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Starbucks affirms LGBTQ+ support amid backlash over pro-trans India ad

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Starbucks has affirmed its support for the LGBTQ+ community amid calls for a boycott over a recent ad for its India market that featured a trans model.

Released on May 10, the 2-minute commercial marks the debut of a new campaign called #ItStartsWithYourName, which aims to further Starbucks’ commitment to inclusion and creating a sense of belonging for all customers. The U.S. coffee giant entered India in 2012 through a 50-50 joint venture with Tata Consumer Products, creating Tata Starbucks.

“At Starbucks, we unequivocally support the LGBTQIA2+ community,” a representative said in response to the backlash, as per NBC News.

Our campaign in India, #ItStartsWithYourName, shows how Tata Starbucks is committed to making people of all backgrounds and identities feel welcome. We will continue to use our voice to advocate for greater understanding on the importance of inclusion and diversity across the communities we serve around the world.

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The new ad, which stars trans model and actress Siya, depicts a father and a mother meeting their daughter (Siya) at a Starbucks store. It is implied that the father had not seen his daughter since her transition.

What starts at a tense introduction, however, ends on a heartfelt reconciliation as the father acknowledges his daughter by calling her “Arpita.” And he does this by surprise, providing her name to a barista while making the order.

Tata Starbucks Chief Marketing Officer Deepa Krishnan said the company’s growth is driven by the unique experience of everyone feeling welcome at its stores.

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In a statement, Krishnan said:

At Starbucks, we are not in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee, nurturing the limitless possibilities of human connection every day. With the #ItStartsWithYourName campaign – we hope to further drive the message of being a welcoming, inclusive brand where nothing matters to us more than our customers’ comfort. We understand that our customers enjoy and cherish their individuality and we are always ready to celebrate it with them.

The new ad easily divided social media users.

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Many expressed outrage and accused Starbucks of being too “woke.”

“Starbucks facing a backlash in India after going full Bud Light,” tweeted Rukshan Fernando, a political commentator based in Australia. “If saturating the market with a mediocre US coffee brand wasn't bad enough, now they are bringing their woke corporate culture to the Sub-Continent.”

Fernando was referencing the controversy surrounding Bud Light, which has come under fire for weeks after sending trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney personalized beer cans to commemorate her first year of being a woman. The partnership also sparked a conservative boycott that has resulted in plunging sales, as per the New York Post.

Meanwhile, other outraged Twitter users called for a boycott against the coffee company.

“Alright India here's your chance to resist properly,” internet personality Nuance Bro tweeted. “Let's see if [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is truly the right wing dictator the West claims he is. Don't let this programming gain a foothold.”

Some users took offense to the commercial’s use of a Hindu name, arguing that Starbucks would not portray Muslims and other religions the same way. Others pointed out that the company would not release such an ad in Middle Eastern countries.

Amid the backlash, many also expressed support for the ad and welcomed it as a sign of progress.

“Can’t believe people have [a] problem with this ad too? We [are] becoming so rigid to our belief systems that anything that tries to show us the other side will be trolled and abused. A society damaged beyond repair,” one Twitter user wrote.

“These days common sense is very uncommon so some bigots won’t understand the emotion,” another commented. “This is an incredible ad so let’s hope that the LGBTQ+ community finds more such allies.”

“One of the best and most touching ads I’ve seen in my life! A parent’s love and acceptance to their trans kid is truly everything. Thank you, [Starbucks India]. What a beautiful way to commemorate International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexphobia, and Transphobia,” another wrote.