"Just like humans, beer can be whatever the hell it wants to be, and proud of it."
So ends the spiel from craft beer company BrewDog, as they introduce the world to their new 'transgender' beer: 'No Label.'
Confused? You're forgiven - this is a tricky one, so let me explain. According to the Scottish brand that's known for its 'Punk IPA' and being the UK's fastest growing food and drink company over the past four years, they've created a beverage that has 'transitioned genders.'
How is this possible?
In their own words, by making the bottle from hops that have "changed sex from female to male flowers prior to harvest." (NB. beer is usually made from female hops, as seeds from the male plants don't make as delicious tasting pints.)
Created in collaboration with LGBTQI+ event organisers Queerest of the Queer, 100%t of profits are heading to charities that help young gay and trans people.
This part sounds pretty sound. Until you realise that the whole palaver is a strange sort of amends to the community, for pissing a lot of people off with their previous crowdfunding campaign, which was accused of making light of the plight of trans women and homeless people earlier this year.
Charity: good. Beer: good. But there is an unmistakable feeling of discomfort around this whole concept. Conflating booze and the collective struggle of a marginalized set of people - 90% of trans people report they have been harassed in the work place (Momentum, June 2012), and 65% of respondents who experienced such violence at work have attempted suicide (the Williams Institute Report, January 2014) - is bizarre.
A spokesperson for LGBT charity Stonewall told me:
"While it's encouraging to see BrewDog raising money for trans youth communities, and we like the 'no label' concept, we're concerned about some of the language used. The trans community is diverse - many trans people do not transition, or identify with binary genders, and BrewDog's language undermines that."
And when I reached out to Natalie Frost, a 21 year old trans woman on Twitter, she had a similar view:
"I'm slightly torn. The fact that they're using the trans community as a marketing blurb feels like they're co-opting our struggles. On the other hand, I did learn that they're donating their proceeds to LGBT organizations, which is kind of awesome. But it doesn't really alleviate the gross taste in my mouth considering how they're labelling their "no labels" beer ... "transgender" isn't a brand. You can't make a brand out of an identity; or even out of a community. Especially a community that is as marginalized and oppressed as ours is."
BrewDog have tweeted out that this is a 'postgender beer for a postgender world.' But anyone who can say that our planet is rid of ideas of binary identities either doesn't read the news, or is speaking from a place of such immense privilege that it's hard to fathom.
Twinning the often brutal reality of trans life with booze feels almost mocking.
A positive idea at its root? Sure. But the painful execution of this one grates.Suggest a correction