Trans Starbucks worker breaks silence after being fired over argument with customer
A trans Starbucks barista who was fired after accusing a customer of transphobia has claimed she has been “treated like a criminal” since the incident.
The barista, 28-year-old Luna Spain, who worked at a Starbucks café in Southampton, Hampshire, was seen in a viral video arguing with a woman who allegedly misgendered her, before asking the customer to leave.
During the incident on 30 April Spain refused to serve the customer, identified as Vanessa Thomas, and said: “You’re calling me a man, you’re being transphobic, Karen. Now get out.”
Thomas is seen responding: “You’re rude, don’t ever call me transphobic, ever. You do not know me.”
After two years as a manager at the café, Spain claimed that she was fired without being offered a meeting with her bosses.
Spain has now spoken for the first time since the incident, telling Vice that the video only shows the end of the argument with the customer, and does not tell the whole story.
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“The viral video doesn’t show the customer calling us tr*nnies and going on a rant about gender. It doesn’t show how it started with her screaming about why we don’t accept cash, and demanding that we do. The internet’s been filled with lies,” Spain said.
“The woman in the video was rude and abusive all the way through us trying to serve her … she was furious about not being able to pay cash, but it’s quite a common reaction from some older customers in our store, so I was ready with a response. But she just wouldn’t accept it.”
Spain responded to online suggestions that Thomas misgendered her accidentally, by claiming it had been “deliberate and spiteful”.
The former employee added: “She said, ‘What is it with you tr*nnies and all this gender stuff’ and ‘with you tr*nnies it’s always all about gender’. I cut her off and told her she’s not getting served.
“I asked her to come to the till and get a refund. But instead, she started getting louder and louder.
“She was calling me a man as much as she could, and calling my colleague, a trans man, ‘a woman’ in front of a store full of customers and colleagues.
“People need to remember that we deal with all sorts of customers all the time, including transphobic ones, but nothing like this has ever happened before.”
Spain went on to claim that she was fired after the incident went viral, despite management initially offering their support.
Thomas had previously given her own interview to the Daily Mail, in which she explained she is “not transphobic”, adding “that’s not me at all”.
“The video does not tell you the whole story. It was very frightening and shocking. The Starbucks manager grabbed me and threw me out of the café. I could have been seriously hurt or even killed because if Mark [her partner] hadn’t caught me, I would have crashed onto the pavement.”
Thomas added that “the manager said I couldn’t have a refund, which I found insulting”.
‘No investigation, no meeting, just a cold email’
After the incident was covered by the right-wing press, Luna Spain added, her address and contact details have been shared online, and “transphobes have started knocking” at her home, leading her to feel “unsafe every time I leave the house”.
She continued: “I definitely expected disciplinary action, that’s what they said would happen, but I didn’t expect to lose my job.
“It’s like they were trying to do damage control. HR suddenly called me and pushed me to hand in my notice, and, when I didn’t, I received an email terminating my employment one hour later. There was no investigation, no meeting, just a cold email. I’m being treated like a criminal.”
According to Vice, the police are investigating the incident as a potential transphobic hate crime.
The Starbucks outlet is operated by a licensee called 23.5 Degrees, who chose to dismiss their employee.
“We pride ourselves on offering a welcoming and inclusive environment, and expect everyone, including our green apron partners (employees) and customers, to treat one another with dignity and respect,” Starbucks told PinkNews in a statement.
“Following an investigation, it was determined by the licensee that this partner be separated from the company.”
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