GREEN BAY – When Donn volunteered to be beautician Caroline Quinn’s makeup model at Mint Salon, he wasn’t completely prepared for the sensation of eyeliner being drawn along his lash line for the first time, nor for the audience watching in wonder.
“It’s really weird to have something being pushed into your eyeball,” he joked to the group. But when someone in the crowd said “wow” to his final transformation, he was quick to grab a handheld mirror and see for himself a smoky eyed and brow-trimmed face gazing back.
Later, Donn, who asked the newspaper to not use his last name, told the Press-Gazette that he liked the experience for the ways it demonstrated self-care and how it allowed him to break free from the “confines of the male harness,” which he said doesn’t fit who he is and how he’d like to identify.
“I’ve always felt confined by the very narrow path men are supposed to walk. It just never fit very well,” Donn said. “That limitation really chafes at me.”
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The group of spectators, a majority of whom were trans women, plus gender diverse folks, allies, and those who dabble in more feminine attire like Donn, asked questions, took notes and generally absorbed Quinn’s makeup tutorial on April 2, as part of the many small-business stops organized for Green Bay’s Trans Day of Visibility celebrations.
Quinn’s role, in her capacity as the owner and beautician of Mint Salon, 1234 Main St., was to provide an inclusive beauty tutorial that could better guide trans women down the road of makeup and skincare regimens.
Alongside all the other struggles trans and gender diverse people face, from harassment, isolation, loss and gender dysphoria — a condition where someone endures distress or anxiety in the face of their gender identity not lining up with the sex they were assigned at birth — some trans women also experience the daunting task of navigating the world of makeup and hair, and not knowing a safe place to turn to.
Quinn said she hopes people walked away from the class knowing ways to soften some of the masculine features they may have been born with and learn how to better lean into feminine expressions of beauty.
Built into her tutorial and product suggestions, too, she provided ample opportunity for gender affirmation. She invited everyone to consider what feature of theirs they loved the most, “even if it’s only a little bit more than they hate every other part.”
“Everyone seriously looks beautiful,” Quinn told Saturday’s group. “I need to tell you that coming in here organically, you’re already making really beautiful choices for yourselves.”
Mint Salon part of push for more trans-inclusive downtown businesses
While this is Quinn’s first invitation to take part in the Trans Day of Visibility events, coming to the aid of trans women isn’t new for her. And her role can mean the world to those scrambling through the legal motions of gender transition, such as obtaining a new license.
Rachel Maes, Green Bay’s assistant attorney, said when she made her official transition at work, a stage that included directories and email updates with her new name, she booked an appointment with Quinn ahead of going to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles to get her picture taken.
“(Quinn) actually sat down with me two months ahead of time just to get to know me and listen to my story and experience, to get a better understanding of who I am and what my personality is,” Maes said. “I was totally blown away by the fact that someone providing a service like this would just meet with me on her own time free of charge.”
For Maes and many other people who find themselves wanting a beauty change in a nonjudgmental zone, finding partners in Mint Salon and other small businesses along Main Street is critical for Green Bay’s growing LGBTQ community.
Emily Cubitt, marketing manager for Downtown Green Bay, Inc., said she’s really proud to be part of the establishments that can invite and celebrate Green Bay’s LGBTQ community, especially on a day as important as Trans Day of Visibility.
Sunrise on Main Boutique, Ra Imagery, Amphora Wine Bar and the LGBTQ home-base, Napalese Lounge, also took part in the Trans Day of Visibility festivities.
Frayed Knot, a boutique on Packerland Drive, not only participated but has been an ongoing refuge for trans folks reconciling the coming-out process with their spouses and partners.
“It’s great to see all the neighboring businesses step up and come together to show that we’re here for each other,” Cubitt said. “These small businesses want to get people through their doors and they want to showcase that everyone is welcome.”
Down the road, Cubitt said Downtown Green Bay, Inc., is finalizing summer events that will likely include businesses opening up for future LGBTQ-focused events.
“People tend to think of Milwaukee and Madison as being the only (LGBTQ) inclusive areas in our state,” Cubitt said. “We want to bridge that gap.”
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Natalie Eilbert is a government watchdog reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. You can reach her at [email protected] or view her Twitter profile at @natalie_eilbert.