Tay Tay Yay Yay Fascists Nay Nay

This morning I received a press release about Taylor Swift-themed cocktails introduced by a chain of bars to celebrate Tay Tay’s recent record Grammy haul. Regular readers might expect this to trigger a sarcastic rant about celebrity-themed booze because I have form in that regard, but no. Not today, and not about this. I was delighted when this release leapt into my inbox like an enthusiastic, engaged, and scientifically literate young adult, because it gives me the chance to tackle something I care deeply about.

But before I get to that, credit to the bar chain in question – you can try the no-doubt delicious Taylor’s Version cocktails at The Cauldron London, Edinburgh, Brighton, and Wizard Exploratorium in London. Video menu here.

Right, down to business.

The US Presidential Election is looming on the baggy, probably incontinent horizon, and we all know it’s going to be a shit show because, by their own admission, the American Right no longer campaign on policy. Instead, as evidenced by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ doomed Presidential bid, the Republican Party has gone all-in on Culture War politics.

The political right in general, and American Right in particular, have been leaning in that direction for years, but the move to ‘fear of the other’ campaigning came into sharp focus when Donald Trump became US President in 2016, and it will only get worse as he attempts to secure a second term this year, ostensibly to avoid going to prison.

This is all old news to anyone keeping even one eye on current affairs, and you might be wondering why I’m posting this piece on a bar industry website. Well, it’s because of the info-graphic to the right of this text, and the impact I believe all this is having on some members of the bar community.

In short, every year inherently conservative Boomers and Gen-Xers die, and inherently liberal post-Millennial folk become eligible to vote. This swing in the underlying fabric of the American electorate means it is becoming increasingly difficult for Conservatives to win elections. The GOP in America needs 100% turnout from its base to be in with any chance of gaining or holding on to power, and so they leverage prejudice and ignorance-fueled hate found within their base to trigger that voter turnout.

This strategy can be seen everywhere, but to bring Taylor Swift back into the story, we need look no further than the current ‘The Superbowl is Rigged‘ conspiracy for a prime example – Conservatives in America are terrified of Taylor Swift, in case she expresses a political opinion that influences young voters (but it’s fine when Elon does it, obvs).

For me, the most obvious and most heinous example of this ‘fear the other’ tactic was employed by Ron DeSantis, who seemed to base his entire campaign around stoking transphobia. Far from just spouting rhetoric, DeSantis passed laws that prevent trans people from accessing correctly-gendered facilities and gender-affirming healthcare, and this is just the tip of an iceberg that can only be labelled looming fascism in Florida.

As with all elements of American culture, this anti-trans sentiment has leaked out of Fox News and found its way to the UK. Reported crimes against transgender people in England and Wales increased by 11% in 2023, with even the UK Home Office acknowledging the increase is likely driven by politicians’ comments and media coverage.

For transgender bar folk who interact with liquored-up members of the public on a daily basis, I would imagine waking up in the morning (afternoon) and wondering if today’s shift will include abuse, prejudice, or even violence, must be scary and infuriating. Especially if it’s down to a short little twat in Florida wanting to be President.

This makes me fucking furious, it really does. I am 50 years old, white, male, straight, and cis, which means I have never once experienced a moment of prejudice. It’s just never happened. For a long time I thought this meant I was the wrong person to write about transphobia, but then I realised, slowly, because I’m a dummy, that being an old privileged fart means I absolutely should write something, because the transgender community needs to know it is supported and respected from without, as well as within.

I don’t really know how to end this post, other than to say I am an ally, as much as I know how to be, and BarLifeUK is too. The media-scape will turn into a hell-scape as the US election draws nearer, and people will become increasingly riled up, so look after your bar brothers, sisters, and non-binary comrades.

All hail Taylor Swift, and roll on the day we can vote for some politicians under the age of 70.