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An Idaho-Based Waxing Chain Is Marketing Itself to Trans Customers

Thinking Out of the Box: LunchboxWax franchise owner Joshua Collins and his gay business partners are leading by example with their outreach to the transgender community.
LunchboxWax franchise owner Joshua Collins and his gay business partners are leading by example with their outreach to the transgender community.

LunchboxWax is redefining what it means to be queer-friendly in the grooming industry.

Getting a wax -- especially in the more delicate regions -- can leave LGBTQ people feeling vulnerable, particularly if their body doesn't meet certain expectations or beauty standards. Joshua Collins, a gay man who co-owns several Texas franchises of LunchboxWax -- a company hoping to revolutionize the waxing industry through queer inclusion -- says the "sad truth is the body waxing industry, outside of LunchboxWax, generally will not service our trans community, or men from the waist down.... People are judged for being [fat], judged for being too skinny, judged for being part of the LGBTQ community, judged for the color of their skin. Enough is enough!"

Already queer-welcoming and body-positive, LunchboxWax expanded efforts to become trans-embracing last year by eliminating male/female gender checkboxes and gendered service options like "Manzilians," and instead asks clients their preferred pronouns.

"It goes to show why it's so important to have LGBTQ people in leadership positions - as an ally, there are some things I wouldn't necessarily think about unless they are pointed out to me, despite the best of intentions," LunchboxWax founder Debi Lane says. "There's no reason a waxologist needs to know if you identify as male or female. If there are special considerations regarding sex anatomy, there's another way to ask that. We need to know this simply because it takes more time. This is about waxing a body part, not a gender. We also want to ask for preferred gender pronouns in a way that reflects the best practices to ensure our LGBTQ guests feel respected and valued through their experience with us. In light of this conversation, we opted to make the changes across all of our franchises."

Founded in Boise, Idaho, in 2010, the waxing-only salon business now has about 40 franchises and continues to grow. From the beginning, Lane says she understood the business was about more than just "ripping people's hair out."

"We specialize in Brazilians -- so it's important to us to treat our guests with warmth and validity, acknowledging the vulnerability people entrust us with. My vision for LunchboxWax has always been to honor every body.... I think the LGBTQ community naturally responds to that."


Waxing Poetic: Debi Lane (above) is changing the beauty service industry by prioritizing inclusiveness with LunchboxWax.

The company has also drawn queer entrepreneurs to the business, and they in turn provide LunchboxWax feedback about how to support the LGBTQ community. For example, Lane points to LunchboxWax's Dallas-Fort Worth franchises, which are owned by four gay men and have been leading trans outreach in that area: "They've heard firsthand from trans women customers who had negative experiences elsewhere and appreciated the safety to be themselves... [that] LunchboxWax offers."

Collins, one of the Dallas owners, says the four gay friends have known each other and operated businesses together for over a decade and were searching for a franchise to invest in when one was "blown away" by his experience at a California location. Collins says the others liked that "there is a soul behind the brand that resonated with us. One of the greatest surprises... was the knowledge that they believed in many of the causes we valued. It may sound cliche, but [Lane's] vision is truly changing the industry."

"Within days of opening our first salon, I was contacted by a transgender male wanting to book an appointment," Collins recalls. "He was used to rejection from other body waxing companies."

Moved by the man's experience, Collins says, "As I read his heartfelt email and held back tears, it hit me -- we need to do more than simply be an LGTBQ-friendly salon."

That's when their outreach effort began, and "the response has been incredible." Collins believes the company's decision to get rid of the gender box helps trans customers feel more comfortable.

"For those beginning or in the process of their transition, the gender check box is intimidating," Collins says. "We do not need to know [our clients'] gender before the service. We [already] know each guest's body is different... and our waxologists are skilled professionals who understand this. This is no different when it comes to one having a different anatomy."

Trans, intersex, and gender-expansive people can all have bodies that look different or are unexpected due to assumptions about how someone of a particular gender should look. Collins says, "We embrace individuality and acceptance. We are all different, and we love that. We're doing more than removing hair. We allow guests to leave feeling beautiful and confident."


Saga Christian (above), is a happy trans client.

That's something Saga Christian, a trans woman in Boise, was looking for. She says beauticians at other salons have asked her if she "really wants [her] eyebrows done that way." It happened frequently enough that she developed a canned response: "I'm trans. So please just do my brows like you would any other woman. I want them to look feminine--that's why I'm here. So please don't hold back."

"I wish I didn't have to explain that every time," Christian says. "But as I progress in transition and appear more feminine-presenting, I think I have to tell people less these days."

Equally important was that she found LunchboxWax. "The whole atmosphere is super welcoming and relaxing," Christian says. "I love how the girls remember your name and make you feel like a close friend. I love how easy it is to book appointments, and their monthly subscription service is convenient because I never know how quickly my brows are going to grow."

"As far as I know, I was one of the Boise location's first trans customers," she adds. "I was a little nervous going in, but once I saw the rainbow sticker in the window, I knew it was a welcoming place. What I was most terrified about was my name because it hadn't been legally changed yet and the name on my credit card didn't match the one I made the appointment with. However, there never was an issue. Lunchbox staff asked how to pronounce my name, and that was that.... I [have] always felt treated like any other customer."

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