Starbucks: Transphobia, Bad Coffee and Hypocrisy

It is controversial that Starbucks has muscled into the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), since even the more generous members of SCA weakly praise Starbucks coffee as “mediocre”. (They are more generous that I.) Anyway, Starbucks has used money to buy its way into the club of the best coffee makers. So in 2014/2015, Sarbucks was the official host sponsor of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA, which merged into SCA), 26th and 27th annual expositions.

Money talks. And Starbucks has the cash.

Some of the cash was used to provide transgender medical benefits in 2016, from the big snip to reconstruction of the entire body os trans.

As deep pocketed as Starbucks is, the corporation might have had an opinion about the selection of Dubai as the site of the 2018 World Coffee Championships.

Many people and organizations were shocked, starting with the lowly barristas:

Statement from the Barista Guild Executive Council. Barista Guild of America, N.D. [August 2018]. — In early September, World Coffee Events (WCE) & the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) announced that several of the 2018 world coffee competitions would take place in Dubai. We voiced our strong opposition towards this decision for its lack of consideration for our LGBTQ community. In response, the Barista Guild of America (BGA) Executive Council volunteered to participate on a special Review Panel created by the SCA Board of Directors (BOD) aimed at finding a meaningful resolution for the situation. We used this opportunity to express our members’ disappointment in the decision for host city, and their support to resolve by withdrawal.


The barristas are right.

Parenthetically, Detained in Dubai is a very, very interesting website. It reports on the legal problems Westerners encounter in this quasi-hyper-modern Arab state. One report notes in general:

Homosexuality is also illegal in Dubai, punishable by one year in prison. However, this does not mean there is not an underground scene, just risks involved. Dubai police recently arrested 17 foreign men for cross-dressing. It has been reported that the Criminal Investigation Division frequent gay hot spots to entrap people. Unreported cases of raids on known gay bars are rumored to have happened but remain unpublished. It has been reported that if a Muslim is caught committing homosexual acts they are sentenced to government-ordered hormone treatments, five years in jail and a lashing.

BTW, Government vigilance is tightening: Stories from February of this year suggest that there are still growing fears of lesbianism in all girl schools in the UAE. One student estimates that about one-third of the residents are lesbians.

Police prowl the shopping malls looking for trans couples: Local law states that all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is illegal in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It carries a penalty of ‘confinement for a minimum period of one year’. But as has been seen recently with the case of the two trans people from Singapore who were arrested in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall for ‘looking feminine’ and numerous previous arrests for similar ‘crimes’, this is a much wider issue than sexual activity. It is about personal freedom and choice and the very real threat of imprisonment and torture for non-compliance.

Note that Twitter campaigns gets reduced sentence:

And note that having a passport recording the wrong gender of a trans can lead to imprisonment:

As you might expect, orture and rape are common in Dubai prisons, especially of LGBTQ imprisoned for being LGBTQ.

Finally, after a major campaign by barristas and human rights groups, the venue was moved to Brazil for 2018: Statement on Selection of Dubai as a Host of the 2018 World Coffee Championships. Speciality Coffee Association, September 11, 2017. — Following the announcement, coffee news website Sprudge released reporting on the use of slave labor and abuses against the LGBTQ community in the UAE. We have followed the response to the announcement and have heard from many in our community today about this decision. It is clear that the UAE’s human rights issues were not taken into consideration in the selection process. This is a serious problem that shows that our selection process was not broad or inclusive enough and we at the SCA intend to correct it.

2020 event in Dubai:

And so, where is Starbucks?

Nowhere to be found. Not a word.

Silence is consent.

The principles they espouse in the United States, they discard for the price of a cup of mediocre coffee in Dubai. Here they promote their coffee shops in Dubai: Virtual Road Trip: Starbucks Stores a Modern Arabian Oasis. Seattle, Wash.: Starbucks, July 17, 2014. — promotes the Dubai Mall (2), Deira City Centre Starbucks

According to Google Maps, Starbucks operates 19 outlets in Dubai.