Meet the Lifestyle Coach Helping Trans Women Form a New Life
Femininity expert Monica Prata has been instrumental in helping women with everything from goal setting to going out.
As people across the country leave their homes to celebrate pride month, one woman is going coast to coast to help trans women realize their true selves. Monica Prata has long been a femininity and lifestyle coach for those assigned as male at birth and transitioning to being women through skillfully executed guidance and training that ranges from general counseling and setting goals and intentions, to going out to a bar as their new selves or even being reintroduced to their family.
The genesis of this rather nuanced career stems from Prata's early days in the Chicago suburbs working as a stylist at her local Nordstrom. Here, men would routinely come through the store looking to buy something "for their girlfriend," though Prata was keen to see their real intent and offer a helping hand. Similarly, men might come to the makeup counter looking to buy something for someone else, and describe her complexion as similar to their own—another sign for Prata that there was a way she could help.
Unlike an analyst, who a client might see indefinitely over the course of years, Prata's work has an end goal in sight. From the time she starts working with a client, goals are set and a pathway to achieving them is drawn, creating a time when their sessions will inevitably end.
"It's really important to me that my clients understand that," says Prata. "Some of my clients have grown into us being friends, but the same way your analyst isn't going to go to dinner with you and just hang out, we outline goals really clearly and work to meet those goals. After that, there's an end point once that's reached."
Her goal-setting talks can involve everything from feeling comfortable in their skin to being in the sex and dating world as their true selves. "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." Just because the goal is met doesn't always mean that the relationship is concluded, though. For many of Prata's clients, it just leads to advancing the benchmarks to a more ambitious future. "Someone's goal might be 'I want to be OK with this for myself and buying clothes just to throw them away.' Others' might be to stop hiding, or to have an experience where they go out in public for the first time. Some have the goal of wanting to tell their girlfriend. Oftentimes, the goals get met and then we start adding new goals to go after."
As those initiatives progress, she's also tapped into a network of medical professionals to help give expert opinions and direction for aspects of transitioning that go beyond lifestyle choices: 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. The same way any adult develops a personal aesthetic on the mistakes of their past, (looking at you, polos over polos), coming out as a transgender person doesn't afford the decade or two of mistakes to learn from when getting dressed. Prata has developed relationships with retailers and clients alike on how to maintain looks that are ready for the office and Friday night dates.
The realest—and perhaps most practical—aspects of Prata's coaching come from bridging the comfort and acceptance she provides one-on-one back to society and family, in general. As her clients become more comfortable in the process, Prata also encourages nights out on the town or with loved ones as part of re-entering the world as their true selves. She's orchestrated reintroductions to girlfriends and families in a private setting all the way to going to see a Broadway show and getting experience walking in heels over cobblestone.
For her latest venture, the success of her private practice in New York City (fielding clients from around the world) has led to developing a pilot program on gender expression with health-care giant Kaiser Permanente. The program is still being built out, but will offer Prata's same services and means to a wider range of people, expanding care and possibilities to transgender people previously unable to seek such a service.
"I'm here to be an advocate and to help them through this process to become who they really are."
Photo: Michael Weber
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