The craft beer industry is well-regarded for its innovative spirit, community engagement, and passion for the brew. This vibrant sector is booming with various styles and flavors catering to a diverse audience of beer enthusiasts. However, just as it strives for diversity and complexity in its brews, it must aim for diversity and inclusion within its community, an aspect it often needs to catch up on. One such area is the existence and propagation of harmful transphobic rhetoric.
Transphobia, a systemic discrimination against transgender individuals, is not just a social issue but a pervasive problem that has found its way into various sectors, including the craft beer industry. Whether it’s manifested subtly in exclusionary language and policies or overtly through discriminatory behaviors and attitudes, the impact on the individuals at the receiving end is profound and damaging. The trans community within the craft beer industry, while an integral thread in the complex fabric of beer aficionados and makers, frequently finds itself subject to bias and exclusion.
Understanding and addressing this issue requires a thorough exploration and discourse on the topic. In this article, we will delve into what transphobia looks like, how it manifests within the craft beer community and industry, the consequences of such behavior, and, importantly, what can be done to counteract and prevent it.
Ultimately, this article serves as a call to action. It’s a reminder that the craft beer community and industry, renowned for its creativity and camaraderie, can and should do better. It should strive not only for a diverse flavor profile in its pints but also for a diverse, inclusive, and respectful community around them. Let’s tap into this critical discussion.
The Craft Beer Community & Industry: An Overview
The craft beer industry has been characterized by its dynamism, creativity, and an inherent sense of community. Beginning in the late 20th century, this burgeoning sector emerged as a potent counterpoint to the dominance of large-scale, mainstream beer manufacturers. Its birth was marked by a group of enthusiastic brewers who were driven more by the desire for quality, taste, and the joy of brewing than by commercial interests alone.
Today, the industry is a vibrant ecosystem, boasting thousands of small, independent breweries across the globe. These establishments, defined by their size, independence, and commitment to quality, offer a delightful array of brews ranging from traditional ales and lagers to experimental infusions, each with a unique flavor profile.
However, the demographics within this industry have predominantly skewed towards cisgender, heterosexual males, a pattern rooted in the historical, societal division of labor and gender roles. This has resulted in a somewhat homogenous culture, leaving many underrepresented groups, including the trans community, on the sidelines.
At its best, the craft beer community can be incredibly welcoming and supportive. Events such as beer festivals, tastings, and collaboration brews foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect among beer lovers. However, this spirit of inclusivity needs to extend beyond brewing collaborations and beer festivals; it must permeate every taproom, every discussion forum, and every decision-making table.
Just as the industry itself has evolved from a handful of passionate brewers to a major force in the global beer market, it’s high time the community evolved too. This involves recognizing and rectifying its shortcomings, particularly concerning diversity and inclusivity. As the craft beer industry grows, this growth must be paralleled by increased representation, giving voice to those who have long been marginalized, including trans individuals.
In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into the issue of transphobia within the craft beer community, how it manifests, and the steps that can be taken toward building a genuinely inclusive industry.
Transphobia: Understanding its Roots and Manifestations
Transphobia, while increasingly recognized, is a term that remains misunderstood or unfamiliar to some. It refers to a deeply ingrained prejudice against transgender people—those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. The spectrum of transphobia spans from negative attitudes and feelings to more overtly hostile actions against the transgender community. It’s a form of bias that can manifest as fear, aversion, hatred, or discomfort felt or expressed towards individuals who challenge or do not conform to society’s heteronormative, conventional expectations of gender.
While these harmful emotions can be directed towards anyone who doesn’t fit within traditional gender norms, the term “transphobia” explicitly addresses the bias against transgender people. However, it is essential to note that these prejudices are not restricted to conscious acts of discrimination or hatred. Transphobia can be intentional and unintentional, explicit and implicit, making it a complex issue interwoven into many aspects of society.
On a personal level, transphobia can show itself through bias, prejudice, or outright hostility. It is distressingly common for transgender individuals to face ostracism from their families, rejection from their social groups, or to become targets of verbal and physical abuse. These instances of direct, overt transphobia can have deeply traumatizing impacts, leading to mental health issues, substance abuse, and disproportionately high rates of suicide among transgender people (Virupaksha, 2016; Kirakosian, 2023).
