Bulleit Bourbon’s gay heir reveals how her ‘family’s homophobia’ allegedly forced her out

Josh Jackman August 2, 2017
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An heir to a whisky fortune has accused her family of homophobia after they allegedly forced her out of the company.

Hollis Bulleit said that her Kentucky-based family, who run Bulleit Bourbon, started excluding her and her partner Cher the moment she came out to them a decade ago.

Bulleit is owned by multi-billion-dollar corporation Diageo, which in December was named as a “Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality” for the ninth consecutive year by the Human Rights Campaign.

hollis bulleit with Cher Stanley
Hollis Bulleit with her partner Cher Stanley (Facebook)

The company earned a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2017 Corporate Equality Index, a survey on LGBT workplace equality administered by the HRC.

Over the course of two lengthy Facebook posts, the Bulleit daughter known as the first lady of bourbon took a wrecking ball to this perception of the company.

On December 23, two days before Christmas and after 25 years of service, Hollis said she received an email telling her she wasn’t working for Bulleit anymore.

Hollis wrote that since “coming out the closet a decade ago, not one family photo has been taken of me (or with me and Cher) with the core Bulleit family.

“Many events took place at the Bulleit family home with Diageo employees, and no-one ever said a word about what was obviously missing from photographs or the events (Cher and I).

hollis bulleit facebook

“For the past decade, I have held these secrets; which has only served to exacerbate my suffering.”

She continued: “The times I asked for help I did not receive it and soon thereafter I was out of a job.

“No-one should have to make these choices. I gave my life to my family and my brand but I also was expected to give up my dignity.

“For example, when my step-grandmother passed I got a text.

“In 2008, I was asked to come home for Christmas; yet Cher was not invited.

“The only holiday that we attended was Thanksgiving in 2016, and then we were promptly uninvited via text from the following core family Christmas.”

She added: “Writing about these facts is like choking on thick hot blood.

hollis bulleit facebook
Hollis Bulleit breaking ground (Facebook)

“We tell ourselves now that gay marriage is legal and that everything is okay. Everything is not okay. Everything is far from okay.”

Referring to Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military, she said: “Our president just tried to impose a transgender military ban – wake up.

“I should never have been put in a position to hide my family’s homophobia or my company’s complacency in order to keep my job.

“I did nothing wrong. I have nothing to be ashamed of. But the punishments, the silent treatments, and the threats continue.

“When you chose to be silent in the face of this type of behaviour you are not being well mannered. You are choosing to hide because you can and you are protecting yourself.

“Which on a personal level leaves people like me isolated, powerless, and vulnerable to powerful institutions.”

Hollis detailed how her partner Cher “has been excluded from ‘the family business’ from the start.

“In the course of ten years Cher and I spent less than three weeks time in the company of the Bulleit family.

“I was forced to deflect questions about my family at work events which put me in a horrible position not of my making; either through assumptions, omissions, or direct advice.”

This was despite her siblings’ straight partners being regularly included in Bulleit events.

Because she had been let go, the former whisky heir was unable to attend the grand opening of the Bulleit Distilling Company in Kentucky, which she had helped into existence.

This was despite her relocating five times in less than 10 years to promote the family brand.

She wrote: “I sat and watched my beloved cry for one of the rare times in our decade-long partnership when she saw photos of my step-brother’s girlfriend (who seems like a lovely person) of less than a year who had a printed sign and assigned seat.

“Cher had nothing.”

Hollis added: “We were erased and no one lifted a finger.

“To this day I have no footprint to my name, no commemorative brick, not even a proper going away party.”

She is selling the one gift she said she has ever received from her family for her efforts, a barrelhead commemorating her “part in growing the family product to 300K case sales.”

The bidding for the barrelhead currently stands at around $200, with the auction set to end later today.

A Diageo spokesperson said: “We are very proud of our long track record of work, through many of our brands, to support the LGBT community.

“It is unfortunate in this instance that we were not able to reach agreement with Hollis on her future involvement with the Bulleit brand.

“However, to insinuate that the failure to do so was due to bias of any kind is simply unfair and inaccurate.

“Despite this, we are appreciative of Hollis’s past efforts on behalf of the brand and the industry.”

More: Americas, business, family, Homophobia, homophobic, Kentucky, lesbian, US, US

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