Non-binary barber fights for change after being denied a haircut
A non-binary barber says he’s ready to tear up the rules of the hair industry after his own experiences of discrimination. Keri Blue is determined to change the way Manchester’s trans and non-binary community gets their hair cut.
About ten years ago they lived in Brighton and tried to get their hair cut at a local barber. Keri, who uses the pronouns they/them, asked a member of staff if they could bleach their skin and was refused service. Keri said the experience stays with them today.
“I will never get over being denied a haircut,” West London native Keri told MEN. “All I wanted was some skin discoloration – it’s something any man could have. They said they couldn’t cut a woman’s hair because it wasn’t not insured to do so. But in fact, being insured to cut women’s hair does not exist.
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Keri, who identified as a woman at the time, said the experience left them embarrassed and upset. They explain: “It made me feel like crap, to be honest.
“I was really upset and disgusted with the whole situation. Once you’ve put a dress on someone, why should they care what’s between your legs and why should they decipher how people cut your hair? »
Ten years after Keri’s experience, it’s unfortunately something many trans and non-binary people are still going through. Earlier this year, transgender man James was refused service at a hair salon in Bolton. James said the experience left him “ashamed of his body” after the hairdresser said they were “only qualified for men’s haircuts”.
“After what I went through, I never wanted anyone to have to go through that again,” Keri said. “I learned to be a hairdresser so people wouldn’t be denied a haircut.”
Keri is now a skilled barber in the North Quarter, specializing in everything from wet shaves to afro hair. While reconciling with his own identity. Keri has been cutting hair for just over four years now.
“My gender identity has been something I’ve struggled with all my life and it’s only recently that I’ve started to become more comfortable with it,” Keri said. “As I worked in various places, I was asking if the staff could use the pronouns just because I wanted to see how it felt.
“I remember one person saying ‘no, if you have boobs then you’re a girl’. They just wouldn’t respect my decision. I realized I couldn’t work in an industry that didn’t support trans and non-binary people.
With that in mind, Keri decided they should be the change they wanted to see. And that’s where Hair Has No Gender was born. Not only as a barber service for anyone – without fear of being mistreated or judged – it also serves as an opportunity to educate barber professionals on breaking down barriers of gender identity.
Hair Has No Gender operates on an hourly basis. Customers are charged for the time it takes to cut or style their hair based on what they request. They will also be consulted, advised and supported in a confidential, discreet and warm setting.
“If you just remove gender and do it by skill or time, then surely that’s easier and it makes everyone feel like they can get in somewhere and be accepted?” Keri asks. “It seems really obvious, but the genre is something that the industry has installed as normal.
“It is illegal in Finland to charge people based on their gender. We’re so behind when it comes to things like that. But the more we fight it, the more awareness there will be.
After discovering Keri’s business, Sam Marshall, the founder of The Beauty Guru at MediaCityUK, contacted them last year to invite them to attend a panel on the beauty and hair industry. Later, the pair came up with the idea of teaming up on something even bigger together.
“What Keri does for hair is what I try to do for the beauty world,” Sam explains. feel like there are very few spaces they can go where they feel safe.”
The Salford beautician, who is also a committee member of the British Beauty Council, said she knew there was an opportunity to create a trans awareness course that could be taught to beauty, hairdressing and of the hotel industry. Teaming up with Keri, she said, was a no-brainer.
Be Trans Aware courses are created with the support of national transgender charity Sparkle, with 10% going to the charity. “We want to go from the point where people start their beauty or hairdressing career in college all the way up to the directors who feel they know what they’re doing and don’t know much about it. “, added Sam.
“I’m not trans or non-binary, so I don’t have the lived experience that Keri has. But together we talk about pronoun use, representation, misgender — all the things that can really make or break that experience for someone.
“We received messages from people saying they had since welcomed trans clients and they were so happy to see that they were implementing these changes. We found that people don’t know what they don’t know. But it doesn’t just help them in their work, it helps them in their daily lives.
“It’s just about making sure people are treated equally and that anyone who comes into this space feels included and welcomed. That’s all it’s about – being kind humans.”
Sam and Keri, who are now a couple and live together in Manchester, said it was a much needed service at the moment.
“I have clients who come in under one name and leave another because they’re too scared to live their lives,” Keri says. “People will cry during their haircut because it’s one of the first times they feel heard and valued.
“That hour with me in the chair is the only time many of my clients feel they can live their authentic lives. We are in such a powerful position for people to feel empowered.
“The feeling of looking in the mirror and feeling in your head what you look like for the first time is something so overwhelming and euphoric – It’s something I can’t explain.
“Launching this helped my own journey. There was a time when I felt like I was truly the only non-binary person in the world. But it’s been like therapy for me as well as some clients.
And Keri says they want Hair Has No Gender to be something for anyone who thinks the traditional barbershop or salon experience isn’t for them. “I want anyone to come to me – I’d even accept dogs if I knew how to groom them,” laughs Keri.
“I know a lot of people don’t feel comfortable having their hair cut. There are cis, straight women who have been denied a haircut because they were told they were too pretty to have short hair or that they couldn’t bleach their skin. We live in a very binary world where things are either very masculine or very feminine and I think now is the time to make those changes.
“I’m not trying to eradicate what’s out there and it’s important that some people still have those options, but it’s just to keep in mind that there are others who may not fit- not be in this category and should also be welcome.
“Seeing people get denied a haircut breaks my heart for so many reasons and not just because I can relate to how it feels. I need anyone who is going through this to come see me because that would never happen with me. If it’s something that can make someone’s life easier – where they can feel comfortable having a haircut – then I’m going to do it.
“We educate each other on style and hair, why can’t we just educate each other on how to be decent human beings and how to accept each other? That’s old school and that getting boring now – it’s time for a change.”
You can follow Keri on Instagram, where you can find out about a haircut. You can also follow Hair Has No Gender and Be Trans Aware on Instagram.
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