Trigger Warning: False Active Shooter Incident
My name is Lindsay Malu Kido; for those who don’t know, I am the founder, and sole operational person of Beer is for Everyone. I am a queer, brown, mixed-Indigenous, non-binary woman. As a vocal advocate for social justice within the craft beer community, sharing these experiences is meant to educate and bring awareness about the problematic issues that arose from the Craft Beer Conference this year. In addition, it is meant to be a cathartic process, as this is the first time I am truly describing my own experiences.
I will share a few specific incidents surrounding the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in this article. They are meant to provide a descriptive account of the physical and psychological trauma of attending this year’s conference as both a presenter and an attendee.
Let’s roll it back a few months prior to CBC: On February 23rd, 2023, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed bill HB0009, which criminalizes engaging in an adult cabaret performance (AKA drag) on public property, specifically in the view of minors. In addition, they passed the bill HB0001 that would ban particular gender-affirming care for minors, such as puberty blockers or surgery.
I sit on the Brewers Association’s DEI Subcommittee, so I found out from my friend and fellow subcommittee member, Rachael Engel, about the passing of these bills in the Music City Capital. She expressed her deep concern about the political climate in Tennessee (posted with her permission):
“I wanted to make everyone aware that Tennessee has just passed legislation banning drag acts and gender-affirming care for minors. As a transgender person, I’m very concerned about the CBC being held in Nashville this year. I realize it is too late to do anything about it this year, but I’m extremely uncomfortable with the idea both of visiting a state trying to make me illegal and with giving a state supporting such laws an influx of money. I know several other trans brewers who share my concerns.”
Initially, I was not going to attend CBC. However, after many conversations with Rachael, Dr. J Jackson-Beckham, and Jen Blair, I realized that it was vital for me to be there, even if only to support my queer community in a state that historically and presently detests our existence. So, one month away from the conference, I began planning the Beer is for Everyone’s Pride Night Party. The event was a direct opposition to the legislation in Tennessee. In addition, to my knowledge, CBC has never had a Pride-themed event. It was a chance for the beer community to stand in solidarity and come together and show up for our people. So, a Pride party was happening – I still had no intention of going to the conference, though. I was already spending a few thousand out of my own pocket to get to Nashville to host the party; I wasn’t trying to spend money on the conference fees too.
A few weeks leading up to the conference, J approached me about being on the panel for the seminar, Safety and Solidarity: LGBTQ+ Advocacy during the Culture Wars. I gladly accepted and was honored to be alongside Rachael Engel, J Jackson-Beckham, and Christopher Shepard, who are such remarkable champions of our community. J also recommended I apply for the BA’s DEI Mini-Grant to help subsidize the costs associated with the event. So, I applied and was awarded a check for $2,500*.
Despite being fearful of the atmosphere in Tennessee, as both a queer and Brown person, I was still so, so excited for the solidarity and celebration to come.
However, in the days leading up to the conference, the Brewers Association still had not released any type of statement on the political climate and their strategy for safety on the ground. Therefore, Jen Blair, Ann Reilly, and I knew that we had to do more to ensure the protection of our people while we were in Nashville. We set out to implement some on-the-ground measures, including a safety network via an app. Then, I created the Safe Haven pins and purchased numerous safety tools to provide at no charge to those who needed them. We exhaustively tried to make sure that, if the Brewers Association was seemingly not going to do anything, we were doing something.
After landing in Nashville and checking into my hotel, I was exhausted and did not want to travel far for food or a beer. So, I took to the first reasonably-rated restaurant I found on Yelp – thankfully, it was on the corner of my hotel’s block. My introverted self didn’t really want to socialize, so I decided to grab a seat at the bar to eat and drink in peace. It didn’t take long for me to notice that in a packed room, I was the only non-white patron in the bar. Instantly, I felt out of place. However, as the night progressed, I found myself feeling even more uncomfortable. As I was trying to eat my appetizer, I began to feel violated – small – invisible.
Another patron of the bar kept touching me, and every time I moved away, the space I used to occupy became his. He kept bumping into me, and I kept moving further and further away. I moved a third of the bar length down – not just inches away but feet away. But, he continued to back into me, physically touching me like I didn’t exist. People saw what was happening.
