Helping Our Kids Look The Way They Feel, One Haircut at a Time
I like my hair when it’s short, like my brothers.”
I look like a boy when my hair is short.”
I look like a girl when my hair is long.”
I don’t want to get a haircut.”
Why can’t I have hair like my Avatar?”
Sound familiar? Whether we have it, lost it, love it, hate it, change it or imagine it differently in our video games, hair is one of our most prominent features of self identity. Our hair can tell a story, reveal who we are, evoke emotion while simultaneously become a focal point of discomfort and anxiety particularly as it relates to gender expression and the pressures of following societal norms. We’ve been conditioned to associate long hair with girls, short hair with boys, but now gender identity has expanded beyond just the binary. So how do we navigate these shifts and support our kids to authentically express themselves?
I connected with Kristin Rankin (they/them), Founder of The Dresscode Project, a non-profit whose mission is to educate and empower hairdressers and barbers to help people look the way they feel, to get a better understanding of key terminology and best practices to help our kids have a positive hair experience.
3 Key Terms to Know:
Gender Identity: is the personal sense of one’s own gender. Gender identity can correlate with a person’s assigned sex or can differ from it.
Gender Expression is a term that means how someone expresses their gender to the world they live in. This can be achieved through clothing, make-up, accessories and hair.
Gender Affirmation is the process an individual goes through when they begin to live as their authentic gender, rather than that presumed at birth.
The most common stressors of having our hair cut or visiting a salon/barbershop are anxieties related to gender identity and expression. The fear of being misgendered, misunderstood, misrepresented is real and is often the culprit to avoiding salons/barbershops all together. This discomfort can also be perpetuated if the hairstylist doesn’t understand inclusion and gender affirming services. This is usually displayed by the misuse of pronouns and haircuts, styles and terminology that are not in alignment with one’s gender expression.
Another reason many Queer folks or those unsure of how they identify experience anxieties around their hair and salon/barbershop environments is largely due to the parameters traditionally implemented within these spaces including pricing and atmosphere. Many salons/barbershops continue to offer gendered pricing, providing a service menu that distinguishes between men’s and women’s services. A Queer person who identifies outside of the binary, may not know what haircut service to book and therefore experiences stress and anxiety…and that’s just the booking process! They haven’t even had the haircut yet!
The good news is salons/barbershops are evolving and organizations like The Dresscode Project are making it a priority to create Gender Affirming Safer Spaces in our industry. While no space can be 100% safe, because we are humans, a Gender Affirming Safer Space is an inclusive environment where all Queer folks can come get a hair service that makes them look the way they feel regardless of their gender identity.
Some Pro Tips to find a Gender Affirming Salon/Barbershop
- Check out their Instagram Profile and check for LGBTQ+ friendly language
- Check if the stylist lists their pronouns on their Instagram profile
- Look for a salon/barbershop that offers Gender Neutral Pricing, usually charging by length of time or length of hair
- Visit the salon’s website or socials to see if they partner with any LGBTQ+ organizations like Dresscode Project
- Ask or look to see if the salon offers a Gender Free Haircut Club
What’s a Gender Free Haircut Club?
A Gender Free Haircut Club is a safer space where Queer folks receive a haircut that affirms their gender and how they represent themselves. Hairstylists are given the tools and training to understand inclusive language, how to use pronouns and what to do if they accidentally misgender someone. Often times it is a transformative, powerful and emotional experience where one can truly be seen and see themselves for the first time…and guess what New Orleans Moms? Dresscode Project is bringing their Gender Free Haircut Club Day to New Orleans on June 25th from 12pm – 6pm and you’re invited!
In collaboration with Dresscode Project, The Left Brain Group and hairdressers from around the globe, we will be providing FREE Gender Affirming Haircuts and celebrating Queer culture during Pride 2023. Join us for free haircuts, live dj, drag performances, food and drink vendors, free LGBTQ+ community resources, product swag and more! The event will be held at The Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St. Come enjoy our safer space and let us help your kids look the way they feel.