Luna Spain, a 28-year-old transgender barista who worked at a Starbucks café in Southampton, Hampshire, has spoken out about feeling “treated like a criminal” and facing harassment since being fired after a customer accused her of transphobia.
In a viral video, Spain can be seen engaging in an argument with a customer, identified as Vanessa Thomas, who allegedly misgendered her before Spain asked her to leave the café. Spain claimed that she was terminated from her position without being given an opportunity to meet with her superiors, despite having worked as a manager at the establishment for two years.
Spain, speaking to Vice, emphasized that the video only captures the end of the altercation and does not present the complete picture. She stated that the customer began by screaming about the café’s refusal to accept cash, demanding that they do so. Spain explained, “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 dismissed suggestions that Thomas unintentionally misgendered her, alleging that it was a deliberate and spiteful act. She shared that Thomas made derogatory remarks about transgender individuals, saying, “What is it with you trnnies and all this gender stuff” and “with you trnnies, it’s always all about gender.” Spain decided not to serve her and offered a refund instead. However, Thomas became increasingly belligerent, calling Spain and her transgender male colleague derogatory terms in front of other customers and colleagues.
According to the DailyMail Spain stated that management initially offered support, but she was ultimately fired after the incident went viral. She claimed that her personal information, including her address and contact details, was shared online, resulting in harassment and unwelcome visits to her home by transphobic individuals.
Expressing her feelings of insecurity, Spain said, “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.”
The incident is currently being investigated by the police as a potential hate crime with transphobic motives. The Starbucks outlet is operated by licensee 23.5 Degrees, who made the decision to terminate Spain’s employment.
Starbucks, responding to the situation, stated, “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. Following an investigation, it was determined by the licensee that this partner be separated from the company.”