Smash the Gender Binary at Babe Wax

Why Portland needs a gender-affirming, body-positive waxing salon.

By Tuck Woodstock March 30, 2016

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Founder Mads Ambrose at Babe Wax.

Navigating a long, gender-segregated list of waxing services—think “thong” and “lip” for women, “glutes” and “chest” for men—can be intimidating for anyone. But for transgender and non-binary folks, professional waxing is often awkward at best … and traumatizing at worst.

“If someone doesn’t identify as male or female, they have to pick one, and that’s already a misgendering experience,” explains Mads Ambrose, owner of waxing salon Babe Wax. “That was honestly the biggest driving force for me; I wanted to open a place where people feel comfortable.” 

Tucked away in a shared third-floor studio of the ActivSpace building on Southeast Main Street, Babe Wax is a tiny space with huge ideas. The appointment-only salon bills itself as explicitly body-positive and gender-affirming, offering a head-to-toe menu of services open to all genders. As Mads observes, while most waxing businesses tend to target wealthy, white, cisgender women, waxing is often essential for the gender presentation of trans and non-binary people, who may have complicated or dysphoric feelings about body hair.

In an effort to create a more comfortable environment, the Babe Wax intake form asks for each client’s preferred pronouns, and leaves space to detail any relevant concerns. “I think that’s pretty unique, that there’s a conversation on the intake form,” says Mads. “Whether you’re afraid of being naked around other people, or whether you’re dysphoric about some parts of your body, or if you’re ticklish in some areas, or whatever it is.” 

In addition to the trans community, Babe Wax welcomes clients from other oft-marginalized demographics, including people who identify as kink, queer, fat, body-positive, or polyamorous. Sex workers also frequent Babe Wax because, as Mads puts it, “I’m an open-minded person, and having a place where they can get a service and talk about their job should be a right.” And if you’re self-conscious about the bits that you choose not to wax, well, don’t be:

“I’m also explicitly body hair positive,” says Mads. “Some people are like, ‘Sorry for my leg hair, please, so sorry.’ They think people expect them to be hairless seals or something.” 

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Wall space doubles as a retail shop for local queer artists and makers.

A native Oklahoman, Mads considers Portland a perfect fit for an all-gender waxing salon. For one thing, Oregon Health Plan’s extensive coverage of transgender medical care has led to a growing population of genderqueer people in the region. For another, the city boasts a strong body-positive community, from fat yoga classes to shops like Fat Fancy and wellness coaches like Lacy Davis and Health Club. And then there’s Portland’s progressiveness in general: “I am constantly impressed by the open-mindedness of people in Portland,” Mads says. “Even people who are straight and upper class and white are at least listening. I can say the word genderqueer or non-binary and people will be like, ‘Oh, how interesting; tell me more!” instead of like, ‘You’re going to hell.”

Of course, even if you fit a more mainstream demographic, you’re welcome to give Babe Wax a try. “Once you center people who are typically marginalized and never marketed to, it’s really interesting to see who else that speaks to,” Mads reflects. “So many people struggle with beauty image and body things. I feel like I can safely say that almost everybody does.” So whether you’re struggling with shame and dysphoria or would simply prefer a little less hair, Babe Wax might be a great fit.  

Babe Wax

833 SE Main St. #309
By appointment only

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