A recent Starbucks ad has resonated with many as it portrays parents reconnecting with their transgender daughter. The ad, titled “It Starts With Your Name,” shows the couple meeting their daughter, Arpita, in a coffee shop after years of estrangement. The father demonstrates his acceptance by addressing her by her chosen name instead of her birth name. The ad has garnered significant attention, with over a million views on YouTube and
eight million views on Twitter. Viewers praised the brand for its inclusive message and for
featuring a transgender model in the lead role.
While the ad received positive feedback, some criticized it, accusing the brand of tokenism and claiming it went against Indian culture. However, this advertisement is not the first to spark conversations around the transgender community in India. Last year, an ad by Bhima, an Indian jewellery house, depicted the journey of a transgender woman and was widely praised. Despite a Supreme Court ruling affirming equal rights for transgender individuals, they still face abuse and stigma. However, there are signs of progress, with transgender
individuals gaining representation in mainstream culture through ads, movies, and fashion
The recently concluded Lakme Fashion Week, a prominent fashion event in India, featured
two transgender women and a non-binary person among its models for the first time. Top
designers also dressed transgender models for events and included them in their campaignlaunches and store openings. This increased visibility and inclusion in traditionally exclusive spaces is significant for the transgender community. It signals a shift in the portrayal of
transgender individuals and the spaces they can occupy.
While progress is being made, some argue that access to opportunities within the
transgender community remains limited to a privileged few. Brands often engage in
tokenism, only increasing visibility during Pride Month and neglecting the community for the
rest of the year. To bring about real change, fashion labels and brands should include
transgender models in regular campaigns and make them part of the norm.
However, designers point out that this can be challenging due to a lack of awareness and
support from the audience. Many in the fashion industry are reluctant to risk losing clients,
hindering substantial change. Nevertheless, even small steps toward representation are
valuable in shifting societal values and attitudes. Having any representation of the
transgender community, even in a tokenistic manner, helps pave the way for acceptance and