In order to try to remediate the situation without having to be confrontational, I asked the bartender if I could move to an empty table nearby. He said “No” because my food was already set to come to that seat. I mentioned that the guy kept hitting me, but my cries for help were left dismissed. Because the inconvenience of swapping tables was worth more than my comfort and safety. I finally said something to the guy who kept invading my space. His reply was, “It’s a bar.” So, even in a five-star restaurant, “bar culture” dictates that his behavior is acceptable and normalized. Cool.
I left for another place to eat while still making sure to pay for my unappetizing, uneaten meal.
After getting little to no sleep, trying to prepare for the Pride Night Party, with severe anxiety that no one would come. “What if no one comes? What will that say about people not supporting our queer community? I haven’t done nearly enough for our people.” However, it was such a relief when people began to show up. I am not a crier, but I wanted to cry as the flood of people showed up – literally, while there was a torrential storm outside.
I am so grateful that Jen Blair stayed with me the whole time, ensuring that I ate and actually had a few moments to breathe. I kept saying in disbelief, “I can’t believe people came.” My anxiety rolled away, and I am so thankful for the successful event. I noticed a few people who I expected to be there but weren’t. And that’s okay. It was still the absolute highlight of my trip to Nashville. We were able to represent, and I couldn’t have been more proud of our beer community for showing up.
As a member of the DEI Education Subcommittee, we have meetings during CBC. While I refuse to discuss specifics to honor others’ privacy, I will say that I left this meeting feeling incredibly uncomfortable. Despite being a Ph.D. Candidate in Education and committing my life to DEI work, not to mention living it every day, I felt like I had no place in the room. My honest feelings were that I wasn’t in a safe space to vocalize my opposition to issues that had arisen, perhaps a lot in part to cultural or personal communication differences.
There were a few problematic instances. However, I want to share one – the one that solidified my feelings of not belonging. Leading up to this, I already felt wholly uncomfortable and was already contemplating leaving. Then, a member of the DEI committee, who I respect as a person and who I believe had no ill intentions made the comment in regards to DEI, “There hasn’t been a crisis in a long, long time.” She was genuinely happy saying it, and I could tell she believed it. It also inadvertently showed the privilege that existed. What a blessing it must be to feel like the world isn’t on fire. I had to put my hands underneath the table because I was visibly shaking; I was screaming on the inside. “We are on fucking edge every single day. We are in fight or flight mode every damn moment. We are in crisis right now.” After the conversation continued, I realized that the BA and I did not share the same views on DEI. I left feeling like my resignation from the committee was only a matter of time. I felt so distraught and lost. I felt small, powerless, of no value, and rather honestly, useless. It felt like all the work that I’d been doing for Beer is for Everyone had been for nothing. It was the first time I felt like there was no hope.
Later that night, I went out and enjoyed an evening with a number of friends. But, it culminated with a few much-needed drinks with Ren Navarro, Rachael Engel, Katie Muggli, Lindsay Barr, and a few of their incredibly supportive life partners. It was a night filled with queer joy, queer love, and queer laughter. We found peace and community amongst the pain.
By the middle of the conference, we realized that there was going to be no statement made by the Brewers Association. Initially, Ann, Jen, and I were going to wait until after the conference to write the letter, but it became apparent that it was necessary to write it while we were on the ground. Therefore, I stayed up all night to write the Collective Objection Letter to the BA. I sent it off to various of my critical friends. Then, we posted it for the world to weigh in.
This was the same day that Ren was subjected to the traumatic experience that ensued from the seminar that she attended. The cries echoed throughout the beer community. Hundreds of people expressed their support of Ren on social media and were exceedingly disappointed by the BA’s refusal to comment on the macro situation in Tennesee. If it wasn’t blatantly clear before, it was ever obvious now that the Craft Brewers Conference was not safe for us.
On the last day of the conference, I struggled to make it to my own presentation. I was honestly afraid that people hated me, and maybe they did and still do. However, it was important that I showed up. And I am truly glad I did. The plethora of conversations that transpired in the seminar birthed new hope in my soul. It reminded me that the craft beer community is so much more than any one organization. It is full of phenomenal people who are fighting and existing and thriving – regardless of the problems that exist.
