The Seattle-based global coffee shop chain Starbucks is raking in awards, turning heads on the internet and raising all sorts of money to support trans youth after making a splash with an effective and woke UK television ad.
On February 2, 2020, Starbucks premiered an ad Channel 4, one of the UK's four major television networks.
The ad portrays a young trans man as he navigates a world in which he is not the norm. Viewers watch as he is repeatedly called "Jemma," presumably his birth name.
The act of continuing to refer to a trans person by the name they no longer use is called "dead naming." It's a common microaggression many transgender people face.
You can watch the Starbucks ad here:
The ad underscores that names carry assumptions.
For someone in the young man's position, hearing "Jemma" during a fatherly introduction, seeing the name on a student ID and being confirmed as "Jemma" when receiving a package are not small mix ups.
The moments remind of his former identity and add up to a thousand cuts.
As the ad closes with the young man buying a coffee at Starbucks, where "James" is written on the cup and called out by the barista, the coffee shop corporation positions itself as a champion and safe space for trans people.
The Starbucks UK Youtube account included the following note along with the posted full ad.
"At Starbucks, writing your name on a cup and calling it out is a symbol of our warm welcome.
"It's a small gesture, but it's symbolic of what we believe in: Recognition and acceptance, whoever you are, or want to be. We welcome everyone."
On its website, Starbucks also published a full page dedicated to its global initiative to support trans folks.
The internet is thoroughly impressed with the advertisement, with many on Twitter expressing hearty gratitude to the corporation.
Some tweets came from notable trans activists.
Amanda Jetté Knox, bestselling author of Love Lives Here: A Story of Thriving in a Transgender Family, kept it simple.
@DadTrans and @mimmymum, a couple of popular accounts run by the parents of trans children, also expressed their thanks.
This last tweet mentions an additional action of support from Starbucks folded in with the ad campaign.
The coffee giant is using the notoriety of the video to drive viewers to Mermaids, a UK-based charity organization dedicated to supporting trans kids and families of all gender diverse varieties.
Starbucks is also selling mermaid-shaped cookies and donating proceeds to the charity, pledging to raise £100k (~$130k) .
The cookies are being received quite well too.
The partnership is actually a match made in heaven, given the Starbucks mermaid logo (to be exact, it's a siren, as it has two tails).
And people in the UK can plan to see the ad on Channel 4 plenty of times in the coming weeks.
Channel 4 awarded the advertisement its "Diversity in Advertising" award, ensuring Starbucks £1m ($1.3m) worth of no-charge commercial airtime.
In the past, the company has been far from perfect when dealing with marginalized groups—like when two black men were arrested for sitting in a Philadelphia Starbucks location while waiting for a business meeting.
The company appears to be performing a partial about face, at least with regard to LGBTQIA+people.
It now falls on every specific location worldwide to provide the inclusivity outlined in the "James-not-Jemma" advertisement.
If you or someone you know is struggling, LGBTQ+ Youth can get help through:
- TrevorChat — 24/7/365 at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-help-now/#services
- TrevorLifeline — phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386
- TrevorText — Text "START" to 678678. Available 24/7/365.
- TrevorSpace — online international peer-to-peer community for LGBTQ young people and their friends at https://www.trevorspace.org/
- Trevor Support Center — LGBTQ youth & allies can find answers to FAQs and explore resources at https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/trevor-support-center/#sm.0000121hx9lvicotqs52mb1saenel
Transgender people can get help through the Trans Lifeline at https://www.translifeline.org/ or call US: 877-565-8860 Canada: 877-330-6366