Trans Behind the Chair

Rian Taylor

Over the years, the transgender community has increased as societal acceptance continues to slowly grow. As the discussion surrounding trans visibility grows and reaches more people, we, the trans community, feel more confident to walk into the world as ourselves and live authentically with a newly found sense of freedom. With awareness being spread, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own transition and how it has impacted me as a hairstylist and new business owner.

Related: Guy Tang on Acceptance and Inclusion in Honor of Pride Month

Two years ago, I came out as a transgender man, which generated some difficult conversations for me personally and professionally. By sharing my story, I hope to empower my trans family to come out and have successful careers, while helping those in the beauty industry navigate conversations with transgender or gender non-conforming (GNC) clients with an open mind and heart. The fear of rejection from others can oftentimes keep us from living our fullest lives, but knowing that you’re not alone or without resources can help you navigate this monumental time. 

After coming out to my family, friends and colleagues, there was still a teeny mountain yet to climb: coming out to my clients. We have been told as hairstylists and professionals that we typically attract clients who are very much like us and fit our vibe.  While this is mostly true, there is always that inkling of a feeling like you may not be welcomed with open arms. We are hearing the phrase, “I am not for everyone,” much more in our industry, and truthfully it is one of the best affirmations you can repeat to yourself (in all aspects of your life).

The beauty industry is saturated with clients, and they can’t all be the perfect fit. Know this: The right clients will always find their way to your chair. Focus on your current situation and shift your what-if mindset to help you maneuver these obstacles. If you are unsure how to go about telling your existing clients, an important step is to ensure your salon family is on board and ready to be your support system. Surrounding yourself with people and places that make you feel safe and accepted is necessary. This can mean: them helping remind clients of your name and pronouns, creating an announcement to share your journey on social media, or just standing in solidarity with you in any way you feel they can. My experience in coming out to my co-workers and clients was truly beautiful. Feeling their support made me realize how much love and light is in my life, and even as I write this, I get misty-eyed.

Recently, I ventured out and opened Arcana Hair, my very own salon suite. Part of my mission was to cultivate a space where my clients could feel truly at ease as themselves. We all know, as professionals, how personal of an experience it is for a client to trust us with their image, and it can feel like a tall order at times to make them look exactly as they envision themselves. This goes for all people, because deep down we just want to project our best selves into the world and be seen as we truly are. You can see how this can be a particular challenge with a transgender or GNC client. 

Making others feel good about themselves is a huge part of why many of us chose this career path, and we know what kind of impact we have on our clients when they see themselves looking fresh and fabulous beyond their wildest dreams (like when they’re grinning from ear to ear and now that client will go out into the world radiating that positive energy). So much of our skill is harmonizing the delicate balance between artist, healer, therapist, magician and human. This is what truly makes our industry special, and we have a gift to give to each client who sits in our chair. One of the things I keep in mind is asking each client their pronouns during our first meeting, just as I am introducing myself.

“Hey, ______, great to meet you! Before we get started, which pronouns would you like me to use?”

This not only creates increased mindfulness for asking, instead of assuming pronouns, but establishes that crucial trust with your trans or GNC clients. You may have clients who aren’t sure what that means or unfortunately have views that clash with your own. Adding a pronoun box to any new client forms would be a great way to support GNC and trans clients, while also not having to ask directly or engage with any negative responses.

It is our job, first and foremost, to make our clients feel comfortable in our chairs. At the end of the day, we are doing everything in our power to make each client’s experience a positive and impactful one. In this ever-changing world, I encourage our industry leaders and all beauty professionals to embrace these changes as we do with anything else. Sometimes it helps to reflect on why you got into this business in the first place—to make others feel and look their very best. With that, I hope you can break down the barriers that prevent us from understanding each other and move forward to treating all of those who cross our paths with love and kindness. Keep shining my friends, and if you or someone you know are struggling with your gender identity, please feel free to reach out to me or any of the incredible resources below.

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