The population data is still catching up with the explosion of social awareness about gender identity, however it’s clear that a huge wave of non–binary individuals are going to be seeking wellness services over the next decade.
The best data we have currently estimates 11 per cent of LGBTQIA+ adults in the US – approximately 1.2 million people – identify as non–binary (Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law). Seventy six per cent of non–binary adults are aged between 18 and 29, and 89 per cent are from urban areas.
If we’re going to be ready to welcome non–binary clients into our spas, we need to start making some changes.
The barriers non–binary people experience in the spa industry are generally rooted in fear of ignorance, rejection, or discrimination from spa staff and therapists. It starts with the first interactions. Binary gender identification is generally required when booking, so non–binary customers are frequently deterred from a business immediately they engage with the website or reservations team.
Often staff or therapists register confusion when they meet non–binary people and this prevents them being able to relax. Ignorance in relation to language – such as pronouns, identity words, or non–legal names – is alienating. Spa owners need to ensure staff and therapists have basic training about gender.
A non–binary customer’s experience of a spa and their willingness to recommend it will be dramatically improved by the simple act of asking a person which pronouns they use and then using the correct language for the remainder of their visit.
Most non–binary people avoid spas altogether, because changing areas, lounges, and areas where services occur are often segregated into male and female. Offering gender neutral options and using garments that don’t indicate gender, would relieve stress for non–binary customers. If you do this, make this information available on your website to help these customers choose your spa over others.
Non–binary customers prefer to choose the gender of their therapists, rather than having that assigned based on visual assumptions. Finally, treatments and services should be available to all people, rather than being designated as ‘women’s services’ and ‘men’s services’.
• Frances Reed is a massage therapist and owner of Freed Bodyworks. She’s also a business consultant in LGBTQIA+ issues and a transgender health educator
Binary gender identification is
generally required when booking,
so non–binary customers are
often immediately deterred