Some people don’t give their haircut much thought. They go into a barber, tell them what style they want, and relax while getting a cut and style. In essence, they take the simple service for granted.

For others though, hair is an identity-affirming characteristic. For some members of the LGBTQ community, getting the cut and style they want isn’t always an option. Not all barbershops are open and willing to serve members of the community. For example, you might run into a barber that won’t give a “men’s cut” to a transgender man.

Hopefully, that won’t always be the norm.

For now, however, there are nearly 15,000 barbers in the U.S. and likely plenty near you who are willing to give you the style you deserve. So, how can you find those barbers? More importantly, why should you?

The Importance of Inclusive Barbershops

If you find yourself shrugging and not seeing the big deal behind stylists that won’t cut everyone’s hair, consider how you would feel if it was a different service or industry. In 2014, a bakery in Indiana came under fire for refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. The story made national news. Even though the shop eventually closed, it was an example of the disconnect and prejudice some businesses and their owners still have against the LGBTQ community.

Whether you’re straight or gay, if you’ve ever been turned away from any type of service because of your identity, you know how deeply that can hurt. When it comes to barbershops, this refusal of service can be heart-wrenching.

Cutting hair is an intimate practice, and many barbershops realize this. As a result, many barbershops can help to strengthen the community and the people in it.

If someone can’t have the haircut to affirm their identity or self-expression, they may struggle with their self-image and perception. We live in a “selfie culture” where social media rules the world. If a person doesn’t feel like themselves in their skin (or hair), they can feel disconnected from that culture. For a member of the LGBTQ community, that’s often already an issue.

A self-actualizing haircut can help someone to feel stronger in their identity, potentially reducing the effects of anxiety, trauma, and social comparison.

A haircut may seem simple, but it’s much bigger than that. It can keep people whole.

Bridging the Gendered Gap

One of the biggest problems you can face in finding an LGBTQ-friendly barber is tradition. In the south, you know how important tradition can be, even when it’s outdated and wrong.

For years, stereotypes have been built around the hair-cutting industry. Men go to barbershops. Women go to beauty shops.

For someone who identifies as queer, something as simple as finding someone to cut their hair can be overwhelming because of these traditions. You might fear rejection, judgment, or hostility because you “don’t belong” in a certain place.

No matter how you identify, one of the best things you can do is not to give in to the titles and expectations that go along with barbershops and beauty shops. Instead, look for businesses that call themselves salons or personal stylists. You should look for a barber with:

  • Natural talent
  • Confidence
  • A clean space
  • Patience
  • Flexibility
  • People skills

When you want a great hairstyle, it’s less about the building and more about the person. Don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you find someone you’re comfortable with and someone who understands your style.

Look for Allies

For someone in the LGBTQ community, when you have a hard time finding someone to cut your hair, it’s easy to feel down and dejected. But, have hope. Nashville’s LGBTQ business community has been growing for years.

Because of that, it’s easier than you might think to find a hairstylist willing to give you the look you deserve.

One of the best things you can do is simply to ask around. Where do your friends get their hair cut? Word-of-mouth advertising is a goldmine for businesses, but it also helps customers and clients know what to expect before going somewhere.

You can also do your research online to find LGBTQ-friendly stylists near you. Look for businesses that:

  • Provide a safe space
  • Celebrate diversity
  • Have gender-neutral bathrooms
  • Know how to be inclusive
  • Advertise themselves as allies

Sites like Yelp have made it easier than ever to find these businesses. The app features a business attribute and rainbow map pins that make LGBTQ-friendly businesses stand out so you can save them and support them.

A haircut might not seem like much on the surface. But, it’s part of who you are, and can tell a lot about you. Finding a barber that supports inclusivity and is happy to style your hair isn’t only important for you, personally – it’s important for the entire LGBTQ community.

Andrew Van Dorsselaer


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