Along the long, winding road to equality for members of the LGBTQ+ community, queer bars have often served as welcomed guideposts, playing a critical role as both safe havens and as settings for some of the most important moments of the community’s history.
Uprisings, rebellions, protests and riots, including the legendary Stonewall riots of 1969 — a watershed series of events that many say led to the gay liberation movement and the start of the modern fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the United States — took place in bars.
In an effort to chronicle the rich history of queer bars and their importance to the community, Miller Lite is using its sizable platform and partnering with Dr. Eric Cervini, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, bestselling author and historian of LGBTQ+ politics, to produce a guidebook called “Beers & Queer History,” which begins pre-sales today at shop.millerlite.com. All proceeds will benefit Equality Federation, the brand’s long-term partner.
The book, set for an early 2022 release, tells the stories of 10 of the most important queer bars in American history and details the critical role each played in the LGBTQ+ community.
“Bars were our havens,” Cervini writes in the book’s foreword. “For most of the 20th century, an era of rampant homophobia and transphobia, many LGBTQ+ folks had no choice but to live double lives. During the day, while at work or with their families, they acted straight. For their own safety, they often concealed their gender identities. But at night, they went to the bars, where –– at last –– they could be themselves.”
The name of the guide, “Beers & Queer History,” is to ensure the inclusion of all LGBTQ+ identities. While once a pejorative term, “queer” has been reclaimed by members of the community, who encourage its use to be inclusive. The brand hopes the book will serve as a reference for the next generation of queer voices.
“Beers & Queer History” is the latest stage of Miller Lite’s “Open & Proud” program, an initiative the brand launched in June in partnership with Equality Federation that aims to make bars safer and more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community. As part of that partnership, Miller Lite is donating $250,000 to the organization to help advance workplace fairness and equity for LGBTQ+ individuals at national and local levels.
“The book is all about celebrating inclusive spaces,” says Lauren Cassel, associate marketing manager for Miller Lite. “Our brand purpose is to champion authentic connections between people, to allow people to be their true selves. And there’s no community that knows how important that is more than the LGBTQ+ community.”
By telling stories of how bars — and beer — have brought members of the LGBTQ+ community together, the brand hopes “to inspire more people to be around those they love and feel comfortable being themselves. We’re helping to lead our industry to promote and protect safe spaces in communities around the country,” Cassel says.
The book also represents a continuation of Miller Lite’s and parent company Molson Coors’ long history of LGBTQ+ advocacy. Miller Lite began supporting the community in the 1970s, when it sponsored the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. It has since sponsored Pride events across the country, including first sponsoring New York’s Pride parade in 1997.
On top of that, Miller Brewing and Coors Brewing were leaders in the beer industry — and among major U.S. companies — in providing same-sex domestic partner benefits to employees more than 20 years ago. Molson Coors also has earned a 100 rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for 18 years running.
“We want to show this community that we’re not just there during Pride, we’re there for them every single day throughout the year,” Cassel says.