Jun 6, 2023

Pride Month controversy.

This year's Pride Month is starting with an unusual level of hostility and controversy.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

Are you new here? Get free emails to your inbox daily. Would you rather listen? You can find our podcast here.

Today's read: 13 minutes.

We're breaking down the controversy over Pride Month. Plus, a reader question about some data we cited last week.

New stuff.

  • Don't forget: Tickets are now on sale for our event in Philadelphia on August 3rd. You can get yours here.
  • Our latest YouTube video is live, where we turned our Friday edition on greedflation into a video:

Quick hits.

  1. Scholar and activist Cornel West announced he is running as a presidential candidate for the People's Party (The announcement). Meanwhile, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said he will not run in 2024. (That announcement)
  2. Robert Hanssen, the former FBI agent who spent two decades spying on the U.S. for Russia, was found dead in his prison cell on Monday. Hanssen, perhaps the most notorious double-agent in U.S. history, had been serving a life sentence since 2002. A cause of death was not yet known. (The death)
  3. The Nova Kakhovka dam was destroyed in southern Ukraine in an attack that Ukraine and Russia have each blamed on the other side. Thousands of people in Russian-occupied territory downstream of the dam are evacuating. (The attack)
  4. Acting ICE director Tae Johnson announced he would be retiring after 30 years at the agency. (The retirement)
  5. Oklahoma has approved the first ever publicly funded religious charter school, setting up a potential legal battle over the separation of church and state. (The approval)

Today's topic.

Pride month. June in the United States is Pride Month, when members of the LGBTQ community celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer pride. Pride month is often commemorated in major cities with pride parades. Many companies and workplaces have taken part in pride festivities for several years, offering specialty products or encouraging employees to participate in certain educational events.

This year, Pride Month has spurred an unusual level of political animosity and controversy. Major retailers like Target, Kohl's, Walmart, and PetSmart have faced backlash from customers upset by certain promotional items celebrating the LGBTQ community. Target, in particular, became engulfed in controversy after customers began tearing down or vandalizing Pride clothing lines, including bathing suits for transgender women and Pride-related clothing in kid sizes. Target, citing incidents where its employees were harassed, subsequently pulled some of its Pride line or moved it to less visible parts of the store. Then, some LGBTQ organizations criticized Target for abandoning its LGBTQ employees and customers.

All of this comes just weeks after Anheuser-Busch faced backlash for its partnership between Bud Light and transgender actress Dylan Mulvaney. Conservative influencers began lobbying their supporters to boycott Bud Light, resulting in the company pulling the campaign and two executives responsible for it taking a leave of absence. However, that reversal also upset members of the LGBTQ community, and sales of Bud Light have fallen for consecutive weeks.

Pride backlash isn’t just hitting retailers, either. The Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, once owned by a conservative Catholic family, invited the drag group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to perform at its June 16 Pride Night game. The group, which dresses up as Catholic nuns and performs at Pride events, has been fundraising for the LGBTQ community for over 30 years. The Dodgers uninvited them after backlash from fans, and then re-invited them after backlash to the backlash.

On the political front, the Human Rights Campaign has tracked more than 500 bills it deems "anti-LGTBQ+" legislation that have been introduced at the state level so far this year. Many involve prohibiting or restricting certain surgeries or medications for trans minors, and the vast majority of those bills aren’t expected to become law.

In Tennessee last Friday, a judge struck down a bill designed to restrict public drag shows. The judge, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled that the bill was an unconstitutional limit on free speech.

Today, we're going to explore some opinions about the backlash we are seeing to Pride Month, with views from the left and right, then my take.

What the right is saying.

  • Many on the right say the backlash is a product of progressives and the LGBTQ community forcing their agenda on others.
  • Some argue that we should end Pride Month, given the state of LGBTQ acceptance.
  • Others say conservatives are now mimicking the overreactions and sensitivity of the left they have long mocked.

In The New York Post, Steven F. Hayward called it the "revolt of the 'normies' as Americans reject extremism."

