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Brewdog Develops “World’s First Transgender Beer,” Completely Missing the Point of Everything Forever

Brewdog–you know, that company that got blasted for their transmisogynist ad–has made headlines once again. They’ve recently unveiled their “No Labels” beer, which they’re proudly holding up as the “World’s First Non-Binary, Transgender Beer.”

They’re claiming it’s a “transgender beer” in that the hops they’ve used to make it are ones that have changed sex from female to male flowers. According to the description of the beer on their website, they’re using these hops exclusively “to emphasize that, just like humans, beer can be whatever the hell it wants to be, and proud of it.” As an aside: hops growers usually only use female hops because the seeds produced by the male plants are undesirable for brewing.

The beer (and its subsequent ad campaign) was developed with assistance from Queerest of the Queer, a group dedicated to developing a music festival that exclusively features queer acts or groups. As mentioned earlier, when Brewdog was panned for their incredibly gross ad that picked on sex workers, homeless folks, and trans women, they reached out to Queerest to try to make amends–thus, “No Labels” was born.

The beer website contains a statement from Dr J, co-founder of Queerest, that says:

Inclusivity is a huge deal for us, and is at the heart of everything we do. When we met the BrewDog team recently, we discussed what it means to live beyond the L and G in LGBTQI+, and delved deeper into the areas where labels don’t really translate anymore. BrewDog was super responsive and respectful and we could see their approach to diversity and inclusivity in brewing is pretty close to what it means to Queerest of the Queer.

Breathe deep, folks. This is going to be a tough one. Let’s start from the top.

Beers can’t be transgender. Let me say that again. Beers cannot be transgender. Labelling it as such–and they are labelling it, despite what the name might suggest–is problematic, and at worst, harmful. In simplest terms, what’s happening here can be called appropriation. One marginalized group’s identity is being appropriated in order to sell a beer. It’s disrespectful and defeats the very purpose they aim for, which is, ostensibly, to prove that they’ve learned something about respect with regards to diversity.

A spokesperson for Stonewall said in a statement to The Independent:

While it’s encouraging to see BrewDog raising money for trans youth communities, and we like the ‘No Label’ concept, we’re concerned about the language. The trans community is diverse – many trans people do not transition, or identify with binary genders, and BrewDog’s language undermines that.

Kortney Ziegler, co-founder of Trans*H4CK, sums it up well in his reaction to Brewdog’s tweet:

Day in and day out trans people have to fight to have their identities recognized and respected. It’s hard enough to be seen as a person, so to take our very identity and apply it to a thing, a product… it’s sickening. The work being put into this struggle never ends, and it’s because of really disappointing ad campaigns and marketing stunts like this.

Brewdog isn’t helping themselves with their constant tweets, either. Check this one out:

Also, from the beer product page:

No Label is a postmodern, postgender non-binary brew; the world’s first beer made with transgender hops.

Do I have to say it? Apparently I do. We don’t live in a postgender world. Holy crap. Gender and our relationship to it is still being discussed and fought over–with some transgender people paying for the struggle with their lives. Don’t belittle that by appropriating our identities to sell your beer. We don’t live in a postgender world, and to suggest otherwise is shows an egregious lack of understanding of what trans people currently face. It’s like cheering about winning the race when you’ve only just tied your shoes.

To their credit, Brewdog is donating all proceeds from the sale of the beer to Queerest, who are tasked with distributing those proceeds to charities that are supposed to serve transgender youth communities… but there’s a bit of a disconnect.

As stated on the Brewdog website:

We are donating all profits from the sale of No Label to Queerest of the Queer to in turn support charities aiding transgender youth communities.

And from to Queerest’s Facebook post about the beer:

Money is going to the Albert Kennedy Trust, Micro Rainbow who support LGBT asylum seekers, and we are working with Mosaic Youth and other youth charities to run a LGBTQ+ youth ball in the new year.

The listed organizations are umbrella charities that are not trans specific. While it really is good to see that at the very, very least, the money is going to where it can be of some help, it’s important to be truthful about where the money is going–not where the money is technically going.

Here’s what gets me about all of this: Brewdog set out to show that they understand inclusivity, that they get the struggles facing LGBTQAI+ individuals. Their hope with this beer was to properly reflect the area of their brand new bar opening in London’s Soho district–formerly a red light district (hence their prior transmisogynistic ad). So in partnering with a LGBTQAI+-friendly organization, they tried to bring inclusivity to an industry that, frankly, could sure as hell use it.

All they actually did with “No Label” was set the conversation back. They’ve shown that they still have a massive gap in understanding, coming up short with this attempt at fostering inclusivity.

With a second opinion or more time, this marketing ploy could’ve done some some good, and that’s a real bummer. But because it’s half-baked and because it’s pretty gosh darn misguided, it’s going to do more harm than anything else.

(featured image via Twitter/@brewdog)

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Jessica Lachenal is a writer who doesn’t talk about herself a lot, so she isn’t quite sure how biographical info panels should work. But here we go anyway. She's the Weekend Editor for The Mary Sue, a Contributing Writer for The Bold Italic (thebolditalic.com), and a Staff Writer for Spinning Platters (spinningplatters.com). She's also been featured in Model View Culture and Frontiers LA magazine, and on Autostraddle. She hopes this has been as awkward for you as it has been for her.