Transphobia within industry and workplace settings often takes on a more subtle form, but it is just as damaging. It can manifest in discriminatory hiring and promotional practices, creating a hostile work environment where transgender employees are made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe (Baboolall, Greenberg, Obeid, & Zucker, 2021). Examples of this in the craft beer industry could include:
- The lack of gender-neutral restrooms in a brewery.
- Using exclusive or derogatory language on labels or in marketing materials.
- Allowing transphobic comments to go unchallenged amongst staff or patrons.
It’s also vital to recognize the role of microaggressions in fostering a transphobic environment. These are everyday, often subtle expressions of bias or prejudice that can be easily overlooked or dismissed as harmless. Still, they contribute to an atmosphere of transphobia. Examples include misgendering someone (using incorrect pronouns), continuing to use a person’s dead name (the birth name of a transgender person who has changed their name as part of their gender transition), making insensitive comments or jokes about a person’s appearance or identity, or consistently ignoring or belittling their contributions.
The repercussions of these prejudiced behaviors extend far beyond the directly targeted individuals. They contribute to a culture that isolates and silences a subset of people, resulting in a less diverse, less inclusive, and ultimately less vibrant community. This lack of inclusivity can also impact innovation and growth within an industry, as it fails to benefit from the talents, experiences, and perspectives of a wider pool of individuals.
Confronting and combating transphobia is not a simple task—it requires a willingness to learn and evolve and a commitment to dismantling these harmful behaviors. It is a call to action for each member of the craft beer community to strive for an industry where every individual, regardless of their gender identity, feels seen, respected, and valued.
Unmasking Transphobia in the Craft Beer Community and Industry
The vibrant realm of craft beer, emphasizing innovation, camaraderie, and a shared passion for quality brewing, is unfortunately not immune to the social ill of transphobia. While the industry thrives on its collective spirit and creativity, it has yet to be successful in fully integrating an inclusive and respectful ethos into its cultural fabric.
This discrimination within the industry takes on many forms, subtly infiltrating aspects of the craft beer world that many might not immediately recognize. For instance, craft breweries may have policies that inadvertently marginalize transgender individuals. These could range from not providing trans-inclusive health benefits, enforcing gender-specific dress codes, or failing to provide gender-neutral facilities, all of which contribute to an environment that can be unwelcoming or even hostile to transgender individuals.
Moreover, craft beer’s branding and marketing aspects sometimes perpetuate harmful stereotypes or use insensitive language, alienating not just transgender individuals but anyone valuing a respectful and inclusive community. Beer names, labels, promotional materials, or even event themes that resort to offensive caricatures or terms contribute to a landscape of exclusion and discrimination.
In the realm of personal interactions within the industry, disrespect can stem from derogatory comments, misgendering, or insensitive jokes that demean transgender identities. The culture of silence or passive acceptance that often accompanies such behavior furthers the harm, reinforcing the discrimination rather than challenging it.
It’s worth noting that these practices often go unnoticed or are minimized as banter or isolated instances. But the cumulative impact of such actions feeds into a broader culture of transphobia, significantly affecting the mental health, self-esteem, and sense of community for trans individuals within the craft beer industry.
By recognizing these issues and taking concerted action to combat them, the craft beer industry has an opportunity to truly live up to its values. An industry known for breaking boundaries and defying conventions has a responsibility to champion not only diverse brews but also diverse brewers and enthusiasts. When the craft beer industry genuinely embraces diversity and inclusivity in its practices and culture, it enriches its community and its pint glasses.
Case Studies: Trans Discourse in Beer
In the effort to thoroughly understand the effect and response to transphobia within the beer industry, it’s important to delve into specific instances that highlight the existing dynamics and tensions. The case studies we will explore shed light on two incidents where the industry’s handling of trans issues came under intense scrutiny and criticism. These examples underline the importance of inclusivity and respect for diversity in craft beer culture and the adverse consequences when these values are not upheld.
Our exploration begins with the partnership between Dylan Mulvaney and Bud Light. This situation ignited fiery responses and demonstrated how public perception and politics heavily influence the industry. We will then transition to an incident involving the Brewers Association, highlighting how the organization’s silence in the face of anti-trans legislation elicited considerable backlash from both the brewing and LGBTQIAA2S+ communities. We follow that up with a related story for Hayley Kiyoko on her Nashville tour. Finally, we will narrate two personal anecdotal experiences that offer a firsthand perspective on the everyday experiences and struggles encountered within the industry.
