Starbucks' latest ad is a powerful leap forward for transgender visibility
Sobbed violently yet? You're about to.
Recently, Starbucks provided us with a new and poignant take on one of their most recognisable gimmicks: the name their barista writes on your cup.
Thankfully though, the global coffee chain have decided to steer clear of spelling mishaps and hilarious YouTube pranks and instead focused on an aspect of ordering a coffee that many of us may not have considered before: transgender and non-binary visibility.
The ad presents a young transgender man who is struggling with his identity while repeatedly being called his 'deadname': the name he was given at birth.
He eventually orders a Starbucks coffee and gives the barista the name he wants to be known by: James.
The ad, in case you have yet to see it, can be seen here:
Shed a tear? Yeah, you and every single person on Twitter, probably.
The LGBT community have long been subjected to big brands' repetitive rainbow-washing to appear progressive in a bid to sell more products, gain more promotion, and make more money.
A lot of the time, the community is used for the sole benefit of the corporation - a flag waved for one month over the summer, a same sex couple kissing on a poster for online banking, a slogan wheeled out for a brief period of time only to be erased again once Pride season is over.
Sure, visibility is important - it may just be one of the most important things - but so is representation. And representation does, in fact, need to mean something.
In the case of Starbucks' latest ad, the meaning isn't just in James's story but in the brand's partnering with Mermaid, a UK charity that supports young transgender people.
Starbucks have pledged to donate at least £100,000 to the charity through the sale of their mermaid shaped biscuits. They've also launched their new #WhatsYourName campaign in a bid to promote their cafés as inclusive, safe spaces for all people - no matter how they identify.
will never forget the first time I got a Starbucks with my correct name....great work Starbucks xxx pic.twitter.com/C481m0clTn
— Lucy Clark (@lucyclarkref) February 2, 2020
Still though, to recognise the importance of the ad is not to ignore the hundreds of other corporations that have tried (and failed) to represent the LGBT community in any meaningful way.
More often than not, ads like these become forced and vapid, a baiting display that really doesn't say much else beyond the surface.
The Starbucks ad, however, does seem to, with many young trans people taking to social media to say that they too first started feeling OK not using their deadname while ordering a coffee.
Couple this with the inevitable thousands of young trans people around the world who will now see themselves represented at a global scale, and we may just have a branded ad that shouts about inclusivity - while actually doing something about it too.