Starbucks' Latest Ad Is Receiving Bud Light-Level Backlash In India

Starbucks India recently launched an ad campaign using the hashtag #ItStartsWithYourName that is meant to embrace the transgender community. It shows a family meeting up at a Starbucks, with this apparently being the first time the father has seen his daughter since she transitioned. He signals his acceptance by ordering the drinks under her new name Arpita, telling her, "For me, you are still my kid. Only a letter has been added to your name." The coffee chain, too, asserts "At Starbucks, we love and accept you for who you are" (and occasionally even spell your name right).

Just as was the case when Bud Light aligned itself with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney, Starbucks India is receiving some serious flak from customers angry with the "woke" values they feel the chain is promoting. One Twitter user raged about the "immoral values" espoused by the ad, and another user felt that this was an example of "deranged sexual perversions" typical of the U.S. 

Some Twitter users called the ad an attempt to undermine Indian culture and values. Currently, the backlash appears to be contained online and hasn't impacted Starbucks sales in the way the Mulvaney controversy did Bud Light. However, one Twitter user called for a boycott of Starbucks.

Not all of the hate comes from anti-trans activists

There have been some positive comments about the Starbucks ad from people who feel that it helps to legitimize trans and queer issues and takes a stand against transphobia in India. One self-identified queer activist on Twitter calls it "groundbreaking" while another commenter finds it to be an "incredible ad" and praises the chain for being an LGBTQ+ ally.

There are those, however, who feel the ad perhaps doesn't go far enough or may be nothing more than "rainbow washing" timed to take advantage of the upcoming international Pride Month in June. An op-ed in the Indian Express brought up several different issues that some in the trans community may take issue with. For one thing, the Starbucks advertisement seems to be portraying the trans person and their family as being fairly prosperous, thus possibly reinforcing a perception that queer rights are more of an elite issue than one that crosses class lines. (Bear in mind that India is still divided to some extent by a fairly rigid caste system).

However, others in the trans community appreciated the ad's message of love and acceptance. Siya, the actor who portrays Arpita, told Money Control, "I immediately thought of my own transition and what it meant for me to be recognized and accepted as Siya by my friends and family."