"The Democratic Party has gone all-in on no-limits gender self-expression, to the point that the Biden administration pointedly avoids using the term 'woman' in any official policy documents," Hayward said. "A popular slogan on the right is 'Get woke, go broke,' but until the last few weeks, there was meager evidence in support of this proposition." Then came the Bud Light debacle, which led to a boycott that "cut sales by more than a quarter," and Target, whose stock prices fell after outrage over its "tuck-friendly" women's bathing suit line for Pride Month.

"The long-term trend in American social life for decades now has been expanding the boundaries for individual expression and self-definition. Americans have generally been tolerant, if sometimes slow to move, toward what were once considered 'deviant' traits like homosexuality, but also interracial marriage and women in the workplace," he said. "But the current push on behalf of gender fluidity differs fundamentally from previous 'liberation' movements, as it requires a wholesale denial of human nature itself and demands conformity to this radical view." This movement insists on "transgressing every institutional and social boundary, from bathrooms to sports to the elementary school classroom."

In Townhall, former National Security Council spokesman and Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs John Ullyot, who is gay, called for an end to Pride Month.

"This annual frenzy of rainbow flag waving has shifted into overdrive in recent years and has reached the point of self-parody and irrelevance at the same time. The best way to honor gay Americans would be to wake up and end this dated annual tradition once and for all, recognizing that the decades-long battle for parity is already won and we are simply proud and patriotic Americans, full stop," he said. "In the exceedingly rare instances" where someone is fired or discriminated against for being gay or trans, "holding a gay pride month would do nothing to change such old-fashioned views, and today that shopworn bigotry represents a real professional and personal liability for anyone who harbors it."

"Three decades ago, I had to mask my sexuality to serve my country in the Marine Corps," he wrote. Then, a few years ago, Trump made me "one of the highest-ranking gay officials" in U.S. history. He never mentioned that I was gay, even when he came under "predictable" fire from liberals on "diversity and inclusion." That's because Trump, like "most of society," believes we are all Americans and "not special identity groups to be split up and pandered to for political gain." These "divisive" identity festivals "diminish us as a country" and are used primarily to "drive far-left initiatives from the professional grievance-grifters, and for Woke virtue-signaling from corporations and sports leagues, in this month's case on promoting transgender education for young children and attacking religion."

In National Review, Philip Klein pushed back, saying "sometimes, a onesie is just a onesie."

Klein tweeted, "If someone wants to dress their baby in a pride onesie why should it matter?," which drew outrage from his fellow conservatives. "Some of my conservative critics lashed out by branding me a 'groomer,' by likening the Pride onesie to swastika clothing and me to a Nazi appeaser, and by portraying my tweet as emblematic of all the things they hate about National Review." I agree with efforts to stop public schools "from pushing lessons about sexuality and gender" because it "forces conversation of complex and sensitive topics" on parents who may prefer to discuss them at a time and place of their choosing.

"In contrast, the existence of Pride onesies does not impose anything on parents who choose not to dress their children in them," Klein wrote. Conservatives have spent "years mocking progressives for being overly sensitive and musing about how easily offended leftists get about small things to the point of being unable to function," but now they are "imitating the worst instincts of the other side."

What the left is saying.

  • Many on the left say the outrage is coming from homophobes and transphobes, and criticize corporations who are folding so quickly.
  • Some argue that folding to the boycotters is only making them more bloodthirsty.
  • Others say the backlash is actually good news, as it is a sign of how much progress has been made.

In Huffpost, Dustin J. Seibert said "don't let the homophobes win."

Despite beer brands long using sex to sell, Bud Light boycotters acted as if Dylan Mulvaney was "bethonged while wielding a gun that shoots glitter and tiny plastic penises into crowds of school-aged kiddos." Both Bud Light and Target pulled their campaigns, which "let the bigots win." This animus "boils down to the country’s culture war over everything transgender," Seibert said. "The evangelicals have all but lost the battle over gay marriage and the increased normalization of the gay community, so they’ve set their sights on arguably the most threatened community in America: all the trans people looking to eat small children like Pennywise from 'It.'"

