11.3.17 Dorchester, UK, 1am
After a brilliant historical tour from a host named Joy, things get a little odd. Anna and Luka wander into a hip-looking barbershop/cafe/clothing store trying to get haircuts. The hipster barbers say they can’t give her a haircut. They only give men’s haircuts. She wants a men’s haircut. They say she can go to the unisex barber, it’s almost the same. But she doesn’t want to go there, she loves the style of the haircuts they’re giving here. They say “sorry mate, men only.” Both she and Luka leave, feeling weird. They meet a small group of us at a nearby Thai restaurant and tell us what happened.
Immediately we ask questions. Why? What’s wrong with them? What was their tone? What is their deal? People think Anna is male all the time. I’m not convinced she’s not. Would they have given her a haircut if she wore a baggier sweater? Or put on a deeper voice? She and Adam got haircuts at the men’s barber in Harrogate. Would they have given her a haircut if Adam was there too? Did they not see that she already has a men’s haircut? What if she told them she didn’t identify as female? Did they not see that she is literally growing a beard?
The more we talk about it the sillier and more arbitrary their logic seems. I don’t get it. And also, it feels wrong. Who ARE these people? Why won’t they just accept money and give someone a haircut? I put on my coat, ask the name of the shop, apologize to Anna (because I know she won’t want me to make a big deal out of it), and walk out.
My heart starts beating fast as I walk down to the shop. I am thinking about what I might say, or ask, or how I can explain what is wrong with them rejecting Anna in this manner. Jesse, who seems to be feeling similarly passionate about the matter catches up to me and we talk till we reach the shop.
Inside, I walk by the clothes and up to the counter where I’m greeted by a pleasant-looking hipster barber who says, in typical English fashion
No, I’m not alright. You just refused my friend a haircut and I want to understand why.
And this is how it begins. I listen to him, and two more hipster barbers, one of whom is the owner as they say things like “we’re an all male environment” and “we only give men’s haircuts” and “if you were asking for a haircut, we wouldn’t give you one.” They say they’re not bigots, and there’s a guy who dresses like a woman and they still cut his hair, and they let a person who is transitioning from female to male (who they refer to as “she”) get haircuts in the unisex shop.
We try to explain to them that if they knew the person for whom they just refused a haircut, they might think differently about immediately assuming that person was not comfortable or able to be accepted in an “all male environment.” We explore the murky boundaries of their logic. Where are they drawing the line? They don’t seem to know. Checking to make sure each client has a penis seems ridiculous to everyone, but if you really think about it, that’s essentially their perspective. Only, because this is just based on their assumptions about people who they’ve seen for approximately five seconds, what they’re really checking for is imaginary penises. They are saying “if I can imagine that you have a penis, I will accept your money and give you a haircut. ”
The owner loses patience. We are told to get out, or he’s calling the police. I tell him he should call the police. I hope he will. His voice gets very loud and he repeats his request for us to leave several times. We finish our points and walk out. The last thing we hear is “you can go fuck yourselves!” Jesse returns the sentiment.
And now it is quite late. And though many other things happened (for instance we had a lovely concert tonight, and a darn good time playing dress-up at the charity shop) all I can think of is this silly interaction. I just think, silly hipster barbers, why did all of this have to happen? Why didn’t you just give Anna a haircut? That was the right thing to do, the reasonable thing to do, the kind thing to do. And if you’re reading this now, which I’m sure you’re not, I hope you think about what happened today. I hope you challenge yourself a little bit and chill out about who you give haircuts to. Because it really didn’t have to be such a big deal.
note: changed some names to protect some identities