Barbershop Dudes Won't Clip My Hair, Since Apparently You Need A Penis For That (And Other Beauty/Body Injustices)

My hair is technically a men's haircut. At least, a haircut of men I see pass by me everyday: close clipped around the sides and back, with a burst of curls at the top.

May 6, 2013 at 2:00pm | Leave a comment

Born into a female body, I have always identified as female, if not feminine. And yeah, this has a lot to do with cultural background, educational upbringing, the “nurture” part of what they (they = SCIENCE, or whatever) call “nature vs. nurture." But even now, as an “adult” who has experimented enough with sex and gender and has had the privilege of knowing so many kinds of queer humans, I still identify as a woman.
 
That doesn't mean the world thinks I do, though.
 
I present rather confusingly to the universe at large, I've realized. I'm not a stranger to being called “sir” or “man”; at separate-gendered frisk-downs I'm yelled at to get into the men's lineup;  and when women's lines are just too f***ing long, I use the men's bathroom. Not to subvert social norms or anything -– I can just get away with it, based on a weird combination of height, weight, facial structure, and haircut.
 
Even when I'm in six-inch platforms or bright red lipstick, there's an assumption of masculinity about me. In Boystown, the most gay-friendly neighborhood in Chicago, drag queens and middle-aged-gay-men alike have asked me if I'm really a man. I'm not insulted. The first time it happened, it was a little disconcerting. Now, it's just my life.
 
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 ALIEN VS PREDATOR!!! Or femme vs. butch, I guess.

 
In a lot of instances, being a masculine-esque lesbian is my ticket into typical “men's club,” bro-style situations, be they the finance guys I used to intern for as a burgeoning business student (RIP, corporate finance!), the douchey dealers I score from, or just the dudes of all kinds at various bars.
 
I have what I think of as “androgynous privilege”: I can appear masculine – -whatever the HELL that means, that's a whole different discussion –- but if questioned, the little “F” stamp on my ID, not to mention my naked body, backs up my female identity. I've only once had a woman be startled by my appearance in the mirror over the sink in a public bathroom to the point that she uncomfortably left. I do get a few stares in women's bathrooms, but my face is “feminine” enough that if I confront the person head-on with a smile, they visibly relax. 
 
I pass -– both as myself, a woman, and as someone “masculine” enough for male-gendered spaces. So it always comes as a surprise to me when I'm faced with a “men's space” I'm not welcome in.
 
Let's start with hair.

When I was a 17-year-old in New York with a credit card my parents paid for, I got super expensive haircuts from an AMAZING stylist named Sai who I was loyal to at two downtown salons -– the extremely thorough and wildly queer-friendly Vidal Sassoon and the weirdest, chicest high-tech bubble of a salon space at Christiano Cora. She now styles at a place in Chelsea called De Berardinis, which I've never been to, but she's definitely worth her prices if you can afford it!

I can't. So now I get cheap haircuts -– barbershop haircuts.

 
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Sorry about all the Instagram photos. I don't take selfies, I guess, and I don't have the ubiquitous Facebook slew of photos because I deleted mine. Facebook is LAME!

 
You see, my hair is technically a men's haircut. At least, a haircut of men I see pass by me everyday: close clipped around the sides and back, with a fringe/burst? (give me a better word in the comments, people!) of curls at the top. I've had short hair for years, from an asymmetrical bob to a shaved head and a bunch in between.
 
At my current style, barbers and stylists use clippers set at various lengths depending on how I'm feeling (from a 2 to a 4) around the back and sides (leaving the top untouched), and I've had my neck shaved with a straight razor, all hot-towel shaving-cream-on-a-brush "Mad-Men"-style. It's unmistakably a haircut that could easily be seen on many male and male-presenting individuals. Which makes it –- in my, and Judith Butler's, opinion -– a men's haircut.
 
So I was pretttttyyy confused one day when I wandered into a nondescript barbershop lit up in my Chicago neighborhood. The shop was nearly empty, the barber –- presumably, owner -– on the phone. When he hung up and I inquired into the price of a haircut, he just looked at me and said: “No." 
 
That's it. 
 
Me: "Just a clip around the back and sides at a number three length, I don't touch the top right now so-" 
 
Him: “No.”
 
Me: “Seriously? Why?”
 
Him: “Only men's haircuts. Only men's"
 
He stared at me with a weird mix of bewilderment and hostility and so I just...left. Sorry, xoJane-ers, for being such a pussy! I mean, it was one haircut. It was one tiny barbershop on one tiny street in one neighborhood.
 
But it happened again. And again.
 
Now, don't get me wrong –- I've had great experiences with neighborhood barbers who make jokes about my gender presentation even as they're giving me an excellent 10-dollar cut. But barbershops still seem to be a men's club when it comes to cutting a dyke's hair. I guess you need a penis for that!
 
Another one of the weirdest male spaces I've been barred from are men's dressing rooms. See, there are certain body-centric areas where I respect the fact that my presence would be uncomfortable –- certainly Korean or Turkish baths and other kinds of spas where nudity is expected. But dressing rooms? Dude, they have stalls! I'm not going to mention what prominent store wouldn't let me try on some (MEN'S) clothes in the men's dressing room, mainly because I still buy clothes from them. They're cheap. I pick my battles.
 
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One of my battles being passing out on the floor in the lobby of the 36th street dorm of the ALL-WOMEN'S college I went to, despite how masculine I look in that blazer. Thanks for capturing this, whoever did.

 
Can we talk about other seemingly innocuous spaces that discriminate based on gender? I want to write a different post about the best of men's beauty products/fragrances, but let's just laugh about ALPHA NAIL now. (All caps are so MANLY, no?)
 
Does anyone else identify with the weird convergence of masculine and feminine physical qualities, or the lack of interest in thinking about gender just because of personal ambivalence? I absolutely cannot speak for trans individuals, but if you're cisgender, does it really make a difference to you if a stranger calls you “sir” or “ma'am”?