Starbucks—Seemingly Unaware of Gay Icon Status—Starts Banning Pride Decorations

A friend who once worked for a very popular gay dating app said that one of the hottest spots for gay activity in America was on 52nd and 8th avenue. Sure, that makes sense, it’s smack in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen and very close to quite a few gay bars. But you know what else is there? A Starbucks. 

That’s because, if you didn’t know it, Starbucks is queer AF. Even Starbucks workers have admitted in a thread (that is currently closed due to Reddit user’s protesting its proposed API changes) that most Starbucks are overwhelmingly staffed by queer and trans people, a sentiment echoed in a Quora query from a queer person who allegedly works at the chain, as well. In fact, Starbucks has a self-touted long history of inclusion, and efforts to unionize the coffee chain have been led by its LGBTQ+ employees.

Well, will somebody tell Starbucks how gay it is given that, according to the Starbucks Union workers’ official Twitter, the store banned pride products in locations nationwide? 

The store is the latest institution to cave, cowardly, to right-wing pressure not to say gay. After a targeted campaign, big box retailer Target decided to pull some LGBTQ+-themed merch from its shelves, saying that its actions were done in the name of employee safety. And, of course, the Target boycotts were begat by the Bud Light boycott before it, which began when conservative heads started blowing up because the beer company sent a can of its product to trans content creator Dylan Mulvaney. (The ire is especially ironic given that Bud Light has always kinda been super queer.)  

What’s distressing about Starbucks’ decision, as pointed out by the New Republic, is that Starbucks was not experiencing a boycott or backlash at the time of its decision. “The company has prematurely caved to anticipated anger,” Tori Otten wrote. “In doing so, they have given so much more power to the far-right.”

While my therapist might call this a classic case of conflict avoidance, it also qualifies of another egregious example of a corporation kowtowing to the right instead of — checks notes — affirming LGBTQ+ people! 

Of course, employee safety is important, and many Targets have experienced bomb threats, including five locations having been evacuated just this weekend. But this is the latest in a trend of worrying moves from Starbucks, which seems to be pulling back on supporting LGBTQ+ employees. Though the company adopted one of the most inclusive benefits policy of any company in 2018, it also threatened to pull those benefits if trans employees tried to unionize


Starbucks has reached out for comment, explaining:

“We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community. There has been no change to any policy on this matter and we continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride month in June. 

For Starbucks, U.S. Pride Month in June is just one of the moments we support and celebrate our LGBTQIA2+ partners and the community, and it’s our own partners who inform the commitments and actions we have continued to take for more than four decades.   

We’re deeply concerned by false information that is being spread especially as it relates to our inclusive store environments, our company culture, and the benefits we offer our partners. Starbucks has a history that includes more than four decades of recognizing and celebrating our diverse partners and customers – including year-round support for the LGBTQIA2+ community.

We are not aware of any company-operated store that has “banned” decorations related to U.S. Pride month.”

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