A term many millennials and other generations seem to disagree on is the image of “professional.” What is professionalism, and what does it mean in light of gender and sexuality?
When people think of traditional professionalism, the idea is to present the best parts of the self, meaning to cover up any blemishes that may detract from the physical appearance. Essentially, people want to look “normal,” like anyone else with upstanding qualities.
Millennials have come to change their minds on what “professional” looks like. In previous generations, tattoos and piercing should be covered, because of the negative stigma tattoos held in the eyes of the general public. Now tattoos are okay to show, so long as they aren’t offensive (cuss words, nudity, violence) and in places that could be covered up if necessary.
But what about hairstyles and clothing choice? Millennials are beginning to be more lax on those too. Who cares if someone’s hair is pink, purple or blue if they’re doing their job appropriately? Who cares if someone wears jeans to the office? Every job, internship and career is different and can sometimes require a certain look, but what about those with non-conforming genders and sexuality?
For example: If a gay man prefers to wear women’s clothes sometimes, it isn’t cross-dressing. It’s a style he’s made into his own. He looks good in the clothes, and the style matches the work setting. Should he be turned away because his clothes don’t match his gender?
If a transgender man has yet to have his top surgery, so he still may appear as a busty woman wearing men’s clothes, should he be turned away because his hair is cut like a man’s, and he’s dressing outside his biological gender?
In the same way, should women have to wear skirts and heels? Should women have to curl their hair and wear makeup? Or should women be allowed to express themselves so they feel comfortable?
I can’t answer these questions for employers, but in my opinion, gender and gender roles are overrated. We already left 1950’s gender roles behind for women. It’s time the LGBTQ community gets the same breakaway from hetero-normative standards.
“Professional” sounds like a hard line between acceptable and unacceptable. With the changing times, it’s important for jobs and careers to consider the person in front of them as an individual first without placing tick marks on their application for what they personally deem as unprofessional: Tattoos, piercings, hair color, hair length and gender-matching clothes.
Let people wear what they want, and let their work ethic speak for themselves. As gender and sexuality become more accepted in modern society, I believe we’ll eventually get to a place where someone’s character matters more than their gender or sexuality.