Photo Credit: Renoda Campbell Photography
Gender identity is not a choice, and all are valid. – Don Mamone
At WeddingPro, we celebrate and support everyone, regardless of their background. One of the things we specifically focus on is the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the wedding industry, and how we can all strive to do more to educate ourselves so we can protect and champion people in underrepresented communities.
With the help of Don Mamone, who proudly lives outside of the gender binary, we are going to explore the topic of gender diversity. To learn more about the gender spectrum, and how we can all better serve individuals who are gender-fluid throughout the wedding industry, keep reading.
What is the gender binary?
The gender binary is a classification system that categorizes people as being male or female (traditionally based solely on their biological anatomy) with nothing in between. Even though people can identify as either of these, there is an entire gender spectrum that everyone falls into. After all, there are very few instances where someone is completely one thing, and it’s important to look at gender the same way.
Even though this is nothing new–non-binary identities have been recognized for thousands of years across a wide array of cultures–we’re now seeing a lot more people outwardly acknowledging and courageously accepting the person they know themselves to be. From using they/them pronouns to expressing themselves in ways outside of the gender binary, people are finding more empowerment to be out and proud.
A crash course in gender studies
But, let’s back up and talk through what gender even is because it’s much more complex than people think. Gender is made up of four core elements:
- Gender identity: How a person feels and knows themselves to be
- Sexual orientation: Who a person is attracted to physically, emotionally and psychologically
- Gender expression: How a person presents their gender to the outside world
- Biological sex: The chromosomal makeup and physical anatomy of a person
If you are cisgender, it means that you align and agree with your gender assignment at birth. If you do not align with it, you are transgender. Although being non-binary does not perfectly fit under either of these two categorizations, it typically falls under the transgender umbrella. No matter where your gender falls on this spectrum, all of these elements come into play when we think about what gender actually is and how people experience it.
Everyone experiences gender differently, and even though all of these four elements are connected, they aren’t conditional or causal, meaning that they don’t influence one another. This is important to point out because it’s a common misconception that they do. Don, for example, is non-binary, heterosexual and married to their wife, Emily. There are countless examples of how these factors present themselves in people, so we can’t make assumptions when we interact with someone who doesn’t fit into the expectations society has conditioned us to have.
Why does this matter?
As a wedding pro, it’s important that you deliver the best services possible, and you can only do that if you understand your clients. People who identify in any sort of underrepresented community need pros on their side who can hold space for them. create a safe space for them. It takes an incredible amount of courage to live authentically, and if you can make that lived experience easier for someone, it will make all the difference.
Additionally, if we don’t send a message of acceptance, that’s a message within itself. Everyone deserves to live without fear of rejection or repercussions for being who they are, so making sure your business firmly stands with people who deserve allyship, support and representation can truly have a life-saving impact.
What we can do to support people throughout the gender spectrum
The wedding industry is filled with loving and creative people, and it’s important to show that. It’s all of our jobs to make sure that people feel seen, heard and respected. But, knowing where to start this work isn’t always easy or straightforward. So, follow the tips below so you can get help with moving that needle forward.
Have zero tolerance for intolerance
This goes without saying, but in both your personal and professional life, make it known that you will not reserve any room for any kind of intolerance. And, instead, practice radical acceptance and encourage your network to do the same.
Don’t settle for ignorance as an excuse
You’re putting in a lot of effort to learn about the gender spectrum and other DEI efforts, so don’t allow any lingering ignorance to be an excuse for why you haven’t incorporated these practices into your wedding business. There’s a lot that we won’t know or may not get right, but continue to educate yourself so you can be the best pro you can be to your clients.
Embrace people’s pronouns
Pronouns have been a huge part of this recent wave of gender education, and it’s important to take them seriously. When you use people’s names and pronouns correctly, it makes them feel seen, valid and safe in your presence. On top of asking your couples what pronouns they use, start placing yours in your email signature, in your social media bios and even on your website and Storefronts. This will show people that you are an ally and that they will be welcomed at your business.
DEI is an important journey for pros to navigate through because it will not only make your business better, it will make you better, too. Starting from a place of openness and acceptance is just the beginning–continue doing this work so you can help ensure that the wedding industry is even more inclusive. After all, as Don so expertly put it, “the future is fluid–lean in, learn and love.”
This post was written in partnership with speaker and coach, Don Mamone.
Don Mamone’s decade-long career in hospitality culminated with their role as the Director of Events at the prestigious Beverly Hilton. Determined to embrace their creativity and pursue the dream of entrepreneurship, Don and their wife Emily opened a photography studio and have exceeded the expectations of their loyal clients from Dallas to Destinations around the world for over fifteen years.
As a speaker and coach Don teaches audiences and clients how to reach their maximum potential and impact by discovering and embracing their true identity. Having recently come out as non-binary, Don is a committed advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community and consults with companies and organizations dedicated to diversity, inclusivity and representation as well as creating safe spaces that support and encourage unapologetic authenticity.
When they are not traveling the world for creative projects and speeches, Don lives happily outside the gender binary in Dallas with their talented spouse Emily and their creative child Frankie.
Photo Credit: Emily Mamone