Three years ago I lost my transgender brother to a heroin overdose, so I’m not objective on this debate. Born Laura and once the flower girl in my wedding, Drew was 32 when he died; our family had completely accepted his transition years before. It’s not that difficult to assimilate the new pronouns. Whenever I meet someone who talks about having a family member come out as transgender, I tell them to just say their first name repeatedly in sentences to get used to the change; being respectful and not misgendering someone you love and care about isn’t that complicated.
When he died as a result of his mental health issues, Drew was five years older than American actress and social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who at 26 has become the center of controversy recently simply by being transgender and endorsing products.
By now everyone has heard of the Bud Light debacle in which Dylan posted on her TikTok a Bud Light endorsement and the company sent her a personalized can celebrating her “365 days of girlhood” series that’s so viral it became its own Broadway musical.
Ben Schott of Bloomberg is correct in calling out Anheuser Busch having zero planning and complete cowardice in not backing up their ad partner during a backlash, choosing to remain silent after the “go woke go broke” crowd charged in with boycotts, pitchforks and Kid Rock shoot-em-up videos. It’s a PR disaster for the company, who this week released a new comfort-zone Clydesdales and boys-drinking-beer (Brokeback-level gay) ad after a cop-out statement about “not wanting to divide people.” While Fox News of claims Bud Light sales are “a bloodbath,” Schott states “all PR is good PR” and Newsweek fact-checking reports it’s too soon to make the claim.
Dylan’s other endorsements have also come under fire. Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies announced a boycott of Nike for endorsing Mulvaney, and Dylan’s latest ads for Olay skin care have prompted more TERF and MAGA-style hysterical comment section outrage and boycotts as well.
As a follower of hers on TikTok, I was shocked and horrified to see the hate and vitriol on the Olay ad post, and went straight to Amazon to buy some rosewater makeup remover wipes I’d wanted, purposefully choosing Olay, then commented having done so in support of the brand. I hope Olay will choose to respond differently than Bud Light did, but this era of social consciousness is a time when brands need to make careful choices in partnering with influencers.
Transgender individuals are over four times more likely than cisgender to suffer from violent victimization, including rape, sexual assault, and aggravated or simple assault. 82 percent of transgender youth have considered suicide and 40 percenthave attempted suicide. When brands make a choice they think will positively advance their marketing agenda, and there’s backlash from transphobic uneducated conservative redneck religious TERF MAGAT zealots as there always will be, the companies can’t go dark and ignore their influencers. Companies have to look beyond a quick nod at the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride month only, and defend their partnership choices, or not make them at all and stay in their safe Clydesdale comfort zone.