Case Study: Dylan Mulvaney and Bud Light (And, The Effects of National Discourse)
Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender woman with a significant social media presence, has been unapologetically visible in sharing her journey of transition. In April, she celebrated a significant milestone in partnership with Bud Light: the one-year mark of her “365 Days of Girlhood” series, which chronicled her transition experience. Bud Light released a custom can featuring Mulvaney’s image to commemorate the occasion.
However, this partnership sparked an unwarranted and largely transphobic backlash, particularly from right-wing media figures. Thousands of disparaging and transphobic comments were made about Mulvaney over a three-day span, many even calling for a boycott of Bud Light.
These attacks against Mulvaney and Bud Light were not isolated incidents. According to Ari Drennen, the LGBTQ Program Director for Media Matters for America, they are part of a concerted effort by right-wing figures to undermine successful and visible transgender figures. As Mulvaney’s popularity grew due to her series focusing on the trans experience and trans joy, the attention from right-wing media increased proportionately. These figures were clearly disturbed by the acceptance and celebration of the trans experience within mainstream culture, casting their disparagement as a quasi-noble act.
Despite this, Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, previously defended its partnership with Mulvaney. Their stance reflected a commitment to diversity, stating that their brand “works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.”
Mulvaney’s experience underscores the challenges faced by trans individuals, even those who achieve a level of success and visibility. Despite these hurdles, her story also highlights the importance and potential impact of allyship from companies like Bud Light, which have the power to lend their platforms to support underrepresented voices.
It is essential to point out that Anheuser-Busch has shown a concerning level of neglect towards the violence and threats endured by Mulvaney. Not only has the company failed to reach out or offer protection, but Brendan Whitworth, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, has also displayed an apparent lack of support. His evasive responses during a CBS interview—particularly regarding the contentious promotion involving Mulvaney—significantly underscore the company’s indifference towards the matter. Given the situation, it’s clear that Anheuser-Busch’s actions, or lack thereof, have contributed to an environment where safety and respect for all individuals aren’t necessarily a priority.
@dylanmulvaneyTrans people like beer too. 🏳️⚧️🍻♬ original sound – Dylan Mulvaney
For additional context, Whitworth, in his interview with CBS, struggled to address critical questions about the company’s past actions and future plans effectively. Despite having the opportunity to present a clear stand on the issue and showcase a commitment to inclusivity, Whitworth’s inability to provide direct answers only emphasized the company’s seeming ineptitude in handling the situation. This reflects poorly on a company of Anheuser-Busch’s stature, especially when the company’s actions directly impact individuals like Mulvaney and the broader LGBTQIAA2S+ community.
Notably, Whitworth’s final remarks—”We support politicians that support our business”—cast a concerning light on the company’s priorities, which seem to focus more on business interests than ethical considerations and inclusivity. This situation exemplifies a distressing trend of corporations prioritizing financial gains over the well-being and safety of individuals, a stance that can perpetuate discriminatory practices and attitudes in our society.
Adding to Dylan Mulvaney’s story, the controversy took a more aggressive turn with the entry of rock-rapper Kid Rock. In a video shared across his social media platforms on April 3rd, he took a physical stance against Bud Light and its parent company. Wearing a white MAGA hat and addressing his viewers as ‘Grandpa,’ Kid Rock lifted a semi-automatic rifle and fired rounds into three cases of Bud Light that had been set up on a wooden table. His message was unmistakable, punctuated by his declaration: “F–k Bud Light, and f–k Anheuser-Busch.”
— KidRock (@KidRock) April 4, 2023
Kid Rock’s response was a direct backlash to the partnership between Mulvaney and Anheuser-Busch. This overt act of violent protest can be distressingly interpreted as communicating a threatening message. It seemingly suggests that those individuals who uphold, respect, and support the existence and rights of trans people should be met with violent consequences, potentially as extreme as being shot. This implication is not only alarming but also furthers an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, contradicting the core tenets of a diverse, inclusive, and respectful society.
The societal hostility reflected in Kid Rock’s actions and the legislative changes serves as a stark reminder of the persistent discrimination and bigotry that trans individuals face, even in the face of personal or professional successes.
Kid Rock’s viral response was quickly followed by announcements from both Travis Tritt and John Rich that they planned to boycott Bud Light. Tritt stated he would remove Bud Light from his tour hospitality rider. At the same time, Rich, one-half of the country duo Big & Rich, voiced his criticism and banned Bud Light from his Nashville bar, Redneck Riviera, and his tour.
