FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Hair salons and barbershops are typically advertised to one gender or the other. But what does that mean for members of the LGTBQ+ community? In light of recent laws aimed at marginalizing members of the LGBTQ+ community, hair stylists and activists in Maryland are working to create a safe and open space for members of the queer community.
In light of bills like the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill, some hair salons in Frederick say gender or orientation shouldn’t matter when you sit down for a haircut, including the owner of New York New York Hair Salon, Mary Louise Riser.
“We’re just here for everybody and whatever it is you want to be [it’s] nothing that’s a surprise for us as hairdressers,” Riser, a hairstylist of over 30 years, explained. “Helping people out to learn how to style like a woman, to learn how to style like a man, it doesn’t matter to us. We want you to be happy. We want you to feel good about yourself.”
Riser also partnered with The Frederick Center to provide a hair and makeup tutorial night for kids and teens at the New York New York Hair Salon. Around 20 kids were given tips on how to style their hair, which products best fit their hair type, as well as makeup tips like how to prep skin for foundation and what products would best fit their skin.
Anne Warnock, manager and owner of Sam Wong Salon, is shocked that more salons aren’t as accepting of LGBTQ+ clients.
“I think we’re going backward inequality and acceptance and it’s completely wrong,” Warnock said. “So it’s important for us to stand up and be loud. To be proud of all of our clients no matter what.
Glorie Cassutto, the Support Programs Coordinator at the Frederick Center, identifies as non-binary and says hair cuts can be a daunting and sometimes negative experience for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
“If a trans person has not yet started to physically transition, and they go in and they’re misgendered right off the bat because their appearance doesn’t necessarily match what we believe a woman or a man should look like,” Cassutto explained. “That assumption is made and it’s a negative experience, and that can be very harmful.”
The Frederick Center says LGBTQ+ issues and legislation are harmful to all members of the queer community, not just ones where the legislation originates from. Executive Director Kris Fair explains the Don’t Say Gay Bill and legislations that ban trans-affirming services in Texas are a few examples of the hurtful and harmful legislation for members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially kids and teens.
“The kids don’t know what that means in their local communities. Does this impact me will this one day impact me essentially, are they coming for me?” Fair explained. “That creates a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress, and it does not do anything to lower the temperature in these conversations. It simply makes it more stressful and more dangerous for LGBTQ people.”
Cassutto also has this message for stylists so they can make their salon chairs open to all. She says the simple question of asking people their names and pronouns is a step in the right direction to making any client, especially members of the trans and LGTBQ community, feel welcome and respected. She says that while that conversation may look different with every client and stylist, it will create a dialogue and a safe space for the interaction.
“So having those open conversations, being willing to listen and to trust that that individual knows what they want to do with their own body and their hair and how they want to look and trusting that and following that absolutely is important,” Cassutto said.
The Frederick Center also provides training sessions for businesses and community members to create more affirming and welcoming spaces for trans people and members of the LGBTQ+ community.