Starbucks partner June’s journey to Pride: How a retired baby boomer found joy and acceptance in a Gen Z world

Person in maroon cap and gown, wearing glasses and green bow tie

“I want future generations to feel worthy and accepted,” said June, a Starbucks barista who came out at age 58. 

When June retired from a long civilian career with the U.S. Navy in 2015, she felt a mix of relief and uncertainty about her pending third act. That same year, at the age of 58, she also decided to come out to family and friends as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.  

“I have described the feeling to my inner circle as being able to finally breathe and go out into the world without fear, shame or apology,” June, who identifies as non-binary and prefers she or they pronouns, wrote in a social media post at the time.  

For June, now a Starbucks partner (employee), Pride Month is a special time to remember what it means to live her truth. “I just want people to feel comfortable in their own skin. I do celebrate in June. We put our little flag out in the yard. We do mostly just quiet things,” she says. 

Coming out later in life was not without its difficulties. June faced some backlash, but the support from her family was unwavering.  

"My family’s very accepting and supportive. My ex-husband and I are still good friends,” she says. “We have a son together and a granddaughter. It's been a blessing.” 

Eight years ago, June married the love of her life, Vera. While the two enjoy time to travel and relax, June found she wasn’t ready to stop working just yet.  

Wedding couple in black dress and black tuxedo with pink bow tie

“I got kind of bored being at home all the time,” she admits. “My wife noticed I was getting a bit grouchy and suggested I get another job to stay active.”  

At the time, June’s teenage grandchild, Equi, helped her name those feelings: “They said, ‘I think you’re missing people.’ So I said, ‘You know what? I think you’re right.’” 

In 2019, on a whim, June stopped by her local Starbucks near Jacksonville, Florida. She got hired on the spot. Shortly after, Equi, who also identifies as non-binary, joined their “mimi” behind the bar as a barista. For two years, the pair overlapped in the same store and found a new family. 

"What brought me here was the need to get out and be more sociable. What keeps me here are the connections I make with my customers, my partners, and my boss,” June says.

‘A Gen Z mind trapped in a boomer’s body’ 

 A longtime athlete who enjoys swimming and cycling and even ran the Boston Marathon twice, June smiles every time she’s asked about keeping up with so many younger partners.  

“I’m a Gen Z mind trapped in a boomer’s body,” she often jokes. “I love the energy and the optimism of my Gen Z partners. They give me hope for the future.” 

Those youthful colleagues also inspired June to pursue the college degree she had put off for years. Through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), which covers 100% tuition upfront for partners to earn a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University, June took online classes while working part-time. Despite her own initial doubts and difficult courses that nearly derailed her at times, she found a way to thrive by leveraging the support provided by SCAP.  

“The academic advisors and financial coaches were amazing. There was always someone to help me out.” 

Her persistence paid off.  

“I want future generations to feel worthy and accepted.” 

In early May, June was among more than 1,000 partners to graduate from ASU, recieving her degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Choosing her area of study was a no-brainer. She wants young people to have the knowledge and resources that she never had. 

“I want to support LGBTQ+ youth next as a volunteer. Many get kicked out of their homes for being gay, which I can’t wrap my mind around,” she says. “They need our support because we’re here to stay. I want future generations to feel worthy and accepted.” 

A place for partners to ‘be their most genuine self’ 

Drawing from nearly seven decades of lived experiences and a long career in a completely different sector, June also embraces the chance to help her younger partners to think long term and leverage the wide range of company benefits available to them even as part-time workers, from SCAP and health benefits to gender-affirming care, family expansion support and especially the Starbucks Future Roast 401(k) Savings Plan (“I tell them to save! It adds up so quickly and is just compounding. Like magic. Please do it.”) 

In turn, June’s partners can’t say enough how much they appreciate her wisdom and presence. 

Store manager Chris adds that it’s June’s authenticity and ability to listen that make her stand out. She personifies the company’s promise to be a bridge to a better future, as well as a welcoming place where every partner “feels they can be their most genuine self,” Chris says.  

“Customers come from across the city just to come to the store to see June. June’s a celebrity in the store and we’re very fortunate to have them just to make every day a little bit better for the partners and customers.” 

Recently named partner of the quarter, June says she’s feeling a bit embarrassed by all attention, but she was excited to represent the LGBTQIA+ community at ASU’s spring graduation. Equi and Vera accompanied her to Tempe, Arizona for the ceremony. 

It was a bittersweet reunion, as June had to return to Florida after the ceremony to begin yet another unexpected journey: chemotherapy for stage IV cancer. While she’s a well-known fixture in store and part of countless customers’ daily rituals, something many may not know is that over the past two years, June has continued working and studying through the diagnosis.  

“I feel fine. I get a little tired once in a while, but I’m able to eat, I’m able to go to work, I can exercise,” she says. “I'm learning to live in the moment.” 

Her partners in her store continue to lift her spirits, she said. When her hair began to fall out recently from treatment, shift supervisor Jake and store manager Chris shocked everyone by shaving their heads in solidarity.  

June in green apron standing between two men with shaved heads

June shared a photo of the trio via text with a simple caption: “I love my Starbucks family! Makes my journey much easier.” 

They clearly love her, too, and are grateful that the 68-year-old plans to stay at Starbucks as long as she can.  

“We have a diverse group of people working here, so June makes sure everybody feels included, everybody’s taken care of,” says Jake, shift supervisor at her store. “She’s 100% locked in with the community that she obviously represents. … June’s the best.” 

Recommended reading

thumbnail for Starbucks names first North American Barista Champion: Darcy Todd of Texas

Starbucks names first North American Barista Champion: Darcy Todd of Texas