It’s important to note that this incident occurred against the backdrop of an increasingly hostile legislative environment for transgender individuals in the United States. For instance, Kentucky recently passed anti-trans legislation. This move bans gender-affirming care for anyone under the age of 18 and compels physicians to stop any ongoing gender-transition care for minors.
In addition to Kentucky, Tennessee also passed controversial laws in 2023 that drew national attention and protest. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law a comprehensive ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children, despite significant opposition and threats of legal action from various organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
This new law prohibits treatments such as puberty blockers and hormone therapies for transgender and non-binary youth diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Any surgeries related to gender affirmation, though rare in Tennessee, are now also banned. Children already on medication were given a deadline of March 31st, 2024, to halt treatment. The state’s Republican supermajority quickly passed this law, and it will take effect in the summer of 2023.
The ACLU has publicly committed to challenging this law. In a joint statement, the ACLU of Tennessee and Lambda Legal argued that the law is harmful and based on misrepresentation and extremist politics. They promised to fight for the rights of transgender youth and their families and were confident that the state could not defend the law in court.
This legislation was introduced following a controversy involving Vanderbilt University Medical Center offering gender-transition care, which conservative commentators misrepresented. The majority leader, William Lamberth, argued that minors lacked the maturity for such “life-altering” decisions. At the same time, Democrats highlighted the inconsistency in the GOP’s stance, as other gender-affirming surgeries, like breast reductions, were still permitted as long as they were not related to gender dysphoria or identity issues.
Major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have supported gender transition health care, describing it as evidence-based medicine. The Tennessee chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics pleaded with Governor Lee not to sign the bill, arguing that it interfered with the physician-patient relationship and limited access to healthcare.
In tandem with the health care bill, Governor Lee also signed off on a new law to limit “adult-oriented” entertainment, including drag performances, from public spaces, restricting them to age-restricted venues. Contrary to some media reports, these laws do not explicitly ban drag performances. However, they do impose conditions that could be used to restrict these performances, marking them as illegal if they can be interpreted as being “harmful to minors.”
This legislation carries profound implications. It invites increased law enforcement interference and public harassment of drag performers and the broader trans community. The vague definition of what constitutes “harmful” could lead to overreach and misuse, thereby creating a real, tangible threat that must not be underestimated.
But it’s not only about drag performances. The broader goal of these bills is to suppress and marginalize gender-nonconforming individuals, effectively pushing them out of public spaces. The insinuations within the legislation—that drag performances could be considered obscene or harmful to children—are part of a fearmongering strategy designed to delegitimize and invalidate trans existence.
This ongoing legislative assault is not an isolated act but a part of a broader, systematic campaign against trans and gender-nonconforming individuals. Chase Strangio, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy director for transgender justice, warns of this pattern, suggesting that the Tennessee law is just one piece of a larger, more disturbing puzzle.
It’s important to remember that these laws, while written with an overarching brush, disproportionately affect those already marginalized within society, particularly low-income performers and trans individuals of color. Any fight against such legislation must also work towards creating inclusive, safe, and police-free public spaces where all trans and gender-nonconforming individuals can exist and thrive. The struggle isn’t just against the new laws being passed, but also against a system that has long policed and restricted the rights of marginalized groups.
Case Study: The Brewers Association and Tennessee
In a recent development, the Brewers Association, a prominent organization that represents over 5,400 small and independent craft breweries, has been heavily criticized for its silence regarding the passage of anti-trans legislation in Tennessee. This criticism comes at a time when the association was hosting the Craft Brewers Conference, a notable gathering of the industry’s professionals, in Nashville, Tennessee, the very state where these anti-trans laws were enacted.
The law in question prevents male and female impersonators from performing on public property or in front of children, a move that critics argue is an insidious attack on the rights of transgender individuals, effectively criminalizing being transgender or gender non-conforming. The law’s critics argue that it promotes a culture of exclusion and intolerance, openly disregarding the rights and humanity of trans and non-binary individuals in society.
Members of the brewing and LGBTQIAA2S+ community have publicly expressed their deep disappointment and disapproval of the Brewers Association’s silence on this issue (Read our Collective Petition Letter here). As a national organization with considerable influence in the brewing industry, the Brewers Association has an inherent responsibility to advocate for inclusivity in all aspects of the brewing industry. The association’s silence on this issue is a tacit approval of the discriminatory practices that are becoming more commonplace.