Toward the end of the seminar, I heard loud noises coming from outside the room, which I now know to be the breaking down of equipment. However, at the moment, I thought our room could have been under attack. Last year, I was involved in a false active shooter incident on the Las Vegas Strip. It was a false alarm, but the real visceral fear that people felt during that time was genuine. And the sounds coming from the other room at the Craft Brewers Conference were identical to the sounds I heard prior to the stampede of thousands of people who thought they were going to die. In addition, in the aftermath of the tragic events of the October 1st Massacre at Mandalay Bay, where I was supposed to be, the possibility of a shooting looms as a stark reality. So, I was triggered.
After the seminar was over, I went to the nearest bathroom I could find, and I just crumbled. Even though I knew the illogical nature of my internal feelings, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of that initial thought that we were going to be targeted in such a hateful state. The genuine fear that we all had in coming to Nashville exacerbated an already triggering moment.
After recentering myself, I began the walk back to my hotel room. But halfway there, I collapsed on the sidewalk. I am not sure if it was because I was barely eating, or barely sleeping, or because of one of the health conditions I have, or maybe it was pure exhaustion and stress. Thankfully, I wasn’t unconscious, but my body buckled, and I was just there on the ground in the middle of the sidewalk. I managed to get to the side of a building to rest against. After 45 minutes on the ground, I finally found the courage to ask for help. I have such gratitude for Ash Eliot, who was willing to help me from half the country away to find the closest place to get food so that I could get salt in my system. I have hypotension, so I assume my blood pressure was also dangerously low.
After the conference, I have been experiencing unhealthy levels of stress – combined with the guilt of not being able to do enough and the sadness of our current reality. Therefore, my body is still physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually recovering from the Conference. In the purest sense of the statement, I am so incredibly tired. It has affected me so profoundly that for the first time in my life, I am having menstrual periods every other week (Sorry, I know that’s TMI – but it’s an actual reality of doing this work). I still wake up in the middle of the night with sadness, frustration, anger, and guilt for the past two months. Even now, I feel terrible about sharing this story. I always intended to be a faceless, nameless force. But this story needed to be told.
So, how is the Brewers Association to blame?
Despite the fact that not all the incidents I experienced can be directly attributed to the Brewers Association, their lack of explicit support significantly compounded the distress. It’s crucial to understand that while they may not have set the discriminatory laws or managed the behavior of individual attendees, the Brewers Association did have the capability to foster a safer and more inclusive environment for marginalized and underserved attendees, yet they decided to remain inactive.
The Brewers Association may not have been directly responsible for the individual behaviors and biases that resulted in my feeling uncomfortable and unheard, but they undeniably played a role in setting the tone for the conference.
When I sat in the DEI Education Subcommittee meeting and was met with the assertion that “there hasn’t been a crisis in a long, long time,” I felt a wave of alienation. Here, my lived experience as a queer, brown, mixed-Indigenous, non-binary woman felt effectively erased. But what if the Brewers Association had cultivated an environment that encouraged true inclusivity and acknowledgment of the different experiences attendees bring to the table? What if they had encouraged and fostered a culture that allows for uncomfortable truths to be heard and validated? What if they not only gave us a seat at the table but actively empowered our voices to be heard? In that environment, my anxiety, frustration, and feelings of invisibility could have been mitigated.
Ultimately, it’s not about direct fault but the larger environment of dismissiveness and neglect that was allowed to persist. While the Brewers Association might not have been responsible for each and every incident, they were undeniably in a position to lend support to make their attendees feel cared for and respected. Their failure to do so simply magnified the damaging impact of each incident, leaving me, and others, feeling uncared for and dismissed.
The compounding of stress, threats, and dismissiveness
During the Craft Brewers Conference, the combination of real and perceived threats faced by attendees, particularly those identifying as LGBTQIAA2S+ or from marginalized backgrounds, resulted in significant psychological strain. This strain was not only due to the imminent threat of discrimination, rejection, or even legal action, creating an environment of persistent fear and anxiety, but also the multiplicative effect of these attendees’ intersecting identities. These layers of identity, such as being part of the LGBTQIAA2S+ community, being a person of color, or having a disability, among others, often led to a heightened sense of vulnerability and fear, intensifying feelings of unease and anxiety.
This state of chronic stress hindered my ability to fully engage in the event, prompted avoidance behaviors, and reinforced my already existing feelings of isolation and exclusion within the beer industry. These experiences have dissuaded me from attending future conferences, depriving me of opportunities for professional growth and networking. Furthermore, this persistent state of threat has had clear substantial impacts on my mental health and overall quality of life.
