyde Fitch Report
markjohncostello@gmail.com

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Some years you’re sad to see go. Take 1997, for example: the first time I kissed someone who wasn’t a relative. Or 2000, when both Kid A and Parachutes were released, and angsty teens everywhere had new anthems to, like, totally express how much they love the girl who sits behind them in homeroom. However, 2010 can be consigned to the pyre, and not a moment too soon.

I would be remiss not to account for some of the fantastic cultural shifts we’ve undergone these past 12 months: that homoerotic boy’s club, the U.S. Armed Forces, will finally allow their queers to ask and tell whatever the hell they want; Obama brought a metric ton of rainbow-flag wavers into government; and Lady Gaga did…whatever she does, and we’re thankful. God knows what she’d do if we weren’t thankful. I hear she controls the sun.

In many ways, 2010 has been a lesson in learned helplessness. Patience, my friends counsel, but I have none: new incidences of HIV are rising in Europe (indicating wanton disregard for safe sex practices); gays in the U.S. are still second-class citizens while Obama figures out what “gay” is; and Target is still betraying the LGBT community, stabbing us in the back while smiling to our face.

While the U.S. government has never exactly been a gay-friendly organization; its curious and incestuous relationship with right-wing Christianity is lamentable but not surprising. But Target’s persistence in antigay campaigning is truly remarkable. After our favorite Minnesota gay-basher, Tom Emmer, gave up the gubernatorial ghost, and after Target said, “Shit! Sorry sorry sorry sorry!” and recommitted to hosting gay pride parties, dollars and cents somehow kept flowing from the upper echelon of Target management to queer-hating office-seekers.

While smaller movers and shakers were given smaller amounts (usually in the $1,000 range), what is truly off-putting is Target’s commitment to John Kline and (former Target employee) Erik Paulsen, Republican holders of the 2nd and 3rd Congressional districts. Kline wants to ban gay marriage and make it legal to discriminate against queers in the workplace. Paulsen also thinks that gay marriage is unthinkable-and that bashing queers shouldn’t be a hate crime. These are men who’ve garnered the admiration of the Devil — Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, who invited them to join the Tea Party. Kline and Paulson’s method of governance is simple: We are a nation of separation and inequality. There are rights to be preserved for some, not extended to all.

And that, folks, is where Target ships your money. The Human Rights Campaign knocked Target’s employer rating down for their 2011 report in response to, well, Target’s lack of response — their inability to address public concerns about their political wheeling and dealing. The company that once allowed you to live gay for less pay is unabashedly moving further to the right.

It’s tempting to lie down and whine when faced with this. If corporate America, fueled directly by our dollars, opinions, quirky wants and odd desires, remains unswayed by public consternation, what hope do we have to hold government accountable? If the people we choose to associate with won’t listen to us, then the government we must associate with surely won’t, either.

Then again, queers, let’s take heart. The first step is wrapping up 2010 nice, neat and tossing it into the fire. We’ve not had bad years before: we’ve had bad decades and centuries. The small breezes of change are truly beginning to rustle through the eaves, and we have to keep looking forward or else miss the monuments to equality and righteousness set to rise in the future.

A militant queer, Mark Costello is a playwright by trade who additionally writes for various outlets, including Phillyist and Patch.com. He holds an MA in Theatre from Villanova University. Follow him at twitter.com/markjcostello.