What Starbucks' Controversial Advertisement Reveals About Transphobia In India

Starbucks India released a heartwarming ad about a family reuniting with their trans daughter. Within days, Hundreds of thousands of transphobe netizens started #BoycottStarbucks.
Starbucks India released a heartwarming ad about a family reuniting with their trans daughter. Within days, Hundreds of thousands of transphobe netizens started #BoycottStarbucks.Starbucks

If you question the dependence of some stoners in India on pot, there is a good chance that a lot of them will defend it by saying that weed is 'a godly plant' and that lord Shiva himself used to consume it. But talk to the same people drawing parallels between gender fluidity and Ardhanarishvara — the androgynous composite of Shiva and goddess Parvati, and it causes their hypocritical little brains to have a short circuit.

Six days ago Starbucks India released a heartwarming ad about a family reuniting with their trans daughter Arpita. As they reconnect at Starbucks, the father seems reserved at first but the turning point becomes the coffee that he orders by the name Arpita. As he accepts his daughter through her name, he tells her how she's still his child and all that's happened is the addition of an extra 'A' in her name; from Arpit to Arpita. The journey of acceptance in this family "starts with a name". You can watch the ad below.

Starbucks is a mainstream brand. For them to represent a trans story in a sweet message like this was a victorious tearjerker for many. But for others, it became a subject of outrage. Hundreds of thousands of netizens started #BoycottStarbucks on Twitter and Instagram and within days it became a rising trend of raging desi transphobes.

Now, the outrage would be fair if it was about something relevant like the tokenism of LGBTQIA+ identities as a corporate marketing strategy or the threats the company made to health benefits for trans individuals in their anti-union push and then had the audacity of using them in the ads, but it was none of that. Netizens want to boycott Starbucks because it's "bringing Western gender-fluid propaganda" and "American woke agenda" to India which translates to pure, backward, transphobia.

Tweets with #BoycottStarbucks
Tweets with #BoycottStarbucksTwitter
Tweets with #BoycottStarbucks
Tweets with #BoycottStarbucksTwitter

Might someone tell these brainwashed nationalists that transgender people have existed in India for centuries? Hijras, Kinnars, and Aravanis are all names of communities that identify as trans/non-binary in different cultures and have a history with India that can be recorded back to 4000 years.

In Hindu mythology, Hijra characters also play significant roles in important texts such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. For example, the Mahabharata mentions the Hijras as part of the royal court of the kingdom of Virata. In the Ramayana, there are references to Hijras serving in various capacities, including as messengers.

During the Mughal era in India, from the 16th to the 19th century, Hijras held important positions in the courts and various facets of administration. They were known to have considerable influence and were often considered to possess religious authority. People sought out Hijras for blessings, particularly during religious ceremonies and other auspicious occasions.

But none of these arguments would change their minds because their outrage isn't based on 'religious purity' or 'Indian culture'; it's based on hate. Giga Chads (literally and sometimes emotionally 12-year-old boys) with their "W Indians", "L Starbucks" & homophobic "reject modernity, embrace masculinity" philosophies are the same 'Sigma' men that'll fight you on how they have it worse, giving you stats of the higher suicide rates among men.

Surely these people who advocate for men who perhaps, buckled under the pressure of being someone they're not, of pretending to be okay when they're not, that couldn't bear anymore the crushing expectations of their families dictating their identities and careers, so chose to give up on life share some empathy for someone who's going through the same struggle of fighting to be their authentic self? Nope. And of course, how would they know what it takes to go against your own family and an entire heteronormative society to affirm your trans identity when they can't even give up their allowance to choose music instead of law and medicine?

Take out the "gender fluid agenda", "woke propaganda" and "broken family systems" (this one is particularly hilarious in a country where marital rape still isn't criminalized) out of the narrative of this ad and all you have is a tender story of acceptance; something we all struggle with in our Indian families. Most parents won't even accept their kids' smoking habits, let alone their gender and sexuality. Is that what triggers them into all this hate? Good ol' envy? I should think so. It might sound simplistic but the irony is that most of these bigots would not be bigots if they were hugged more at home; if they were just told, "Hey, you are loved and you are enough. So don't go out there attacking people whose personal choices have no consequence on your life. And don't smoke. It's against our culture."

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