As people across the country leave their homes to celebrate Pride Month, a woman travels from coast to coast to help transgender women come true. Monique Prata has long been a femininity and lifestyle coach for those assigned as male at birth and transitioning to being female through skillfully executed counseling and training ranging from general counseling and setting goals and intentions, to go out to a bar as their new selves or even be reintroduced into their family.
The genesis of this rather nuanced career stems from Prata“S first days in the Chicago suburbs working as a stylist at his local Nordstrom. Here, men regularly came to the store to buy something “for their girlfriend”, although Prata wanted to see their true intention and offer a helping hand. Likewise, men might come to the makeup counter to buy something for someone else and describe her complexion as similar to theirs, another sign to Prata that she could help.
Unlike an analyst, whom a client can see indefinitely over the years, Prata’s work has an end goal in sight. From the moment she begins working with a client, goals are set and a path to them is mapped out, creating a time when their sessions will inevitably end.
“It’s really important to me that my clients understand this,” says Prata. “Some of my clients have become friends, but in the same way that your analyst is not going to have dinner with you and hang out with you, we set goals very clearly and work to achieve them. After that, there is an end point once it is reached. ”
Her discussions of goal setting can involve everything from feeling comfortable in your own skin to being in the world of sex and dating as a real self. “As a professional coach, you have conversations with people about sex and dating all the time,” she says. “It’s a healthy topic and something important for trans people to explore. It’s all about personal development and self-expression.” It is not always because the goal is reached that the relationship is concluded. For many Prata customers, this only pushes the benchmarks forward into a more ambitious future. “Someone’s goal might be ‘I want to be okay with this for myself and buy clothes just to throw them away.’ Others might be stopping hiding, or having an experience where they go out in public for the first time. Some have the goal of wanting to mean their girlfriend. Quite often the goals meet and we let’s start adding new goals to go after. ”
As these initiatives progress, she also draws on a network of healthcare professionals to help provide expert advice and guidance on aspects of the transition that go beyond fashion choices. life: taking estrogen supplements, medical needs, or potential surgery.
The next phase of her coaching goes to her roots of helping women shop and discover their own sense of style. In the same way that any adult develops a personal aesthetic on the mistakes of their past, (looking at you, polo shirts more than polo shirts), going out as a transgender person doesn’t allow yourself a decade or two of learning mistakes when dressing. Prata has developed relationships with retailers and clients on how to maintain looks ready for the office and Friday night dates.
The most real – and perhaps the most practical – aspects of Prata’s coaching come from bringing together the comfort and acceptance that it offers one-on-one to society and the family in general. As its clients become more comfortable with the process, Prata also encourages night outings around town or with loved ones as part of reintegration into the world. She has orchestrated reintroductions with girlfriends and families in a private setting, right up to going to a Broadway show and gaining experience walking with heels on cobblestones.
For her latest venture, the success of her private practice in New York (with clients around the world) led to the development of a pilot program on gender expression with health giant Kaiser Permanente. The program is still under development, but will offer the same services and facilities of Prata to a wider range of people, expanding care and opportunities for transgender people previously unable to seek such a service.
“I am here to be an advocate and to help them through this process to become who they really are.”