The brewing industry’s significant economic impact in Tennessee, contributing over $1.3 billion to the state’s economy and supporting over 154 craft breweries, underscores the Brewers Association’s potential power. It’s a fact not lost on those critical of the association’s lack of stance on the issue, who have urged the Brewers Association to publicly condemn all forms of discrimination and bigotry, including the recent anti-trans legislation.
The decision to host the Craft Brewers Conference in Tennessee, a state with a documented history of discriminatory policies against the LGBTQIAA2S+ community since 2015 and beyond, has caused discomfort and apprehension among conference participants. Reports have emerged of attendees feeling so uncomfortable that they left the conference early. In contrast, others decided not to attend at all due to the discriminatory climate.
Beer is for Everyone has rallied to urge the Brewers Association to accept responsibility for its actions and make deliberate decisions that prioritize safety, inclusivity, and diversity in future conferences. This collective voice is a strong stand against discrimination, emphasizing the need for organizations like the Brewers Association to actively advocate for human rights and social justice.
This case study serves as a potent reminder of the responsibility that organizations, particularly those with influence, hold when it comes to championing social justice and inclusivity. The decisions they make can have far-reaching implications, affecting not just their immediate members but the wider communities they interact with. The case also shows how collective action can act as a powerful catalyst for positive change.
An Embedded Case Study (Unrelated to Beer – Kinda): The Impact of Tennessee’s Anti-Drag Bill on Hayley Kiyoko’s Concert
Hayley Kiyoko, the pop icon affectionately dubbed “Lesbian Jesus” by her fervent fanbase, is as much known for her unapologetic championing of LGBTQ+ rights as she is for her catchy, heartfelt music. When planning her current tour, she envisioned a platform where talented drag performers could share the limelight, fostering an atmosphere of inclusivity, acceptance, and diversity. However, this vision was threatened during her Nashville, Tennessee concert, where recent legislative changes presented an unforeseen barrier.
Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, had recently enacted a contentious law prohibiting drag performances on public property and at venues accessible to minors. Given Kiyoko’s commitment to ensuring her concerts are accessible to fans of all ages, this law placed her in a precarious situation. The issue was brought to light when an undercover police officer attended her soundcheck, warning her of the potential legal ramifications if she proceeded with her planned drag performances.
In response to this stark setback, Kiyoko shared an emotional Instagram post expressing her profound disappointment and distress. The video, featuring Kiyoko close to tears, served as a bleak and public documentation of the very real challenges faced by queer performers in the current socio-political climate. She passionately stated her views, articulating the feelings of oppression within the LGBTQ+ community and expressing her empathy for others navigating similar situations.
View this post on Instagram
Despite the potential legal implications, when the drag queens – LiberTea and Ivy St. James – arrived for the concert, Kiyoko relayed the situation to them. Showing no fear, they chose to go on with the performance, standing in open defiance of the law and acting as brave advocates for their right to exist as their authentic selves.
Kiyoko, LiberTea, and Ivy St. James’ decision to continue with the show was a powerful statement of resilience and resistance. Kiyoko ended her Instagram post defiantly, expressing her refusal to be silenced and her determination to continue promoting authenticity within the LGBTQ+ community.
The courageous stand by Kiyoko and the valiant drag performers in the face of restrictive Tennessee legislation send ripples through the community, extending to the attendees of the Craft Brewers Conference in Tennessee. Their courageous stance underscores the prevailing anxiety shared by numerous attendees of the Craft Brewers Conference, who were equally concerned about potential restrictions and discrimination. Nonetheless, Kiyoko’s fight for authenticity and inclusion serves as a beacon, encouraging everyone to remain steadfast and proud of their identities, from the music industry to the brewing community and beyond.
Case Study: An Astronomically Pour Experience
A crucial instance illustrating the pressing need for inclusivity and respect within the craft beer community can be derived from a personal experience of mine at a small craft brewery here in Las Vegas. It was one of the pivotal moments that led me to founding Beer is for Everyone. About four years ago, in the small, intimate setting of one of the microbrewery taproom, I overheard a conversation while I was sitting at the bar. During this occasion, a disconcerting discussion unfolded between the brewery’s owner and a patron.
The dialogue quickly veered into controversial territory, spewing out politicized, opinionated, and wholly offensive remarks. They delved into sensitive topics, such as sexual assault, expressing sympathy for men since “women can lie about being sexually assaulted.” The owner concurred, expressing concern about women “crying wolf for attention” while undermining the trauma of genuine sexual assault victims.
