Don’t Worry, Drink Heineken

You’ve responded to an invitation for a “social experiment” by Heineken. You are an outspoken trans woman trying to make a difference so you figure, sure. An opportunity is an opportunity. Let’s get this bullshit over with.

Their film crew tapes you speaking about who you are and why trans people deserve to exist. You already know where this is going, but you hope maybe this time you’re wrong.

You come to a warehouse and are made to stand within taped lines facing a bald, mildly put-upon looking man. Gaffs create a bar which the two of you are then instructed to approach and engage in polite conversation. You do so, critically hyperaware of your body and your transness because you already know what this “social experiment” is going to reference.

A buzzer goes off and you’re then instructed to stand and watch a short video. Sure enough, here is the bald man next to you talking about how “weird” the “transgenders” are. Just like clockwork.

“Another one of these fucking feel-good, bigots-just-need-a-hug commercials. Goddammit I gotta talk to my agent about this shit.”

Of course, two Heineken beers are now placed at the bar and you are given the “option” of having one with this man.

But you know if you actually leave you will garner no sympathy for yourself or other trans women. You are already aware that you alone now represent everything good or bad about all trans women to everyone in this room. You also know they will simply continue this “experiment” with other trans women until they achieve the outcome they want for their ad campaign anyway. So you do your best to make the most of it.

You put on that forced smile learned from your matriarchs for dealing with potentially dangerous men, and you make yourself as welcoming and understanding as you possibly can be.

He pretends to leave after you approach the bar. “Thank god,” you think to yourself. But then he comes back laughing and cracking jokes. “Oh goodie, this one’s a comedian.”

And even though that’s where the commercial spot ends, you now have to sit with this man for at least ten minutes while drinking a beer that tastes shameful with each sip, wondering if this is really the best you can do for your trans sisters right now? He asks you the same tired crap you’ve been answering your whole life out of the closet. And now, as you both leave, you know he feels great about himself, while you already feel like shit on the way home.

You retreat to your partner and tell them about how you got hoodwinked, and they reassure you that even though this bullshit gets old, we all have to make the best of what life throws at us, and they are proud of you.

The campaign comes out, and everyone praises the man who ridiculed you and your sisters on screen. And the company that didn’t give a shit about your feelings of safety if they could spin it into a message for drinking their swill.

This is what we need to create change!” someone comments, “You win more flies with honey…or in this case beer!”

God, now that man looks like a hero, Heineken sells more beer, and you’re just a nameless tr*nny that normal people are saints for treating like a human being.

Worlds Apart indeed.

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Don’t Worry, Drink Heineken

12 thoughts on “Don’t Worry, Drink Heineken

  1. 1

    I watched the ad, all of it, twice. I was feeling pretty decent about the entire thing, as a Gen Xer I guess I completely expect to have pretty much every nuance of humanity sold and packaged for the gloss and dollar, and this one was not so bad. Then I read this piece, and I totally feel you – and then I looked at the ad again with harder and more judgmental eyes. I can totally see this point of view, I can. I have to say that if the actress were to express that this is how taking on the job actually made her feel, then I would thank her, loudly and often – because this ad will get international attention. This ad will further the core message that there is actually room enough on the planet for all of us if we can get to a place where we treat each human being we encounter with basic respect and civility. This ad will be seen by likely thousands of transgendered and questioning youth and the message will be there that there is a place for them and there is the opportunity for happiness- even if all the other messages they get are hateful. Sure, we all might be pretty damned tired that it is 2017 and we (collectively we) are mightily sick and tired of fighting the same fights and pretty discouraged that things just never seem to get any better – but the truth is that it does get better and the efforts do matter and she should be damned proud.

  2. 2

    Let me be clear, the problem with this commercial is they LITERALLY MANUFACTURED a trans woman to be KNOWINGLY AMBUSHED by a transphobic cis man.

    To sell beer.

    Because fuck the safety of trans women. Trans women are there to make us feel morally superior for not killing them.

  3. 5

    Thanks for the post. A point of view I wouldn’t have guessed from my cis biased mindset, so you have opened my mind just a little more. But I wasn’t with you in the last three paragraphs. I didn’t think the guy was a hero for not killing the trans woman. I thought the corporation was sucky for setting this up and the trans woman was a hero for her conduct on screen. I don’t mean to say you are wrong, I just want to offer the same as I got from your post, a different perspective.

  4. 6

    I’m so glad to hear someone was feeling exactly the same way I was about this piece of trash. Thanks for articulating my thoughts better than I ever could.

  5. 7

    Thank you for this essay! I keep being told that calling out people who voted for Trump as wanting my and my friends/family’s demise is disrespectful. How about his campaign and homphobes/transphobes daily crap we have to deal with? I’m over trying to be respectful or “teach” these bigots. Time to move on. We’re going to live our lives and f*ck them.

  6. 8

    Hi Dori!
    Thank you so much for this essay! Upon watching it, I was really uncomfortable with the fact that just wanting to exist, and bigotry, were being treated as two sides of the same coin. That they’re ‘just as bad as each other’ if the transwoman were to be seen as argumentative, or even just overly defensive? It’s tone policing, and silencing. Suggesting that feeling physically unsafe, and having your privilege disrupted, are the same thing.

    Thank you so much for your further insights from your own experience of being a transwoman, and thank you so much for debunking any sense that the advert is “flawed but ultimately does good”.

    I’ve come to your blog through this post, and I look forward to your posts in future!

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