Pride isn’t just a month – it’s core to Starbucks mission and our future

With so much controversy surrounding corporate support for the LGBTQIA2+ community over the past month, veteran Starbucks partners Xavier and Tammy are providing much-needed context about their daily realities and the issues they are processing before, during and long after Pride Month ends.  

Coming out at Starbucks  

Xavier (he/him) was born in Florida, but raised in Honduras after his parents were deported. Upon turning 18, he returned to U.S. soil for a fresh start – alone and harboring a secret. Growing up, he had seen the stigma associated with and violence perpetrated against people who identified as gay or transgender.  

“Based on my experience and in my culture, I had a lot of internalized homophobia,” he says. “I moved to the United States fleeing poverty, but also fleeing an environment where I knew I couldn’t be myself.” 

“They were celebrated for their talents and their capabilities, and that’s how I became more comfortable being myself. I got the courage to excel, accept who I was – and came out of the closet.”  


It wasn’t until he began his job as a barista at a Starbucks in Miami Beach, Florida – a colorful mecca for many members of the LGBTQIA2+ community – that Xavier found a safe haven where he could come out and live his truth.  

“I met a lot of gay people who were different than what I thought people should look and act like. And then I saw how shift supervisors and store managers were,” he recalls. “They were celebrated for their talents and their capabilities, and that’s how I became more comfortable being myself. I got the courage to excel, accept who I was – and came out of the closet.”  

Sixteen years and many Starbucks roles later, Xavier is now a district manager determined to help others who may feel the same anxiety and shame he once experienced. Over time, he has seen firsthand how the company’s standard benefits have changed the lives of countless hourly retail partners. In his case, he received tuition reimbursement for his undergraduate degree in biology (before the formation of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan in its current form). On top of building retirement savings through Starbucks 401(k), he has leveraged his Bean Stock to purchase property with his partner of 16 years and to pay for the wedding of their dreams (on a catamaran in the ocean!).


Smiling couple on a sailboat wearing white shirts and flower leis

Today, Xavier sees how partners have access to resources he had never dreamed of when he first put on a green apron, including expanded mental health care support and gender-affirming care benefits.  

More recently, Xavier and his husband started thinking about becoming parents and utilizing Starbucks family expansion options. But the current climate beyond store walls – amid a wave of legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQIA2+ community – is forcing them to rethink whether they should take advantage of this company benefit.  

“In a way it feels like being pushed back into the closet,” he shared. “It just makes me scared. How will I be treated, and how will my child be treated when they’re brought into this world?”


Building a family at Starbucks  

Tammy (she/they) is a 14-year partner who began at Starbucks as a store manager. She’s since taken on roles as a district manager, a store manager trainer and a district manager trainer. She’s now a senior inclusion and diversity specialist based in British Columbia, Canada.

Two smiling people, one with a child on their shoulders

She came out in the 1980s, when she was 17 years old, in a small town outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with a population of about 1,500. A year later, she marched in Toronto at her first Pride event.  

“There were no businesses showing up in a parade with banners (back then),” Tammy says. “It was literally a whole bunch of gay people marching down the street, declaring, ‘We’re here.’ That’s how I was introduced to Pride.”  

Growing up in a small town, she dealt with bullying. But her mother was supportive, even going to school to confront the principal about what was happening.  

“She was not going to allow anyone else to feel like I didn’t belong,” Tammy says. “As embarrassing as it was at the time, I know for sure that’s the reason why I can stand today — as a queer woman, a nonbinary partner, a mom.” 

Tammy used Starbucks benefits to start a family, selling Bean Stock to help pay for the procedures to have a daughter — now 5 years old — with her partner. They’re currently utilizing Starbucks family expansion benefits and exploring adoption.  

She knows Starbucks, at its best, is a safe place with values that align with hers – a place where partners can lean into hard conversations, a place where she’s felt empowered to speak up, make meaningful decisions and challenge microaggressions.  

I’ve become more myself because of this company, because of our values.


One of her fondest memories with the company was managing the store in the Church-Wellesley Village in Toronto, home to the city’s LGBTQIA2+ community, during WorldPride 2014, the first time the international celebration occurred in North America. Customers poured in from all over the world. 

“I don’t even know if there’s words. It was a beautiful thing, the craziest thing,” Tammy recalls. “It was a party in the store. You knew it was busy, but it was so much fun. We were all doing our best.”  

In her new role, she wants to ensure that senior leaders are always making decisions with retail partners in mind, that diversity among the leadership reflects the diversity in the stores, and that all partners from all backgrounds can see a future for themselves at Starbucks.  

“I’ve become more myself because of this company, because of our values,” Tammy says. “It’s definitely allowed me to be more fearless, allowed me to be a better mother, a better leader along the way. As a queer partner who has a family, so much of my life exists because of my child. And our time as a family isn’t just about celebrating in June. We have milestones, our anniversary, our birthdays, that I should be able to share all year round.”

Learning from the past, moving forward to a more inclusive future  

Today, what keeps Xavier hopeful is knowing that there are actions he can take locally — backed by a supportive employer — to create a welcoming environment for partners and customers.  

He’s involved in the Pride and Indigenous partner networks open to all Starbucks partners. Throughout the year, his area holds space for internal and external LGBTQIA2+ focused gatherings. And he’s involved in community programs, working with the Miami Dade County LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board during its Pride Month kickoff and implementing the Safe Place Program, where any individual experiencing the threat of a hate crime can wait for a police officer. 

“I can always count on Starbucks to be a Safe Space and a partner for all of our efforts,” says Gabriel Paez, Director of the Miami Dade County LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board

Starbucks has also joined with the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD’s “Count Us In” pledge, which affirms leading business’ and employers’ support for LGBTQIA2+ issues in the workplace.


“Just as we know Pride Month means more than a rainbow logo, this group of businesses recognizes that the work of allyship doesn’t end on June 30.” 


“It is the actions that we take as a company to support our partners that are so powerful,” says Zulima Espinel, Starbucks vice president of global public policy and government affairs. “For example, when we think about our decision, without waiting for legislation – without waiting – decades ago, to provide industry leading health care, to include domestic partners, and our decision recently to provide reimbursement for eligible partners enrolled in Starbucks health care, who need to travel for gender affirming care.”  

“It's that kind of example and those collective actions – how we use our voice and what we step up for as a company – that really makes us an example.”

Feature photo by Josh Ritchie

thumbnail for Starbucks partners celebrate Pride at events across U.S.

Starbucks partners celebrate Pride at events across U.S.