Happy Pride Month! In honor of Pride this month, Microbeau will be highlighting various artists throughout the month who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community that are making a huge, life-changing impact in the lives of those around them. In particular, we will be educating and giving insight into the world of Gender Affirming Tattoo services.
Now, you may be wondering, what are Gender-Affirming Tattoo services? These particular procedures can be described as paramedical & cosmetic tattoos that are utilized by transgender/ nonbinary individuals as a way to express their gender identity and experience gender euphoria.
Nonbinary/ transgender individuals often struggle with issues regarding their transition to their preferred gender-identity due to high-costs, lack of resources, and limited knowledge of gender-affirming tattoos.
One of the artists who is taking over the industry and transforming the lives of so many is Miche Reeve. Miche (They/He) has taken the time to educate us and give us a bit of a peek into what it is like to perform these services as a member of of the community. In addition, Miche will be explaining differences in traditional PMU services and Gender-Affirming tattoos, how to give back to the community, and more.
Learn About Miche & Gender Affirming Tattoos
1. Tell Us About You
Hi! My name is Miche Reeve (They/He) and I am a non-binary, transgender, cosmetic tattoo artist. I have been in the PMU industry since 2018, and it has absolutely changed my life for the better. I have used my own experience as a transgender person, a previous freelance makeup artist, and my Bachelors Degree in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a Health and Science Concentration, to create my specialty: Gender Affirming Cosmetic and Paramedical (soon to come) Tattooing. I am the owner of Xenith Tattoo Collective, which opened in early 2023. Additionally, I am the co-founder of PMU in Transition LLC., an educational organization that focuses on inclusivity training and consulting for PMU and restorative tattoo artists. I have 17 certifications in addition to my state license, and I was a guest educator in two of Jody Stoski’s trainings: “Areolas Uncomplicated” and “Top Surgery Tattoos and Gender Affirming PMU.” I am grateful for all I have had the pleasure of experiencing in this industry thus far, and I am so excited to see how we continue to flourish and grow together.
2. What PMU services do you perform?
I currently offer various forms of eyebrow cosmetic tattooing (nano, combo, powder), lip blush, saline removal, and freckles. The gender affirming techniques that I also offer include all eyebrow techniques and lip blush. Additionally, I have started to offer gender affirming facial hair tattooing. Paramedical and restorative tattoo services are next on the horizon for me! I am in the process of finalizing my license so I can soon offer areola, scar camouflage, and scalp micropigmentation.
Products for Gender-Affirming Procedures
Microbeau has a wide variety of PMU devices, needles, and pigments for gender affirmation procedures. Bellar Air is the perfect tool to create natural lips, especially when paired with Evenflo unisex pigments such as Dirty French, Naturalista, and Royal Mauve. This device could also be used to create upper lip pixels for a natural stubble effect for Gender-Affirming Facial Hair Restoration procedures. Another universal hybrid device, used by top artists in the PMU industry, is the new Flux S Max. The 3.2mm stroke in Flux S Max Midnight allows artists to create clear pixels with ease and is perfect for shading, linework, and blending.
Evenflo’s new True Lips set includes three unisex pigment colors to create natural results during gender-affirming procedures:
- Dirty French: Earthy, harmonious shade with a neutral undertone for natural lip results.
- Naturalista: Cinnamon nude-colored tone.
- Royal Mauve: Lilac brown shade with a subtle cool undertone.
3. What has been your experience performing gender affirmation PMU services?
Offering gender affirming cosmetic tattoos has been life changing for me. Helping people to feel more at home in their body's when they see themselves in the mirror, holds such a special place in my heart. This line of work is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Hands down. So many people of my trans clientele tell me that my work is just as affirming, if not more, than gender affirming surgeries (such as Top Surgery, FFS [Facial Feminization Surgery],etc.) and HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). Throughout the years of me offering these services, I have learned ways in which I can truly alter the angles of the face in order to create a more feminine appearance, masculine appearance, or combination of the two, for my guests. I have also experienced a lot of clients telling me that getting gender affirming PMU opens the door for them to explore their gender identity and expression with even more depth and confidence. It has helped some of my clients to feel more comfortable coming out and being visible within their gender expression. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried tears of happiness with my guests once they see the final result of their service in the mirror. Gender affirming care is life-changing and absolutely life saving.
