Abprallen in front of pink background (l) Target store with sign above entrance (r)

ZikG/Shutterstock abprallenuk/Instagram (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

EXCLUSIVE: Trans designer targeted by right-wing mob over ‘satanic’ Target-Pride collection says he’s getting death threats

'They’ve completely altered the facts to fit with the version they want.'


Claire Goforth


Posted on May 23, 2023   Updated on May 23, 2023, 3:08 pm CDT

The first thing he noticed was a stranger tagging him in an Instagram reel. The reel misgendered him, accused him of being a satanist, and claimed that Target was indoctrinating children by working with him.

Now, in a redux of the controversy over Bud Light’s promotion with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, right-wing personalities are calling to boycott Target for collaborating with designer Erik Carnell’s company Abprallen to create items for its Pride month collection.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dot on Tuesday, Carnell described the experience that led to him being unexpectedly thrust into the machinations of the conservative outrage machine.

Carnell said that Target approached him about a year ago to create some items for its Pride collection. Carnell, a transgender designer based in the United Kingdom, was thrilled to work with such a large brand for the first time.

“It seemed like an incredible opportunity. We don’t have Target in the U.K., but it’s known in most western places,” Carnell said.

On May 9, Carnell finally got to reveal that he created items for Target’s Pride collection. Carnell, who describes his company’s aesthetic as “pastel goth LGBT Pride,” was one of several LGBTQ designers Target worked with. His contribution consists of three items: an adult shirt that says “cure transphobia, not trans people,” a messenger bag featuring a spaceship and a rainbow that says “too queer for here,” and a fanny pack that says “we belong here.”

“I wanted to ensure that any young people who saw Abprallen in Target would know that who they are is beautiful, purposeful, and worth expressing,” he wrote on Instagram. “I wanted to create a range that would embrace younger me and tell him that who he is is more than OK, that being trans is special and wonderful and that the closet is not made for him to thrive in.”

Carnell told the Daily Dot that he’d expected some transphobia and receives hateful comments from time to time. He did not anticipate singlehandedly inspiring calls to boycott Target.

But that is precisely what happened.

Last week, a conservative influencer tagged him in an Instagram reel. In the reel, she interspersed the items Carnell created for Target with things he sells independently to malign the company for working with him.

“Guys, Target is after your kids and not in a good way,” she concluded.

Others followed suit. Carnell said self-identified Christians with large followings posted about him, as did right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro and outlets such as the National Review and Washington Examiner.

In Body Image

Many of the articles and posts accuse Carnell of promoting satanism. Carnell said that the handful of items out of his large collection that reference Satan, such as a pin that says “Satan respects pronouns,” are clearly tongue-in-cheek and people are taking it out of context in bad faith. (Target isn’t selling any of these items.)

“I don’t believe in Satan. I don’t believe in the Bible…. It’s a metaphor,” he said.

He believes that many of his attackers realize it isn’t “interesting” to draw attention to a company selling a sweatshirt for adults that supports trans people. Claiming a multinational corporation is trying to indoctrinate children to satanism, however, is definitely going to cause a stir.

“They’ve completely altered the facts to fit with the version they want … that’s gonna get clicks, that’s gonna get views,” Carnell said.

Carnell also did not design the “tuck-friendly” swimsuit that inspired some of the initial backlash against Target’s Pride collection, including false claims that it was selling the suits for children.

It’s working. People are flooding Target’s site with one-star reviews for his items. Social media is full of calls to boycott the company.

There is some indication that Target is giving in to its critics.

The fanny pack Carnell created is not available on Target’s website as of this writing. Yesterday, the National Review reported that the messenger bag was also no longer for sale. As of Tuesday, the bag was back on the site. Carnell said that at some point yesterday, none of his items were available.

It’s not clear if this was some sort of fluke or if Target decided to pull them. The company did not respond to a voicemail and email seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.

Fox News reported Target was having an “emergency meeting” to stave off right-wing backlash.

Corporations have been selling Pride-themed items for decades without much issue. In the past, criticisms of such promotions often came from the LGBTQ community accusing brands of “rainbow-washing,” or hopping on the Pride bandwagon just to make money.

The conservative-led rise of transphobia and homophobia in recent years has inspired calls to boycott companies that support LGBTQ equality. Some of those may decide it’s not worth the negative publicity.

In Carnell’s opinion, Target will weather the storm no matter what it decides to do with his collection. He pointed out that this isn’t the first time people have called to boycott the company over LGBTQ-inclusive policies like gender-neutral bathrooms, after all, and it still “seems to be thriving.”

Carnell feels that it will set a dangerous precedent if companies start caving to the pressure because it telegraphs that it’s okay to spread hate.

“Once they get bored of targeting people like Dylan Mulvaney on Instagram, they’re going to move onto real people in their areas,” he said.

Carnell said he’s been personally inundated with hate and transphobia.

“I’ve had a lot of death threats. I’ve had a lot of threats of gun violence,” Carnell said. Asked how many hateful messages he’d received, Carnell said he “lost count” after 500.

Because he’s in the U.K. and the vast majority of those attacking him are in the United States, Carnell feels somewhat insulated from the threats. But, he said, “If I was in the U.S., then I would absolutely feel frightened.”

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*First Published: May 23, 2023, 2:43 pm CDT