Their conversation escalated further into transphobic commentary, suggesting that transgender individuals needed to “try harder” than just donning feminine clothing, such as “wearing a tube top and a skirt,” to be considered women. Adding to the discomfort, one of them belittled a term associated with the LGBTQIAA2S+ community, calling it “stupid.” The patron predominantly guided the conversation and was chiefly responsible for the transphobic remarks. Nevertheless, the brewery owner either concurred with these sentiments or took no action to deter this offensive discourse.
Before hearing this conversation, I was upset because the owner ignored me and refused to service me despite my obviously empty glass. However, after witnessing this atrocity, I immediately paid and ran to my car. I was horrified. I was distraught. The pain I felt for my queer community, and as a survivor of multiple assaults, poured out of me. As a person who doesn’t cry, I found myself bawling. How could the community I loved so much be so cruel?
This incident underscores the fact that such exchanges are not acceptable yet ever so commonplace. The craft beer community is and should be, far better than this. It is vital to affirm that transgender women are women and that the male gaze should not dictate their self-expression. It is equally crucial to recognize that speaking out about abuse is a formidable task, and victim-blaming should never be tolerated, regardless of the instances of false accusations.
This experience became a catalyst for the realization that the craft beer community must be a safe space for all its members. The community should seek to empower all people and stand against bigotry and hate. This recount is a testament to all LGBTQIAA2S+ members and abuse survivors within the craft beer community, emphasizing that the destructive combination of invisibility and hate must be challenged and replaced with visibility, respect, and love.
Case Study: An Unsettling Experience at a Festival
While attending one of the most diverse beer festivals in the nation in 2021, an unsettling incident took place that highlighted the significant work still to be done in the craft beer community. Amidst the buzz of lively chatter and the drinking of various tasters of beer, a patron pointed at our tent, which displayed a banner reading “Beer is for Everyone,” and sneeringly remarked, “Look – Beer is for Everyone, except for the f*ggots.” The remark was followed by raucous laughter from his group before they turned and walked away.
Others present in the vicinity overheard this group’s disparaging comments. But no one said anything. No one did anything. All of a sudden, I no longer felt safe. Or welcomed. The space that I had once found inviting and proudly diverse morphed into an environment where I felt dejected and vulnerable.
Even as this incident was deeply troubling, it starkly contrasted our numerous positive and inclusive interactions during the festival. It served as an undeniable reminder that the path toward inclusivity and acceptance is a continuous journey, and there is still a substantial amount of work to be done.
This incident reinforced the reality that diversity cannot be limited to a single facet. The intersections that exist within the community matter deeply, and true justice and inclusivity can only occur when we advocate for all forms of diversity.
Though hurtful, this one incident does not reflect the festival as a whole. However, it points to the reality that the craft beer industry, like many others, still needs to confront and change deep-seated biases and discriminatory attitudes, especially those rooted in homophobia and transphobia. The craft beer community must continue to strive towards a future where such incidents are a thing of the past and every member feels welcomed, respected, and valued.
The Impact of Transphobia on the Craft Beer Industry
Much like other sectors, the craft beer industry is not immune to the societal issues that permeate our communities. Transphobia, discrimination or prejudice against transgender people, has unfortunately become a significant problem in various industries, and the craft beer industry is no exception. The recent Bud Light controversy has shed light on the extent to which transphobia can impact this industry.
In an attempt to be inclusive and champion diversity, Bud Light’s collaboration with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney initially seemed like a step in the right direction for the industry. However, the backlash and boycotting that ensued exemplified the deeply-rooted transphobia that exists within parts of the beer-drinking community.
While this situation was undoubtedly disheartening, it also served as a wake-up call for the craft beer industry, spotlighting the need for increased efforts to foster an inclusive and accepting environment. The industry must work to counteract harmful prejudices and ensure that beer lovers of all identities feel welcome and represented.
One of the ways the industry can do this is through allyship and education. Many people lack understanding and awareness about the transgender community, often leading to misguided judgments and prejudice. By prioritizing education about gender diversity within their communities, breweries can contribute to a more accepting and inclusive society.
Another method is creating a safe and welcoming space within the breweries. Ensuring that staff are well-trained in dealing with all customers, including those who are transgender or nonbinary, is crucial. Many breweries also adopt gender-neutral restrooms, a small yet significant step towards inclusivity.