These politicians and their constituents "are simply scared that they’ll one day wake up to a non-heteronormative society ― just as they were scared a couple of generations ago of seeing Black folks freely walking the streets minding their own damn business," he wrote. "Trans folks drink Bud Light and shop at Target." They eat out, go to movies, and book flights. "They're human beings" who do things just like the rest of us and "maybe perhaps they would enjoy seeing themselves reflected in how they spend their money. If you’re reading this and you wield the power to make that happen with your brand, give it some consideration. Just don’t let the idiots win."

In CNN, Neil J. Young said Target made a “mistake” by removing Pride items.

Target’s reversal comes "amid a growing wave of anti-LGBTQ efforts across the nation, including escalating threats of violence," Young wrote. “In April, CNN reported that multiple state legislatures had already proposed a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills in 2023, more than double the number put forward during the entire previous year. And White nationalists and other hate groups, sometimes bearing high-capacity firearms, have menaced gay bars and drag shows. In Columbus, Ohio, earlier this month, neo-Nazis carrying swastika flags and shouting hateful chants stalked a drag brunch event."

But the campaign against Target is reflective of a "broader campaign against LGBTQ persons and their rights taking place in state capitols, public schoolrooms and on the internet." These efforts are about erasing "LGBTQ representation from the nation’s public life, recognizing that their increasing visibility over the last half century helped LGBTQ persons garner large public acceptance and secure fundamental rights, including marriage." As such, Target's decision is "no neutral act."

In The Los Angeles Times, Robin Abcarian said there is "good news" about the reasons for the backlash.

"It’s happening because ginning up fear about the 'corruption' of children is a tried and true technique for rallying the far right," Abcarian said. "Because same-sex marriage is legal and transgender people have made extraordinary strides. Because the Christian right needed a new bogeyman after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, neutralizing an issue that has animated the Republican base and turned out votes for decades."

There’s a moral panic about sexuality and gender right now "because Americans have grown relaxed about the LGBTQ+ community. A 2020 survey conducted by GLAAD, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, and Procter & Gamble found that 75% of people who do not identify as gay or trans or queer — that is, a supermajority — were comfortable with seeing non-straight folks in marketing campaigns." And because the "number of Americans who identify as LGBTQ+ has exploded," which is "astonishing proof that the stigma" may finally be starting to fade away.

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. You can reply to this email and write in. You can also leave a comment.

  • I don't think we should be arguing about Pride Month.
  • To me, this is a product of more paranoia, and too many people with extreme views getting air time.
  • I feel bad for members of the LGBTQ community who are stuck in the middle of all this nonsense.

It's hard not to feel cynical.

If I had to bet, I'd guess that none of the over 60,000 people on Tangle’s mailing list spent their weekend tearing down Pride signs at Target (please correct me if I'm wrong). I'd be pretty surprised if I knew anyone who did. My bet is that this news cycle — which has now lasted several weeks — is being driven by a small number of people with extreme beliefs and a much larger number of people who may be sympathetic to the idea that "this LGBTQ stuff” is just too "in your face right now.” The rest of us are spectators to the nonsense.

Truthfully, the entire thing just makes me sad. I've already written about the Dylan Mulvaney controversy (and then published all your responses), and this feels like deja vu all over again.

Why is Target running a Pride themed clothing line? Because it's profitable. They’ve done it for years. Sorry, but I don't think Target's corporate executives are waking up in the morning and thinking about LGBTQ inclusivity for the sake of inclusivity, and they certainly aren't thinking about how to indoctrinate your kids to be gay or trans. They're trying to make money. Pride is profitable because — breaking news — a lot of people exist in the LGBTQ community, a lot of people support the LGBTQ community, and a lot people are interested in buying Pride-themed clothes.