The inaction of the Brewers Association compounded these threats and stressors, amplifying the damaging effects. Although they may not have directly initiated the discriminatory laws or behaviors, the Brewers Association held the power to shape attendees’ experiences. Instead of utilizing that power to create a supportive and inclusive environment, their lack of initiative served to perpetuate the status quo. This lack of overt support or attempts at inclusion implicitly conveyed a disregard for the unique struggles faced by marginalized attendees. It inadvertently echoed a message of indifference toward their safety and comfort, exacerbating feelings of anxiety, isolation, and fear. The Association’s passive stance in the face of adversity contributed to an atmosphere of uncertainty and potential hostility, causing the already significant psychological strain faced by marginalized attendees to become even more profound. The burden of navigating such a minefield of potential threats and discomfort was thus left unjustly to the individuals who were already under significant stress, deepening the detrimental impacts on their well-being.
The Brewers Association had the power and responsibility to set the stage for a more supportive and inclusive conference experience. While they can’t control every individual interaction, they can certainly influence the overall atmosphere. By staying silent on the political climate in Tennessee and not visibly showing support for marginalized attendees, they indirectly contributed to the isolation I, and many others, felt. Their failure to act emphasized the dismissiveness and lack of care that seemed to permeate the conference.
Why it might matter to the Brewers Association – from a business standpoint.
If the Brewers Association genuinely intends to diversify its audience and expand its influence, it must take concrete actions to ensure that these professional spaces are not just open but also safe and genuinely inclusive for everyone. Increasing representation within the conference audience is an important start, but it’s not enough if the attendees still feel uncomfortable or silenced. We need more than a seat at the table – we need to be actively involved in the conversation, our voices valued, and our concerns acknowledged.
When we talk about inclusivity and diversity, it isn’t merely a numbers game – it’s about creating an environment where diverse perspectives are heard, respected, and integrated into the more comprehensive narrative. It’s about fostering a culture where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. This means not just inviting marginalized groups into the room but also working to dismantle the systemic barriers and biases that create discomfort and silence voices in the first place.
The Brewers Association has the power to influence this culture, and in my experience, they have yet to fully leverage that power. By not actively fostering an inclusive and supportive environment, they are inadvertently reinforcing the status quo. If they genuinely aim to diversify and expand their audience base, they need to confront these systemic issues head-on and work proactively to make their spaces truly safe, inclusive, and conducive to meaningful participation for everyone.
From a pragmatic business perspective, it’s imperative for the Brewers Association to prioritize diversity and inclusivity at all levels of their organization. First, diversity brings a broader range of perspectives and ideas, encouraging innovation and creativity that could lead to unique and appealing offerings. Inclusivity, on the other hand, ensures that everyone, regardless of their background or identity, feels valued and included, resulting in higher levels of engagement and commitment.
Secondly, as the demographics of beer consumers continue to evolve, the Brewers Association stands to gain significantly by attracting and retaining a diverse attendee base that mirrors this changing landscape. Not only could this increase their market reach, but it also offers an opportunity to engage and build relationships with previously underserved groups.
Lastly, there’s a growing societal expectation for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Showing active commitment in these areas enhances the Brewers Association’s reputation, potentially leading to increased patronage, higher retention rates, and stronger loyalty among attendees, members, and broader beer consumers. In essence, fostering diversity and inclusivity is not only the right thing to do ethically, but it’s also a smart business move.
In conclusion, the Brewers Association’s abdication of responsibility has indirectly nurtured an environment of neglect and dismissiveness, amplifying the distress of intersectional attendees and fortifying barriers of marginalization, thereby rendering their call for diversity a hollow echo in the absence of a parallel commitment to genuine inclusion and equitable execution.
*The DEI Mini-Grant received from the Brewers Association was returned to them.
**I have not yet decided what my role is as a BA DEI Committee member. I have many mixed feelings, and I don’t want to give up on the people who are doing good work there. Because who am I if I abandon ship? At the same time, I still feel like some may not hold positive feelings toward me. I also honestly am not sure if my time and effort are most impactful in that space. Therefore, Jen, Ann, and I initiated the Craft Brewers Support and Resources Network, so I am hoping that it might be a new start.