The Barbershop Culture and The Homophobia that Lingers

The Barbershop, a place where haircuts, shaves and trims are given has been a staple part of American culture (well not just American). The Barbershop has also been a place where men have come to bond over their daily lives, discuss sports and their misogynistic views but most importantly get a great haircut to boost ones confidence.  Getting a haircut is always the highlight of my day and many guys know the scary feeling of cheating on your barber.

I’ve been slowing writing this post little by little over the past month, as I rarely touch on personal topics and was still a bit uncomfortable writing about it.
While doing my research on misogyny and homophobia in black and brown barbershops, I was surprised by how many people could relate. I recently ran across Derrick L. Middleton’s documentary, "Shape Up: Gay in the Black Barbershop". This documentary discussed how the barbershop culture, and the hyper masculine energy that is seen within barbershops and has made men in the gay community feel unsafe as well as uncomfortable.

I’ve always been intimidated going into a barbershop. The Barbershop is always filled with super masculine, macho men who don't always look, or dress like me. In the documentary, Shape up, Derrick recalls the time he was kicked out of the Barber's chair for wanting his specific hair cut in a certain way.  The Barber told him “ This ain’t no beauty salon, we don’t do none of that sissy shit in here!" 
This particular example instantly reminded me of the time I was 16 years old and while I was getting my haircut a "Mohawk" which I was rocking he at the time,  I overhead a kid about about 10 years old telling his mom that he wanted the same haircut like mine. His mother, with a disgusted look said , “ No, that’s a faggot hairstyle!”  While my barber interjected, and questioned her opinion about the "Mohawk" style the conversation made me feel awkward and very uncomfortable. While they were discussing the hairstyle, the mother's view on the hairstyle drew more attention towards me that left an uneasy feeling with in me, which caused me not go back to the Barbershop for a few weeks

I eventually met another barber through a friend. This Barber had her own private shop and only operated on appointments so I felt more comfortable going to the shop since I wasn't in a room full of people that I felt was judging me.
It's hard enough for people of color to be accepted by society. However it’s even harder to feel safe and comfortable in spaces created by our own, especially if you identify as gay/queer.
No one wants to feel uncomfortable in a space that should make you feel even greater when you leave.

As we can't control everyone's actions I do feel these businesses should create a space where everyone feels safe and comfortable especially the hard hardworking customers that continue to bring you business.

Check out the trailer to the Shape Up documentary.
Shape Up trailer


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