It's been a joy to collaborate with Arielle Rebekah (they/them) of Trans & Caffeinated Consulting in supporting our partners at Glitter Cat Barista and in planning coffee-community events. A tireless advocate for trans folks and other marginalized individuals, Arielle is a true leader and community builder within specialty coffee. Pride feels like the perfect season to catch up with Arielle about their current projects and passions.
When you are done reading, go pre-order their new, first drop of merch! Don't sleep on this--pre-orders end June 15.
Chelsey Walker-Watson (she/her): Many folks in our community are being introduced to you for the first time. Please tell us about your coffee journey—how did you get your start, and what are you doing now? What is Trans & Caffeinated?
Arielle Rebekah: In December 2014, I graduated from an emotionally abusive boarding school environment where I was outed to my parents by my therapist as trans, who assured them I was doing it for attention and not to be believed. When I graduated, I knew I needed a job, and I knew I needed a work environment where my transness would be seen, honored, and perhaps even celebrated. I found this at Starbucks.
I spent 6 years with Starbucks, eventually helping open 2 Starbucks Reserve Roasteries and 2 Starbucks Reserve Bars. I was furloughed at the start of the pandemic but was determined for that not to mark the end of my coffee journey. This led me to apply for Glitter Cat’s DiGiTiTiON! as a Brewer.
I launched Trans & Caffeinated as a blog in 2019 as a way to tell my story and use it to educate others. I eventually expanded my platform to include a podcast, and in June of 2022 began offering communications and advocacy services under the same name. In January 2023, I formally incorporated Trans & Caffeinated Consulting and began working for myself full-time.
Trans & Caffeinated now offers a range of consulting services within and outside of the coffee industry aimed at creating safe and affirming environments for all transgender people. Services include workplace training on the “how” and “why” of supporting trans staff, group facilitation, and event planning. For a full list of services, check out transandcaffeinated.com/work-with-me
Chelsey Walker-Watson: We first met you as a Glitter Cat in the DiGiTiTiON! How was your experience? How did that impact you?
Arielle Rebekah: I loved DiGiTiTiON! It was my entry point back into coffee after leaving Starbucks and connected me to something so much bigger and greater than any one individual. Don’t @ me for saying this, but competing was not why I entered DiGiTiTiON—it was fun for me, but I am just not a competitive person by nature. I entered because I longed for connection with other like-minded people in coffee, especially in the early days of the pandemic. To this day, I feel so connected to the Glitter Cat community and stay really involved in the day-to-day of the organization.
Chelsey Walker-Watson: With your trans advocacy work and various roles in coffee, have you been surprised by the intersections between the two spheres? Have you seen allyship and support for the LGBTQIA+ and trans communities paralleled by evolutions in the specialty coffee community?
Arielle Rebekah: At first, absolutely yes—I was shocked at the sheer number of out queer and trans coffee professionals. For the first few years, it felt like every time I met one, I would somehow end up meeting a dozen more through them. On the flip side, I also felt surprised by how comparatively few out trans feminine folks, in particular, exist in coffee. But I’ve come to realize the reason why: existing in the public eye, as baristas do, can be really traumatic for many trans feminine folks. We are so frequently ridiculed for our voices, our appearances, and for simply daring to exist that trans feminine people tend to gravitate more towards less public-facing roles, like music production, IT, and nonprofit work.
I feel like the rallying cry from marginalized people within the past decade has evolved into “Well, if you’re not going to give us a space, we’re going to take it. If you won’t give us a platform, we’re going to make it.” I’ve absolutely seen that in coffee spaces, particularly with the creation of orgs like Glitter Cat, GoFundBean, Getchu Some Gear, Umeshiso, Cafe Cà Phê…platforms like Boss Barista, and so many more.
Chelsey Walker-Watson: Are there any experiences in your work with the queer coffee community that have felt especially meaningful or rewarding?
Arielle Rebekah: DiGiTiTiON is one for sure. Also, when I had bottom surgery Umeko (they/them) and other coffee pals helped me raise $11K, which to this day, I’m still so deeply humbled by. Organizing Holidays and AAPICONIC with Cafe Cà Phê. Just generally being a Glitter Cat and, especially this month, helping to organize a fundraiser for Veronica and Julien. Taking photos for GCB at competition and getting to see the number of queer and trans competitors grow. Definitely some of the interviews I did for Trans & Caffeinated Podcast… Brit Sims (they/them) and Chris Mcauley (he/they) definitely stand out in that one. Oh, I was the face of the Starbucks app during Women’s History Month 2020, along with an article featuring me and my mom talking about my transition, that was pretty cool.
Chelsey Walker-Watson: Are there any LGBTQIA+ friends, role models, or organizations that you’d like to acknowledge or recommend?
Arielle Rebekah: Oh god, so many, so I’m honestly just going to name one that made me cry. Kebby Moxen (xe/he/they) wore a mask the entire time at Denver Qualifiers, even during their routine. By that point in the pandemic, I had watched and listened as immunocompromised friends literally begged folks to mask. Kebby, to me, is a shining example of what is possible when we commit to showing up for one another without apology and without question. There was so much social pressure by that point to not mask, especially on the comp stage, but Kebby refused to let that sway xyr. I cannot put into words how much admiration I felt for xyr in that moment, and in so many other moments as well. This is the kind of commitment true liberation takes; because we know trans liberation cannot exist without the liberation of all people, and that includes disabled and immunocompromised people, Black and Brown folks, poor and low-income people, etc who have been and will continue to be disproportionately impacted by the ongoing COVID pandemic.
We're so grateful to Arielle for their vulnerability in sharing their experiences and perspective on communities within specialty coffee! Follow Trans & Caffeinated to watch their work, adventures, and the folks that they are amplifying!