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Pride in Coffee

Everyone should feel seen and heard.

Any environment – from educational settings, the workplace, and social gatherings – can feel challenging at times. For LGBTQIA+ people this can be felt more than others—and the world of hospitality is no exception.

We reached out to some of the brilliant individuals, both here at Origin, and in the coffee industry, to ask for their thoughts on the progress of equality in the workplace.

Barista Market Developer, Oatly

Laura Chamberlain (she / they)

I love who I am, and I’ll keep fighting for as long as I need to, but the fact is, there shouldn’t be a fight: everyone should be accepted for who they are, no questions. I can recall being spat at for how I look or for holding my partners hand—all ridiculous things that heterosexuals don’t have to think twice about.

Hospitality is a challenging industry. Customers can cross boundaries, which is difficult when you’re ‘serving’, because what you’d love to say is, “You’re making me feel uncomfortable and respectfully please F off.” If a worker upholding a boundary isn’t supported, it leaves some really some unsafe territory. If someone identifies as LGBTQIA+ and the person they are reporting to is a white-cis het male, it makes it difficult to feel safe and truly seen.

Barista, Atlas Grinds

Kit Heathershaw (they / them)

I identify as transfem non-binary. I’m originally from rural Suffolk: as a Queer person it has been so refreshing to work in a space in which I can be who I want to be. As a result of being in an inclusive atmosphere, I’ve grown more confident in exploring my gender identity through dress. I always know going to work will be safe for me to wear whatever I’d like without judgement: I don’t think I could work anywhere that didn’t have the same vibe.

I can only speak from my personal experience, but I can attest to how more needs to be done to make people feel secure. In past workplaces I have been in, being true to my identity didn’t feel like an option. When you know your workplace is safe your level of anxiety is reduced; not having to face people misgendering you or enforcing typical gender is paramount for people feel equal. If the opposite is true, it becomes debilitating, just another space to feel unsafe.

I think a lot of people’s failures to create a safer environment for the LGBTQIA+ community is lack of knowledge. Human rights should be openly discussed: it blows my mind that you can still get the death sentence in five countries for homosexual activity.

Laura Chamberlain

Barista, Atlas Grinds  

Sophie Walmsley (she/ they)

As well as working as a barista, I am an actor and drag artist who works around the cabaret circuit of London under the drag name Curly’s Wife. I have been sexualised or made to feel uncomfortable at almost every workplace in the past. I prefer working in LGBTQIA+ spaces because I find the customers tend to be more considerate. I also feel a lot more freedom to wear what I want and just be myself.

There’s often a culture that if you want to get ahead, you shouldn’t be difficult. At my old workplace I was involved in forming a union—I can’t recommend unionising enough, especially for hospitality workers, which is an under-unionised industry. Because staff turnover in hospitality can be high, employees often feel powerless to provoke change. It’s important to remember that you’re no less worthy to demand change than anyone else. Cis and straight people need to be active in their allyship.

Marketing Manager, La Marzocco

Rosie Lowery (she / her)

I started working in speciality coffee after finishing my degree in Fashion Photography, falling in love with the way that coffee shops can become this incredible safe space for a whole host of people from all walks of life.

I’m bisexual, and as a cisgender woman I feel very lucky to be able to say that my sexuality hasn’t ever been a factor with how comfortable I’ve been made to feel in a workplace. However, I would say that certain areas of hospitality can be less-than-welcoming to people who look a little ‘different’. I have been turned down from job roles because of my appearance. I think that speaks volumes. They’re missing out on so many wonderful people who have so much to offer. If we see a lack of representation in a certain area, we should look to find solutions in how to promote more diversity and inclusion. Whether it be in sexual orientation, race, religion, or gender, we should work to show visibility to people who are underrepresented in these roles.

Operations Director, Aizle

Jade Johnston (she/ her)

I’ve identified as Queer since I was 15; I prefer that term as I feel it doesn’t pigeon-hole me into any particular group. Fortunately, being based in Scotland, I find that we are super progressive when it comes to LGBT+ and it’s something that I’ve always been able to be super open about in both my personal and professional lives.

I think that, to create a culture of inclusion, hospitality businesses need to make sure that staff members know how to communicate with one another, making clear what’s appropriate and what’s not in a professional environment—a zero-tolerance policy to derogatory comments or just general comments on someone’s identity. The best managers don’t just get the work done but really look at the teams, how they are feeling, what motivates them and works or doesn’t.

If a co-worker or employee doesn’t correct misgendering, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother them—they’re most likely tired of correcting people and don’t want to cause a confrontation. Speak up. Make adjustments. Educate yourself.

Sophie Walmsley

Accounts Assistant, Origin

Sally Wren (she / her)

As soon as I arrived in Cornwall, 17 years ago now, I felt like I had found my home—a far cry from feeling awkward and detached from where I grew up in Surrey. I met my now wife in the first year of my degree, and we have never left. Joining Origin gave me the opportunity to pursue our dream of having a family, which at one point seemed wholly unachievable. The Fertility Journey Leave and Pay policy has been key in our journey to become parents to our second child through the process of intra-partner IVF.

I think a common misconception is that you only come out once. You certainly have your first big open closet moment, but you spend the rest of your life coming out in all sorts of circumstances.

Brand Marketing Manager, Origin 

Luke Caddel (he / him)

While Cornwall boasts a vibrant community, like many places, it still grapples with waves of homophobic rhetoric, which I’m confronted with all too regularly. I’m passionate about fostering inclusivity but the reality sometimes troubles me. Despite progress, it still has a long way to go. I firmly believe in action-oriented allyship. It's crucial for individuals, regardless of their own identities, to actively support and uplift LGBTQI+ people.

There is, of course, still room for growth at Origin. It would be great to establish dedicated resources or groups that focus on inclusivity. While it's commendable to see an equal balance of cisgender males and females in executive-level positions, enhancing LGBTQI+ representation here would further reinforce our commitment to inclusivity. Many coffee-related spaces, such as cafes, roasteries, and trade events, still uphold a prevalent heteronormative culture and lack policies to address LGBTQI+ issues, such as anti-discrimination, gender-neutral restroom facilities, or guidelines for supporting gender transition in the workplace. Kudos to Origin, XO Coffee, Atlas Grinds, and Yas Bean for their efforts in promoting LGBTQI+ representation within our industry.