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The 'Strands for Trans' Initiative Aims to End Discrimination in Hair Salons and Barber Shops

Even Marc Jacobs is on board.
Photo: Courtesy of Strands for Trans

Photo: Courtesy of Strands for Trans

"Hair is hair, people are people. All it is is a damn haircut," says Sandy Greenberg, co-executive director of creative ad agency Terri & Sandy and co-organizer of Strands for Trans. The initiative, which launched on Monday in conjunction with Pride Month (which, it's worth remembering, the Trump White House refused to officially acknowledge), aims to end discrimination against members of the trans community in hair salons and barbershops and create a safe, welcoming and trans-friendly environment at these establishments.

"I've been deeply moved by recent news stories of trans discrimination and I decided it was time to do something about it," said Xavier Cruz, co-organizer of Strands for Trans and the owner of Barba men's grooming boutique in New York City, via a statement. "What's so amazing about 'Strands for Trans' is it shows trans men and women that lots of people support them, whether they're a he, she or ze."

Going for a haircut, color or general styling session can be somewhat of an intimate and apprehensive situation for anyone, but for a member of the trans community, the visit can be fraught with far more uncertainty, starting with the potential for open discrimination by salon staff. Greenberg has heard heart-wrenching, first-hand stories of people being harassed and thrown out of establishments by the people running and working in them. 

Trans clients may also end up on the receiving end of micro-aggressions from possibly well-meaning, but otherwise thoughtless staff who ask intrusive questions or experience stares and comments from other customers. Because hairstyles are particularly tied to gender constructs, there's the potential that a discriminatory stylist or barber might resist breaking from constructed gender norms and refuse to give the haircut a client seeks. And that's to say nothing of the outdated, rigid assumptions that salons and barber shops are inherently gendered: salons are for women and barbershops are for men. So it's an understatement to say Strands for Trans (much like society, when it comes to matters surrounding the trans community) has its work cut out for it.

Photo: Courtesy of Strands for Trans

Photo: Courtesy of Strands for Trans

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Strands for Trans asks salons and barbershops in New York and around the country to pledge to create trans-friendly spaces, end discrimination and let members of the community know they're in support. Via the Strands for Trans website, establishments can sign on and request a pink, blue and white barber-pole sticker to post on their doors to designate a trans-friendly space. A downloadable barber-pole gif is immediately available for businesses to post on their social media feeds. Individuals are encouraged to speak to their hairstylists about participating and to use the hashtag #strandsfortrans to help spread the word. The Stand for Trans website will also feature an interactive map showing participating salons around the country. 

Even before Monday's official launch, around 10 salons and barbershops in cities around the country, including Miami, Los Angeles, Austin, Chicago and Philadelphia, had signed on via word-of-mouth. Plus, the initiative has already attracted a major big name to help spread the word.

"Marc Jacobs came in on Sunday and got his hair colored, which was awesome," Greenberg says. "Hopefully this is going to take off!" The designer, who knows Cruz socially, also filmed a video in support of the campaign and serves as an unofficial spokesmodel for the complimentary pink, white and blue hair coloring that Barba is offering for free on Wednesday, June 21 and Thursday, June 22 — just in time for the NYC Pride March on Sunday, June 25. (Call (212) 675-2010 for an appointment, if you're in the area.) 

"It's a serious issue, and we're trying to combat this level of discrimination, but we're kind of having some fun with it, too," says Greenberg of the festive streaks and spreading enthusiasm on social media.

"When we [started the campaign], I thought it was just a cool thing to do to raise awareness to the issue around Gay Pride, but now I'm no longer thinking like that," says Greenberg. "Now I'm hoping this is just the mere kickoff, and we need to get it going around the country."

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