Pride month is over, but gender-affirmation is not!
Pride season is officially over, but for us in the beauty and wellness industry, pride is not a seasonal experience! One of the reasons why I originally wanted to be in this industry was because so many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community are a part of it. It allows those of us who do not fit into a traditional nine-to-five workplace to feel accepted and be celebrated. We are the creatives, artists, and entrepreneurs making this world a more beautiful place!
To represent some of this beauty, I interviewed one of the most talented and beloved members of my community. Kerry Yamaucci is a trans woman of Hawaiian, Okinawan, and Japanese ancestry who is a well-known performer, producer, and makeup artist. She brings so much of her heart and soul into every aspect of her work and I’m honored to know her.
Being “trans-friendly” is trending more and more in many different industries. Much of it has to do with profits, but we must go way beyond that! It is trans people we need to listen to and learn from to truly internalize and take to heart acceptance, support, and care. Kerry and I discussed the specific needs of trans people in the industry and Kerry has some tips for y’all:
Forget what you think you know about gender.
Kerry urges us to “unprogram the assumptions that all trans people want to pass as either male or female, under the rigid gender binary [of man and woman]. We also need to face the fact that the subversion of gendered beauty standards by trans people is complex, and often concerns the safety and quality of life for trans people; that each trans person’s choice to present however they present will differ from other trans people, and that to truly show up for a trans client is through listening and addressing their specific personal needs.”
Every single human being has a different relationship to their gender expression and presentation. Assuming someone's identity based on looks alone or based on another person’s experience takes power away from the individual to own their identity. Let the people in your life (clients, co-workers, employees, etc.) tell you who they are. Believe them when they say it, and affirm it in your interactions. This goes beyond just asking for someone’s pronoun - it is about respecting the whole individual and the changes one might go through.
Make gender-affirmation a part of your salon culture:
Take the celebration of trans and gender non-conforming people beyond thirty days a year and incorporate it into your trainings and employee handbooks, as well as your salon’s mission statement. Kerry shares, “My biggest issue working [for others] was that I had many instances almost daily where I would get misgendered by clients and coworkers alike. The intersection of physical expectations of people working in the beauty industry and my want to mitigate my gender dysphoria would send me into self-deprecative cycles, which were toxic for my well-being and my transition. Competency, training, and compassionate desire to support trans people is absolutely necessary to breakdown the harmful ways dominant society teaches people to engage with trans people.”
What seems like an honest mistake to some can be traumatic for others. Create a non-judgemental and sincerely caring environment which doesn’t rely on assumptions.
Hire trans people!
When trans people are represented in the industry, the needs of trans clients are addressed. Simple, right?
Kerry says, “During my time doing makeup for MAC, I was able to be a resource to clients who were of trans-feminine experience navigating beauty. It’s such a stride to have trans resources, by trans people for trans people in the beauty industry.”
“Hiring trans professionals (trans people who have a personal understanding of navigating being trans and a beauty professional) is a priority.”
“Cisgender people innately must learn about allyship and harm reduction, as they don’t personally experience [the] gender dysphoria and adversity faced by trans people. Therefore, their experience is a learned experience, while trans beauty professionals bear lived experience.” Kerry continues, “If a salon isn’t willing to hire/seek out trans beauty professionals (cuz we’re out here), why would they want to seek out trans clients?”
Seeking out ways to get more trans clients in the door without addressing the need to have trans representation in your salon is certainly extracting from a community without providing a way to sustain it with employment and opportunity.
The bottom line is to examine yourself and your environment before exclaiming that your salon/spa is trans-friendly. Being nice only gets you so far. You must take responsibility to educate yourself and your employees to fully embrace the ever-changing LGBTQIA+ community on an ongoing basis. Good job starting off by reading this blog!
This is one part of a series of interviews with LGBTQIA+ individuals who work in the industry and/or use services in the industry. We will continue to listen, learn, and share with you!