Furthermore, breweries can use their platforms to stand against transphobia publicly. By showing support for the transgender community and explicitly condemning transphobia, breweries can influence their followers and patrons to do the same.
In the face of transphobia, it’s also essential for the craft beer industry to recognize the power of collaboration. By partnering with LGBTQIAA2S+ organizations, breweries can support these groups financially and send a strong message of inclusivity and acceptance.
The impact of transphobia on the craft beer industry is considerable, but it’s not insurmountable. Through continued education, allyship, and outspoken support for the transgender community, the craft beer industry has the potential to effect meaningful change, encouraging normalization and inclusion not just within their own industry but in the broader society as well. It’s a challenging journey but one that is both necessary and rewarding.
Trans-Operated Breweries Leading the Change
In the heart of the brewing community, some are leading by example, showcasing inclusivity and diversity as key components of their business model. Here, we spotlight three trans-owned or -operated breweries that are taking strides toward making the craft beer industry more welcoming for all.
Giant Jones Brewing
Based in Madison, Wisconsin, Giant Jones Brewing is an independent craft brewery that stands out for being the first and only certified woman and trans-owned brewery in Wisconsin. Owned by Jessica and Erika Jones, the brewery offers a selection of ‘big beers’ – strong, high-gravity ales and lagers. At the heart of their operations, Jessica and Erika are committed to brewing organic beers, reducing waste, and creating a welcoming environment for all beer enthusiasts.
Bosk Brew Works
Found in Woodinville, Washington, Bosk Brew Works is a family-owned craft brewery and taproom, known for its devotion to sustainability and inclusivity. Head Brewer Rachael Engel, who is also a trans woman, brings to the table a passion for creating classic, clean, and sessionable beers. Bosk Brew Works continuously strives to create an open and accepting community, proving that beer truly is for everyone.
Founded by Lily Waite, a trans woman, Queer Brewing is an open and collaborative brewing project based in the UK. The project is designed to amplify the voices of those who are marginalized in the beer industry and the broader society, especially queer people. The brewing project has thus far released an array of 50 different collaboration beers in partnership with different breweries in five countries around the world, creating conversation and visibility around queer identities in the process.
Supporting such breweries sends a clear message about the kind of industry the craft beer community can become. It gives hope and provides role models for other trans people looking to join the industry, offering tangible proof that the industry is evolving and becoming more inclusive. The beer industry should continue to encourage and support such breweries, inspiring more individuals to step up and join the change.
Addressing Transphobia: Steps the Craft Beer Community & Industry Can Take
Addressing transphobia within the craft beer community and industry is a multi-faceted effort that requires continuous commitment, action, and self-reflection. Here are several steps that can be taken to combat transphobia and promote a more inclusive environment actively.
- Education and Awareness: The first step towards creating a more inclusive community is understanding. The industry should invest in educating its employees and customers about transgender issues, experiences, and rights. This education can take the form of workshops, seminars, or informative campaigns that seek to dispel common misconceptions and stereotypes.
- Inclusive Policies: Breweries should implement policies that explicitly protect transgender employees and customers from discrimination. This includes adopting practices such as using correct pronouns, providing gender-neutral bathrooms, and treating all customers equally, regardless of their gender identity.
- Representation and Visibility: Transgender people should be seen and heard within the industry. This means not only featuring transgender individuals in marketing campaigns but also hiring and promoting transgender individuals within the company. Visibility is a powerful tool for normalizing and humanizing transgender experiences.
- Partnerships with LGBTQIAA2S+ Organizations: Collaborating with LGBTQIAA2S+ organizations can help breweries understand the needs of the transgender community better. These partnerships can provide necessary resources and knowledge and signal to customers that the brewery values diversity and inclusivity.
- Stand Against Discrimination: The industry should publicly denounce instances of transphobia and take clear actions against it. This might include refusing to work with individuals or companies that exhibit transphobic behavior or that have donated to causes that work against transgender rights.
- Listen and Learn: Transgender people are the experts on their experiences. The craft beer community should take the time to listen to these experiences and learn from them. This includes accepting criticism gracefully and being willing to adapt and change harmful behaviors or practices.
- Craft Beers that Support Trans Rights: Breweries can also make a statement by releasing special edition beers where a portion of the proceeds goes towards supporting transgender rights organizations.
Addressing transphobia is not a one-time effort but a continuous learning, understanding, and improvement process. The craft beer community and industry can play a significant role in fostering acceptance and respect for all individuals, regardless of their gender identity. As such, every effort to address transphobia is a step toward creating a more diverse and inclusive industry.
