How to ensure consultation forms are inclusive to non-binary and trans clients

Titles and pronouns are a big part of the day-to-day language we use when addressing or referring to other people. As beauty therapists, we regularly meet new customers who could be binary, non-binary (also known as enby), cis-gender or trans.

Most of our booking systems ask for the name of the client and then we all happily assume the person’s gender. As a trans awareness educator, I talk about pronouns daily and see far too many gender references made regularly in our industry.

Gender is a spectrum, and with 2% of the population being trans, the chances are you have met, employed, or treated someone who didn’t feel comfortable sharing their gender identity.

So, what can we do? Let’s start with the easiest step you can make in your business – sharing and asking pronouns.

The ones we know are “he/him” and “she/her”, but some people – typically those who identify as non-binary – might use “they/them”.

This may be a hard one to get used to as we know these as plurals, but you’ll find you use them all the time without even realising. For example, “My last client left their coat”. This really does mean the world to a trans or non-binary person and shows you respect their identity.

Using the wrong pronoun, known as “misgendering”, for some non-binary or trans people is massively disrespectful, can affect their mental health, and make them feel deeply uncomfortable and even unsafe. So, what can you do?

Create a custom box on your online booking system with the options, include them on your consultation forms and when talking to a client on the phone, ask, “Can I ask what pronoun you use please?”.

Also, add your own pronouns to your email footer, under your teams’ names on your salon website, and on your business cards. Things like this can start to normalise this behaviour.

A quick note on saying “preferred pronouns” – this isn’t advisable because it infers that it’s not that person’s pronoun, just one they prefer. If someone uses multiple pronouns, they may have a preferred one, but I would stay away from this for now.

Also, if you’re asking for titles on your booking system or when doing a mailout to clients, make sure the gender-neutral one is there – Mx, which is pronounced “mix”.

As a partner of someone who identifies as non-binary, the number of times I’ve filled in forms for them and had to select “Miss” because the option hasn’t been there is tough.

All we need to do is to respect how labels and language evolve. Years ago, the term for visually impaired people was blind, which is no longer used. Times change and we need to adapt with them.

Sam Marshall headshot

Sam Marshall is owner of salon The Beauty Guru in Manchester and a trans awareness educator, holding monthly webinars to help educate the beauty and hair industry.