4. What inspired you to perform these services?
I was inspired to perform these services based on my own experience as a transgender person, and most importantly, my community. I love my trans siblings dearly, and providing gender affirming care for them is a bold act of love I feel privileged to be able to provide. I know the power that we have as PMU Artists to do more than just enhance certain facial features, but to literally change our guests’ lives. Gender affirming PMU goes a step further than that. Helping someone to recognize their face as their own after receiving gender affirming care does more than just change someone’s life on a surface level. Of course, the aesthetic is important; but the power with what we do does not just exist within that. Gender affirming care brings ease, solace, confidence, and validation. It allows for us to experience the beauty and freedom of autonomous, authentic, expression. I feel it is absolutely crucial to discuss these services, so that more of the trans community, and the PMU industry, knows that this is an option. So many people don’t know that cosmetic tattoos can be used as a tool to affirm gender, or if they do, they don’t know where to even start. When you are a trans person receiving a procedure or service, it can be really really difficult to feel relaxed, comfortable, or at ease if the provider does not understand what you are seeking, what language to use around you, and how their business practice can “make or break” the service. I am passionate about normalizing these services within the PMU industry so that they are more accessible to the transgender community, which inherently brings our experience to center, and incorporates how other aspects of identity (race, ethnicity, social class, physical ability, etc.) can affect our experiences.
5. How do gender affirmative services differ from other PMU services?
Gender affirming services differ in many ways from other PMU services, but on the contrary, aren’t too different.
- Bedside Practice
- Understanding HRT and how it affects the skin
The most significant difference, in my opinion, comes down to the placement, mapping, and shape of the brows, eyeliner, or lip blush. Mapping is EVERYTHING with affirming gender. If we as PMU artists are not cognizant of the angles of the face or specific placement on the body (dependent on service being provided), it can be easy to reinforce aspects of our guests’ appearance that might not feel affirming to them.
Additionally, the language that we use will truly make or break the experience for our clients getting these services. This applies heavily to the vocabulary/language choices we make within our marketing. For example, if we are not using inclusive vocabulary, it is highly unlikely that we will get requests for gender affirming appointments to begin with. It is crucial that you have an in-depth understanding of pronoun usage, vocabulary surrounding the trans experience, and know what NOT to say. Be mindful of slurs and inappropriate questions.
It is not appropriate to ask about body parts, surgeries, or future plans for medically transitioning; unless it pertains to the procedure/service being done. The LAST thing we want to do is rely on our trans clientele to educate us when we are supposed to be affirming them. The time for education on our end as PMU artists starts before you begin a gender affirming appointment.
It is also important to understand HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) and familiarize yourself with how hormones affect the skin, as well as understanding other gender affirming procedures (filler, Botox, facial surgeries, etc.) and how it can affect tattoos, pre-care, or their healing.
6. What advice would you provide to an artist aspiring to perform gender affirmative services?
Don’t let the fear of messing up paralyze you from educating yourself or getting into these services. We all start from somewhere when it comes down to our own experience and exposure to the transgender community. With that being said, there is no excuse for not taking the initiative to educate yourself on how to better perform these services. I cannot stress enough that it is absolutely crucial to educate yourselves before starting to offer gender affirming services. There are tons of wonderful resources online, especially on Instagram and Google.
- The Gender Bread Person, v4 (Genderbread.org)
- Guide to being an Ally to Transgender and Nonbinary Young People (Trevor Project – TheTrevorProject.org)
- LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center (lgbtqiahealtheducation.org)
- National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org)
- Instagram resources:
- Ericka Hart, M.Ed. (She/They) : @ ihartericka
- Rebecca Minor, LICSW (She/Her/They): @ gender.specialist
- Schuyler Bailar (He/Him) : @ pinkmantaray
- SK Smigiel (She/They) : @ justsaysk
- Dee Whitnell (They/Them) : @ s3xtheorywithdee
- Doc Jana (They/Them) : @ Tiffanyjana
Even if you don’t relate to the experience of being transgender, or having gender dysphoria, you can still embrace the fact that you can be an incredible ally. Use this curiosity as a catalyst to educate yourself and those around you further. Be open minded, have fun with it, and stay curious. Act with love. Be patient with yourself as you take the time to unlearn those preconceived cisonormative notions. Educate yourself with scientific facts and research studies that come from reputable sources, as opposed to researching news articles or other media that may contain bias and inaccurate information on the trans experience.
The bare minimum is not enough. We have to do more than just ask for pronouns on intake forms, and have a gender neutral restroom. Four ways to go above and beyond to provide gender affirming care:
- Be an ally before being a gender affirming PMU artist.
- DO COMMUNITY WORK. We are not offering these services to make money off of them, but to affirm them and to do more for the community.
- Community work can look like:
- Financial Accessibility
Going beyond basic education (Just knowing what it means to be transgender and how to use pronouns is not enough).
Make sure to educate yourself on:
- LGBTQIA+ History
- Gender vs. Biological Sex
- Gender Affirmation/Euphoria vs. Gender Dysphoria
- Transgender Vocabulary
- HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
- Common Gender Affirming Procedures and Surgeries
- Pronouns and Neo-pronouns – Practice! Practice! Practice! (PracticewithPronouns.com is an excellent resource & @ Practiceyourpronouns on IG will allow you to practice along with well-known songs and music).
- What is offensive and not okay to discuss/say
Making your services known – getting the word out there. Due to the fact that so many people in the transgender community do not realize that gender affirming PMU exists. It is important to market these services to further normalize them in our industry. The transgender community deserves this as a tool of affirmation.