The craft beer industry, with its promise of innovative brews and a robust community spirit, has a crucial role to play in fostering diversity and challenging biases. Recognizing the existence of transphobia within the industry and the broader beer community is a necessary step toward a more inclusive culture. However, this recognition must be more than a mere acknowledgment—it must translate into concrete actions that address and eliminate systemic discrimination.
Transphobia within the craft beer industry, whether overt or subtle, has far-reaching impacts on individuals and the community. It impedes the industry’s growth and potential, stripping it of diversity and richness that could be contributed by the trans community. Consequently, the industry needs to take significant strides toward rectifying its shortcomings. This begins by fostering an environment where trans individuals feel safe, respected, and valued. It means implementing inclusive policies that recognize and affirm trans identities, reimagining marketing strategies that do not perpetuate harmful stereotypes, and cultivating a community that challenges rather than passively accepts transphobic behavior.
The craft beer industry’s dynamism and creativity should not be limited to the brews it produces. It must extend to the people who craft them and those who appreciate them. By becoming a true champion of diversity and inclusivity, the industry can live up to its true potential, not only delivering a myriad of flavorful brews but also crafting a community that reflects the diversity and richness of the society it exists within.
The experiences and case studies discussed in this paper underscore the importance and urgency of this task. They serve as both a stark reminder of the discrimination that exists within the industry and a call to action for all those who love and contribute to the craft beer community.
Ultimately, the goal should not only be to raise a pint of exceptional beer but also to raise the bar for inclusion, acceptance, and respect. It is an invitation to everyone within the craft beer industry, from the microbrewery owners to the beer enthusiasts, to challenge transphobia in all its forms and strive for an industry where diversity is celebrated, and all members can toast to a future of inclusion and respect. As we tap into this discussion, let’s commit to ensuring that the craft beer community is as diverse, complex, and inviting as the brews it produces.
Cheers to that future!
A recent Supreme Court ruling has added another facet to the complex and ongoing struggle for LGBTQIAA2S+ rights since the completion of this article. The Court decided in favor of a Christian web designer who declined to create websites celebrating same-sex weddings, citing religious objections. This decision, characterized by a 6-3 majority and spearheaded by Justice Neil Gorsuch, suggests a potential regression of the previously increasing protection of LGBTQIAA2S+ rights – an issue with direct implications for the trans community.
This ruling is a considerable reversal for LGBTQIAA2S+ protections, especially following several landmark Supreme Court decisions that had expanded these rights, including a decision authored by Gorsuch himself to extend protections for LGBTQIAA2S+ workers, and the 2015 case that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
This addendum, in light of the main body of case studies discussed, illuminates the enduring nature of transphobia in beer and its broader societal impacts. From the defiance demonstrated by Hayley Kiyoko and the drag queens in Nashville, Tennessee, to the violence threatened to those who support trans people, to fears experienced by attendees of the Craft Brewers Conference in the face of similar restrictive legislation, the themes of this ruling reverberate.
The recent Supreme Court decision underscores the ever-present hurdles facing the LGBTQIAA2S+ community. As this narrative continues to evolve, the ongoing fight for inclusivity, equality, and acceptance for the LGBTQIAA2S+ community, including trans individuals, becomes more evident. Just as Kiyoko, Mulvaney, the drag queens, and members of the Craft Brewers Conference stood their ground against oppression, we must continue to speak out against these setbacks in our collective pursuit of a more inclusive society.
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De Loera, C. (2023, June 30). Dylan Mulvaney faces backlash over Bud Light promotion as trans rights come into focus. Los Angeles Times. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2023-06-30/dylan-mulvaney-bud-light-transphobic-backlash-trans-rights
de Vogue, A., & Cole, D. (2023, July 1). Supreme Court rules in favor of Christian web designer in LGBTQ rights case. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/06/30/politics/supreme-court-303-creative-lgbtq-rights-colorado/index.html
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(This article was written by Lindsay Malu Kido, the founder of Beer is for Everyone. They are a member of the LGBTQIAA2S+ community and identify as a queer, non-binary, pansexual demi female. However, it’s important to note that they do not identify as transgender. Consequently, while their perspective is informed by their experiences and understanding, they acknowledge the diversity of the trans community and respect that their views do not represent the entirety of that community’s experiences or perspectives.)