Why are the Dodgers inviting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to Pride night? For the same reason: They'll sell tickets (and booze, too). It's a rowdy, fun performance, and people will come out to watch it. If you don’t want to see them perform, then don’t go on the one night they’ll be there (the Dodgers have 80 other home games, including Christian faith and family day).

The article that resonated most with me of all the ones I read was the piece from Philip Klein (under "What the right is saying"). It's just a onesie. While I disagree with the conclusions of many conservatives on the education issue, I can truly understand the debates about the age at which different sexuality or gender topics are appropriate to discuss with kids in public schools. I can also understand not liking Dylan Mulvaney, or not believing gender can be totally divorced from sex, or worrying about trans women competing in women’s divisions in sports. I can understand seeing elementary school kids at erotic drag shows and thinking, what the hell? I can see good reason for concern about medical treatments for trans minors. All of these things seem worthy of debate, inquiry, and curiosity.

But a war on Pride month?


I know some of the backlash is tied directly to negative views people have about gay or trans Americans, but I also think there is a deeper thing happening here. It's the victim mentality I wrote about back in 2021 intersecting with the mass paranoia I wrote about in 2022. Far too many of us think of ourselves as victims, and far too many of us are seeing ghosts in every direction. In this case, it seems some activist conservatives see themselves as victims of a losing fight against gay or trans people, and have paired that with paranoia about the threats to our kids, or a "traditional" way of life, or just a night out at the baseball game.

Contrary to Steven Hayward's piece, I actually don't think this is a "normie" backlash at all. I think normies in America could care less about a rainbow t-shirt at Target or Pride Night at a baseball game or Pride month in general. I think “normies” would rank those things very, very low on their political priority list. Most of our country is generally accepting of LGTBQ Americans. Most "normies" believe that if you don't want to go to a Pride parade or don't want your kid in Pride month clothing, then you don't go, and you don't dress your kids in that clothing.

To me, it's the same story here we see playing out in so many places these days: The extreme views are taking up all the oxygen, and making us think the other side is a lot crazier than they really are. The worst part is that the vast majority of LGBTQ people who are just trying to live their lives like the rest of us, and are entering a month that is supposed to celebrate them, are now stuck in the middle.

Your questions, answered.

Q: In Thursday's newsletter you reference a report stating that 44% of U.S. workers are employed in jobs with an annual median wage of $18,000. This is a report from three and a half years ago. I checked the BLS and a report from April of this year says for the first quarter of this year the weekly median wage was $1,100 or $57,200 per year. The lowest was for 16 to 24 year old women but even that was $35,880 per year. You seemed to have cherry picked some old data to make a point. Not what I've come to expect from you.

— Jim from Colonial Heights, Virginia

Tangle: A few people asked about this reference, which came in my piece on RFK Jr.'s bid for president.

First: Obviously, the annual median wage didn't go from $18,000 to $57,200 in three years, so that’s a huge clue that we’re talking about different things. Wages have gone up since Covid-19, but certainly not by that much. Additionally, this data was pulled from 2012-2016, which I actually don't think is that misleading or cherry-picked. The study is less recent than the jobs report, but broad analysis of data like this often takes years to collect, then years more to complete, so it is typically a few years behind. As the authors say right in their report:

"The large sample size from five years of pooled data allows us to conduct relatively detailed analysis at the regional level: We profile low-wage workers at the national level and within 373 metropolitan areas. However, there is a trade-off with timeliness, and our data do not allow us to capture the most recent wage trends."

Finally, the major discrepancy you're seeing between the figure I cited and the summary figures from the BLS is due to this study’s specific focus on low-wage workers. When I wrote that “almost half of all Americans are in low-wage jobs paying median annual wages of $18,000,” I wasn’t saying the median annual wage in America is $18,000. I am saying almost half of Americans are in low-wage jobs, and the median annual salary of that surprisingly large group is $18,000.

On top of that, the study’s definition of low-wage workers varies from the definition used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Still, BLS used a different definition to find something similar: That just over 30% of the workforce in 2016 was earning under $13.50 per hour.

