This is Transgender Awareness Week, a time to recognize the gender-diverse community.
Confrontations over pronouns and politics have often marginalized people who are trying to live as their authentic selves.
For 21-year-old Beau O'Neil, that means using a variety of pronouns.
“As someone who does use pronouns that are they/them, I can kind of pass either way," said O'Neal, a future professional stylist at Paul Mitchell The School in downtown San Diego.
Beau also uses he/him pronouns as he transitions into what he calls a genderqueer identity. He’s learning how to cut and color hair at the school, but graduation will have to wait until the spring.
This week Beau is having top surgery to remove female breasts from his chest.
“Even though I haven’t been comfortable with it, and I don’t like it, it’s almost sad to see it go away. If that makes sense because we’ve gone through so much together … my chest and I," O'Neal said.
O'Neal has a mentor or learning leader as they call them in the Paul Mitchell network.
Dice Moreno is non-binary and uses all pronouns. She was once a student and is now sharing her experience at the school. With a master's degree in education and a lifetime of setbacks, successes, and strength, Moreno is committed to helping her community find themselves.
“There’s nuance to the LGBTQ experience, and something like hair is so personal. You really have to be gentle, and mindful of the words you use and the assumptions you make about the person in your chair. Because if you’re not mindful, you might make assumptions that are incorrect and they hurt the person," Moreno said.
Her story turned the hurt into healing. Moreno has a wife, and together they are opening a new salon location in the heart of Hillcrest, across the street from the neighborhood's iconic rainbow flag.
The couple is not only in business to make money, but to make progress in transgender awareness. They have coordinated numerous fundraising events to support their community.
They also take every opportunity to educate people who want to say the right thing when they meet a transgender person, especially when it comes to pronouns.
Moreno said, “If you mess up, it’s OK. Just say you’re sorry and move on. Don’t make them go through the emotional labor of consoling you after you misgender them. Just move on.”
Dean Miller is a transgender client and friend of both Dice and Beau. Miller uses they/them pronouns, and they are serious about service to their community and others who are marginalized because of how their brain works.
Miller is also a health coach and personal trainer for people of all gender identities who are “neuro spicy”.
“'Neuro spicy, not allistic, means you have either ADHD or you have autism," they said to describe the new pop culture term fondly referring to those who are neurodivergent.
“Even if you don’t understand us. I think awareness and putting it on our radar can really start that curiosity process, but it also gives us clarity in people who are not interested.”Dean Miller, transgender health coach and personal trainer
Miller uses their professional platform to educate, too.
“Even if you don’t understand us, I think awareness and putting it on our radar can really start that curiosity process. But it also gives us clarity in people who are not interested.”
The downtown Paul Mitchell The School location is one of the more than a hundred campuses in the network worldwide. They all carry a code of core values that require equity, inclusion, anti-racism, social justice, and a celebration of diversity in students and staff.
“They come here and they feel like they are home. They feel included and then it gives them that confidence in that short amount of time that they’re here in school they build a foundation. In most cases they build a family," said Katie Graves, the school's education director.
Beau O’Neal will depend on that family this week as he has his long-awaited top surgery excited for the change, the future, and the freedom.
"(After the surgery I won't) have to wear binders. They're very constraining and tight. I think I’d love to do hair without feeling a compression on my chest all the time. I'm ready to fix my posture," O'Neal said.
Transgender Awareness Week will culminate with the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Monday, Nov. 20, when the victims of anti-trans violence are memorialized. Locally, the day will be observed with events at the San Diego LGBT Community Center and in Oceanside at the Civic Center Community Rooms.