The Target 2023 Pride collection on display at the store in Helena, Montana on May 25, 2023. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)
A transgender Missoula couple was told to “enjoy it while you can ” while shopping Thursday in the LGBTQ+ section in Target by a man who went on to throw merchandise from the section onto the floor.
The man was later escorted by a Target employee out of the section, which includes clothing with rainbow colors, for example.
Octavia Jimenez and her non-binary partner, April Dean, said they were rattled by the experience.
“I think that those are temporary feelings that are going to pass,” Dean said.
Both said the opposition to Target’s merchandise is “profoundly silly.” Jimenez added people are just living their lives “and want recognition for who they are.”
“He does look very pathetic, just kind of like throwing a temper tantrum,” Jimenez said.
Both students at the University of Montana, Jimenez and Dean said they were approached by the man as they were shopping on Thursday.
“This guy just kind of comes up to us while we’re looking at the stuff and just says, ‘Enjoy it while you can,’ and he’s got this weird look in his eyes,” Jimenez said. “He kind of just starts throwing the merchandise on the floor.”
Jimenez sent a video of the end of the altercation to activist Paul Kim, who posted it to Twitter. It shows the man being escorted out of the LGBTQ+ section by a Target employee.
Target press responded to a voicemail from the Daily Montanan with an email confirming an incident took place at the store on Thursday. The retail company did not respond to an email with follow up questions from the Daily Montanan.
Jimenez said she would like to see the man “at least banned from the store.”
Target recently made the decision to remove some of its LGBTQ+ merchandise from stores across the country citing backlash that included threats to worker safety, as reported by the Washington Post.
Dean said they hope Target doesn’t bow to the pressure from anti-LGBTQ+ groups, wishing they would continue to support people who are “very much heartened by these kinds of public displays.”
Jimenez said the display was right up at the front of the store and that placement was nice.
Missoula resident Chris Foster said he didn’t notice any commotion in the Target on Thursday, but that when he returned to his car he found a flyer under his windshield that said in all capital letters that Target was partnering with “satanists” to “bring transgender clothing and propaganda to their stores.”
Foster said in a direct message on Twitter to the Daily Montanan he saw a woman putting what he assumed were identical copies on other cars in the parking lot.
Missoula voters sent the first two transgender lawmakers to the legislature for the 2023 session. However, the session brought with it a slew of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, and Democrat Rep. Zooey Zephyr, one of the transgender representatives from Missoula, was censured by Republicans in the House for language she used as she spoke in opposition to one such bill.
Zephyr tweeted in response to the online video that the hate displayed in Target isn’t welcome in Missoula and that queer people are ingrained in the community.
“We’re part of Missoula, & if you can let go of the hate in your heart, you’d see that,” Zephyr tweeted. “My heart goes out to the trans woman & her nonbinary partner who were harassed. While the man may have said ‘enjoy it while you can,’ I hope the couple knows there are people across this state working towards creating a Montana where they can always enjoy their lives in peace.”
Missoula held a large rally supporting Zephyr after her censure, one Dean attended at which they got to meet Zephyr, an experience they looked back on fondly, noting how much Zephyr’s representation meant to them.
Dean said they saw this action as a natural consequence from the rhetoric from the statehouse.
“This kind of attitude towards trans people gets extended into the public sphere as people see this harassment being done by their elected officials,” they said. “It sends a message that this kind of thing is OK.”
Jimenez said she didn’t file a police report and just wants to move on, adding that she’s “not a big believer in criminal stuff, anyway.”
Eddie McLean with the Missoula Police Department said authorities have not seen a noticeable uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ incidents in the area and the office monitors for any potential concerns – especially around upcoming events like the Pride parade.
Jimenez said she’s always felt safe in town, speaking to the number of openly queer and trans people and support from businesses throughout, but said there’s been a lot of “demonization” lately from rhetoric both nationally and from the statehouse.
Dean said it was important to flag that this can take place “even in areas that we’d like to call more liberal, like Missoula.”
“It’s a beautiful state and there’s a lot of good people here, which makes this type of thing hurt all the more,” Dean said.
The two moved as a couple from Texas to Montana.
Shawn Reagor of the Montana Human Rights Network said in a statement that the organization predicted anti-LGBTQ+ legislation would lead to an increase in violence and threats, especially against the LGBTQ+ and particularly trans, nonbinary, and Two Spirit community.
“Hate filled rhetoric and actions started in the Capitol this session and (have) flooded this state,” Reagor said.
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