Is This What "Neutral" Looks Like to Target?
BY Lucas Grindley
June 24 2011 9:25 AM ET
Although Target’s CEO promised his company will remain “neutral” when voters in its home state of Minnesota decide on a gay marriage ban in 2012, the retailer’s new It Gets Better video sure makes it seem like support is strong for same-sex couples.
“I am so proud to be a daughter that my father can be proud of, to be a wife that my spouse can be proud of, and to be a veteran that my country can be proud of,” says one of the employees, while smiling for the camera alongside her wife.
“Dignity is the one thing that no one can take away from you,” she says.
The nearly nine-minute video follows the growing up of a series of Target employees — including the U.S. military veteran, a self-proclaimed gay Christian, a woman who left her husband and kids when she realized “mom’s a lesbian.” All of them, of course, proclaim “it gets better.”
Coming from Target, the sound of those words has a different tone than in the thousands of iterations before it. The retailer was the subject of a boycott after it donated $150,000 to a political action committee that supported antigay Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer during the last election cycle. Target refused to offset the donation with another to a candidate supportive of gay rights, as suggested by the Human Rights Campaign.
During a meeting of its investors earlier this month, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel said company executives had learned from the debacle, but he was peppered with questions from the audience about Target’s policy on supporting candidates and causes. Steinhafel got flustered when almost every question was on the topic, asking at one point, “Does anybody have a question related to our business that is unrelated to political giving? I would love to hear any question related to something else.”
When confronted about the upcoming ballot question in Target’s home state, Steinhafel said, “We are going to be neutral on that particular issue, as we would be on other social issues that have polarizing points of view.”
That position disappointed some gay rights activists and stands in stark contrast to the inclusion of one straight employee in the It Gets Better video. The woman holds up a sign on which she’s written “Proud Ally.”
The It Gets Better video was uploaded on Wednesday to the company’s “careers” channel on YouTube. As much as the video is a message to gay youth, it might also subtly show gay customers that the company can relate.
“I knew I was attracted to men instead of women ever since I can remember being young,” says one man. Another admits he “made my mom buy me the Sound of Music soundtrack, and that’s when I knew something was different.”
The employees say they were teased a lot or felt like outcasts, called “sissy,” “dolly,” or “dyke” — or worse. They hated gym class and the bus ride home.
“There was nothing more in the world than I wanted than to not be gay,” said one man of life during high school. “Now I think that is the last thing that I would want.”
The wife of a female-to-male transgender husband might be easiest to relate to for Minnesotans, though, when she says that “being married is something I didn’t think would ever happen to me.”