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Community Spotlight: Yuri

Feb 15, 2024

Community spotlight feature: Yuri

Finnegan Shepard

Building a business as a queer person, social dysphoria versus physical dysphoria, and much more!

Every month, we feature a community member at Both&. We talk about their relationship to gender identity, presentation, clothing, and much more. Since the founding of Both&, we have centered story and narrative as a core part of what we do. Why? Because stories are how we as humans navigate the world and make sense of ourselves and others. Unfortunately, we live at a time when main stream media is fixated on ‘the trans story’ but for the most part is telling it in a singular and ultimately negative way. To push back on that, we are committed to creating a safe space where the diversity of our experiences as gender queer people can be expressed, shared freely, and hopefully be a source of comfort and inspiration to others.

This month, our founder Finn sat down to talk with Yuri Langese, an avid Both& community member and the owner of a queer salon in Maryland. (You can follow Yuri and book appointments through their IG @coolhairboi). Below, we have written out some of the highlights of the interview. If you would like to watch the full interview, it is available on Youtube, here. Make sure to support us by liking and subscribing to our channel on Youtube, and if you would like to nominate someone to be a community feature, leave a comment on the video!

Without further ado, here’s the conversation.



Finnegan: How do you define gender joy?

Yuri: Gender joy for me is in the little things. Gender joy is in the act of shaving, even though the outside world doesn’t see the facial hair. Gender joy is in my closet, seeing an array of clothing in different aesthetics and styles and being able to wear whatever I want in this body. Gender joy is having people close to me use different pronouns all the time because they know my gender is more than just one thing. Gender joy is posing in the mirror in my underwear and feeling hot instead of insecure. And most importantly, gender joy is finally feeling secure and comfortable with who I am instead of feeling confused and shameful about it.

...gender joy is finally feeling secure and comfortable with who I am instead of feeling confused and shameful about it.

Finnegan: I love that. Tell me about your background. Where did you grow up, what was your childhood like, what did you want to be when you grew up, etc.

Yuri: I have always lived in Maryland. My family is quite conservative and religious and not super supportive of my journey. I was always big into art growing up. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I grew up, I just knew that I had a huge passion for helping people. I grew up in the church. I have a complicated relationship to the church, but in the sense of helping people, it was actually really great. I got to do a lot of mission trips. It was kind of the space where I realized my passion for helping people.

Finn: What do you do now?

Yuri: I run a hair salon specifically for LGBTQIA+ and neurodivergent folks, as well as allies. Hair is such an important facet of the gender journey. Like, I think of the primary big steps in a gender journey as this: first, start shopping in the men’s section. Then you get your first fade up masc haircut. (Laughs). It’s important to have a safe space to explore your gender identity, and hair’s a big part of that. I personally never had a salon that provided that for me, so it’s basically that queer entrepreneur model of ‘the space I want doesn’t exist, I have to create it’ kind of thing.

Yuri at their salon with a client

Finn: What have been your biggest challenges on your gender journey?

Yuri: The biggest challenge early on was that gender was so confusing—I didn’t have social dysphoria. I never felt uncomfortable in women’s spaces. I had discomfort in my body. But I think I thought that if I didn’t have social dysphoria then I couldn’t be ‘trans’. Realizing that what I was feeling was dysphoria and that I am trans/nonbinary was a big shift. It was a challenge to confront those feelings.

Realizing that what I was feeling was dysphoria and that I am trans/nonbinary was a big shift. It was a challenge to confront those feelings.

Finn: I find that super interesting. I don’t think I realized it until you articulated it like that, but I’m the same. I’ve always been really comfortable–even enjoyed–being a part of all-women spaces.

Yuri: Yeah, it’s something that we need to talk about more. I’m actually happy we are discussing it on this, because I’ve been meaning to do a post about it on socials. It wasn’t something I saw representation around when I was struggling with it.

Finn: What has been one of the best surprises on your gender journey?

Yuri: I think that I like being on testosterone and it feels like my body was built for it. I have a very masculine body type, and so people often assume that that I’m nonbinary and just like to dress femme. I always knew I wanted some kind of breast surgery, whether that was reduction or mastectomy. But T was something I was terrified of. I realized once I got on T that the more the changes occurred it was super exciting and affirming. The things I was afraid of was really just conditioning, and like, every trans person I know was afraid to get on T. I also assumed I would do it for awhile and then go off it, but at this point I don’t think I will. I think of T like medicine.

Finn: What does your day to day life look like right now?

Yuri: Chaos. Trying to get some semblance of order in day to day life. In my actual off time I love to play video games and watch anime. I’m trying to balance work life better. I used to do a lot of music and singing and physical art and crocheting. When you start a business it’s pretty all consuming.

Finn: If you had to describe what it feels like to be you in a color, shape and texture, what would it be?

Yuri: Mint. Circle with wavy wiggles all around. Tough on the outside, inside is really soft. Maybe the texture is a truffle.

Finn: What did I miss?

Yuri: In our lives, as trans and neurodivergent people, we are told that the way that we are doesn’t work with society and we need to change/conform. We live in a world that’s not created for us. We have to make spaces. Now I’m using a neurodivergent approach as a super power. The things that were most levelled against me as to why I couldn’t succeed are now what I specifically use to succeed, to build my own world. I grew up crying in a room, with christian parents who were not supportive. I need to remind myself about how far I’ve come, and the fact that objectively speaking, I have accomplished every goal I set out to do. I own my business, I own a home, I live in a place I never thought would be possible. I work with people that I love to work with. I literally I have to stop sometimes and think about this gorgeous home full of things I love and the fact that I put myself here. I’ve done this just through determination.

Yuri taking a photo of themselves through a mirror with a camera