The entire point of this study is that low-wage work is much more pervasive than we think. The analysis was done by looking at five years of American Community Survey microdata. The study did not limit itself to people who were working full-time or year round, but instead looked at any civilian 18 to 64 years old who worked during the last year and was in the labor force (unemployed or employed) at the time they were surveyed. To me, this is a much more representative sample of reality in the U.S., as it includes people who had (and then lost) a low-wage job during the study’s timespan.

Accordingly, the report notes: "More than 53 million people — 44% of all workers aged 18-64 — are low-wage workers by our criteria. They earn median hourly wages of $10.22 and median annual earnings of $17,950. These 53 million workers earn less than our hourly earnings threshold of $16.03 at the national level, adjusted for cost of living differences by region, ranging from $12.54 in Beckley, W.Va. to $20.02 in San Jose, Calif."

You can read the full report, which had a strong impact on my own personal view of current working conditions, here.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

A former intelligence official turned whistleblower has given Congress and the Intelligence Community Inspector General "extensive classified information" about a deeply covert program he claims has retrieved pieces of "craft of non-human origin." In other words: Extraterrestrial spaceships. The whistleblower, David Charles Grusch, is a former combat officer in Afghanistan who has experience in various U.S. intelligence agencies and groups, including the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. Grusch claims the recovery of partial fragments to intact vehicles have been made for decades. To date, he is considered one of the most credible whistleblowers to allege the U.S. government is covering up evidence of encounters with extraterrestrial objects. He sat for an interview on NewsNation, and The Debrief wrote a piece about his claims.


  • 7.2%. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who identified as LGBTQ in 2022, according to Gallup.
  • 7.1%. The percentage of adults in the U.S. who identified as LGBTQ in 2021, according to Gallup.
  • 0.6%. The percentage of U.S. adults who identified as transgender in 2022, according to Gallup.
  • 19.7%. The percentage of U.S. adults in Gen Z, aged 18-25, who identified as LGBTQ in 2022.
  • 13.1%. The percentage of U.S. adults in Gen Z who identified as bisexual.
  • 1.9%. The percentage of U.S. adults in Gen Z who identified as transgender.

The extras.

  • One year ago today we published a piece about the Michael Sussman verdict.
  • The most clicked link in yesterday's newsletter was the story about the sonic boom over Virginia.
  • Nevermind the weather: When asked what was having the *least* impact on California's insurance crisis, only 11% and 14% of Tangle readers respectively answered "Insurance regulation" and "Land management," meaning that our readers believed those factors were significant. 27% thought "Housing development" was the least significant factor, while 48% answered "Climate change."
  • Nothing to do with politics: Malaysia just passed India for the record of most Spidermans in one place.
  • Take the poll. What do you think? Which companies, if any, do you think have gone "too far" with LGBTQ+ inclusion? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

A piece of music history has been re-discovered. The original 1976 demo tape that landed Prince his first record deal was found in an attic. The tape, recorded in Minneapolis by an 18-year-old Prince, contained original recordings of hit songs off his debut album "Just As Long as We're Together" and "My Love is Forever." Boston-based company RR Auction, who obtained the tape from the estate of late Warner Bros. record executive Ross Thylet, calls it "a testament to the visionary talent of the enigmatic musician and marks the inception of one of the most legendary careers in popular music.” The historic artifact will be sold at auction. Good News Network has the story.

Before you go...

Remember: We have no investors, a small team, and are up against all the divisive, partisan, sensational news outlets in the world. There are so many ways to support us — please consider taking one action to help!

📣  Share Tangle on Twitter here, Facebook here, or LinkedIn here.

🎥 Follow us on Instagram here or subscribe to our YouTube channel here

💵  If you like our newsletter, drop some love in our tip jar.

🎉 Want to reach 58,000+ people? Fill out this form to advertise with us.

📫  Forward this to a friend and tell them to subscribe (hint: it's here).

🛍  Love clothes, stickers and mugs? Go to our merch store!

Subscribe to Tangle

Join 100,000+ people getting Tangle directly to their inbox!

Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.