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It’s not even June, and yet corporate America is already reeling from an unprecedented backlash over the annual Pride Month celebration.

The changing climate on gender issues caught the nation’s marketing gurus by surprise, as evidenced by the recent consumer takedowns of Bud Light and Target; the flip-flopping over drag queens by the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the outcry over male models in Adidas women’s swimwear.

Much of that shift can be attributed to the rise of the “T” in LGBTQ. 

Whereas Pride Month was once seen as a show of support for a historically disparaged minority, the movement is increasingly linked to polarizing issues such as medicalized gender transitions for minors, sexually themed schoolbooks, and biological males in female sports.

“People are sick of Pride Month, and parents in particular are sick of seeing this pushed on their kids,” Trent Talbot, president and founder of the conservative publishing house Brave Books, told The Washington Times.

His company has jumped on the Pride Month pushback. Brave Books plans to release “Pride Comes Before the Fall,” an illustrated children’s book by Christian actor Kirk Cameron, on June 1 — the first day of Pride Month.

SEE ALSO: Kirk Cameron’s book on dangers of ‘pride’: ‘It’s not anti-gay, it’s pro-humility’

“I think that what we’re seeing with Target, Bud Light, is really just the tip of the iceberg,” said Mr. Talbot. “I think that the Christian conservatives, the sort of silent majority, they may be waking up and realizing that they have power in our culture, and they need to flex their muscles.”

The flexing is well underway. Target’s market capitalization declined as of Friday by $10.2 billion, or 13.7%, since May 17 amid a public outcry over its Pride Collection, which includes rainbow-themed wear for children and infants and a “tuck-friendly” women’s bathing suit for customers with male genitalia.

Bud Light is still reeling from the blowback over its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Anheuser-Busch’s stock has declined by 5.3% year-to-date, according to MarketWatch, prompting industry experts to wonder aloud whether the brand will recover.

Whipping the outrage is Daily Wire podcaster Matt Walsh, who urged conservatives last week to pick a few strategic targets and make them “pay dearly” instead of trying to boycott every company selling rainbow-themed products.

“I think this Target boycott has real staying power,” Mr. Walsh tweeted. “Target has now branded itself as a far left organization, to the point where it’s embarrassing to shop there. This is the branding that makes the boycott stick. It happened to Bud Light. I think it’s happening to Target.”

SEE ALSO: Target’s market cap plunges by $9 billion amid Pride clothing uproar

LGBTQ-themed advertising has become an annual staple in the years since President Bill Clinton recognized June in 1999 as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, later renamed LGBT Pride Month.

Bud Light has sold its brew in rainbow bottles since at least 2019. Ford unveiled its “Very Gay Raptor” rainbow truck in June 2022, and Target has been hawking Pride Month apparel for years. What changed?

Joanna Schwartz, Georgia College and State University marketing professor, pointed to the shifting political sands, exemplified by the surge of transgender-related bills in state legislatures.

“The obvious difference between this year and last year is that the prominence that LGBTQ+ issues, particularly issues around trans and nonbinary identity, have been amplified by legislatures and organizations such as the Family Research Council and Do No Harm,” she said in an email. “It’s been commonly acknowledged by conservative think tanks and political analysts that is because this is a ‘winning’ wedge issue.”

Twenty-one states have barred male-born athletes from participating in female scholastic sports. Nineteen states have passed bans on gender-transition procedures for minors. A half-dozen blue states have responded by approving “trans refuge” bills.

“The increase in legislation, and the perceived need for legislation, has increased awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and of Pride marketing among conservative buyers (for whom that advertising was never meant to include as a target),” Ms. Schwartz said.

The dilemma for companies now is how to soothe consumers outraged by the Pride branding without alienating the LGBTQ market, a task so far proving difficult if not impossible.

Bud Light was mocked for trotting out a new Clydesdales ad. Target removed a handful of items by the Satanist-inspired British designer Abprallen, but not the “tuck-friendly” bathing suit or Pride-themed baby onesies, a pivot decried by the right as not enough and the left as too much.

“Target should put the products back on the shelves and ensure their Pride displays are visible on the floors, not pushed into the proverbial closet,” said the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign in a statement. “That’s what the bullies want. Target must be better.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers managed to inflame both sides by canceling plans to honor the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence after opposition from Catholic leaders, then reinviting the drag-queen troupe under pressure from LGBTQ advocates.

 CatholicVote responded Friday by announcing a $1 million media campaign that includes “radio and television ads; geo-targeted digital ads aimed at fans in and around Dodger Stadium; billboards near the stadium and along major routes to the stadium, and more.”

“The goal of this campaign is simple: to urge all people of goodwill to express their opposition to your celebration of anti-Catholic bigotry and mockery,” said CatholicVote President Brian Burch in a Thursday letter to the Dodgers leadership.

Ms. Schwartz said companies need to be more aware of “not just of how your offering hits the target market, but how it hits people outside of that target.”

“It requires agility by marketers to stand with a group that they have shown they support,” she said, “while also being aware of the need to do that in a way that isn’t separating from others in their customer base.”

She noted that most companies are now bringing out product lines that have been in the works for at least a year, meaning that the Pride riptide may be only just beginning.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Kohl’s came under fire for its Pride children’s line that includes onesies for babies with “Happy Pride!” and a graphic of Pride parade marchers holding the Progress Pride flag.

“Looks like another company needing Bud-lighting!” tweeted Kyle Becker, host of the conservative Relentless podcast.

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