Starbucks, a corporation that occupies every other street corner in America, stated on June 25 that they are expanding healthcare benefits for their transgender employees. According to their website, this coverage will include procedures formerly considered “cosmetic.”
Their press release attributes this expansion to their partnership with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). Starbucks’ benefits director, Alyssa Brock contacted WPATH in 2017. Starbucks was the first corporation to ask WPATH for their “recommended standards of care” to write into their policy, says the former president of WPATH Jamison Green.
These recommended standards of care include procedures usually branded “cosmetic” by most policies, and thus according to Starbucks’ statement, are not usually covered by other companies. Starbucks will defy these norms by covering breast reduction, breast enhancement, and facial feminization.
“Many procedures considered cosmetic aren’t optional for trans people,” said Green.
This expansion supplements the coverage for gender reassignment surgery, which was written into the policy in 2012.
To explain why the company conducted this change in policy, Starbucks’ press release uses a personal anecdote from a transgender employee named Tate Buhrmester working in Austin, Texas.
The statement begins by telling Buhrmester’s story of his difficulty coming out and the challenges he faced while transitioning. Buhrmester explains that when he transitioned in 1988, he worked for a company with “robust health coverage” yet still explicitly excluded procedures needed for trans employees.
The public statement then then shifts its focus from Buhrmester onto the vice president of benefits at Starbucks, Ron Crawford.
“The approach was driven not just by the company’s desire to provide truly inclusive coverage, and by powerful conversations with transgender employees about how those benefits would allow them to truly be who they are,” said Crawford.
Starbucks has been a leading force in its policy of employee treatment and benefits. Their website states that they launched their college achievement plan in 2017, that they aim for diversity inclusion, and that they have covered gender reassignment surgery since 2012. The question many people are left with: when will other companies follow in their footsteps?