Haircuts have historically been gendered, with salons for women, barbershops for men, and a price difference between male and female cuts. But this can create a sense of discomfort and exclusion for customers who are Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and/or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, or who self-identify in other affirmative ways (2SLGTBIA+).
One local salon owner recently took that message to heart after seeing a Facebook post about Strands for Trans, an advocacy group that brings 2SLGTBIA+ people and allies together to create more trans-friendly barbershops and hair salons. She saw the post last week, during Pride month.
Shannon Zap, owner of Shannon’s Hair Studio in Yarker, said the post was a pivotal moment in her career.
Zap said she saw an individual posting online, “looking for trans-friendly businesses. At the time, I did welcome [transgender people] to my business. I let them know my business was inclusive, and I really felt like it was.”
“But as the week went on,” she explained, “I began questioning: what sets my business apart from other businesses that might not be inclusive? And… I realized that, other than my personal beliefs and values which aren’t visible through my business, there was really nothing… I realized my business (and unfortunately much of the beauty industry as a whole) wasn’t representing individuals that don’t identify as male or female.”
Zap says that, coming from the perspective of a cisgender female with a middle-class background, “I had never really faced the kind of adversity that would cause me to have to put a post out like that to see if a business would be accepting of me. And it really caused me to take pause… imagine walking into a business, and you’re not even on their price menu [because] gendered services are [presented as] an either/or situation.”
“So, as a business, rather than being inclusive like I thought I was, I was failing to create space for an entire community of people. And once I realized that, it had to change immediately,” she explained.
Zap realized, “It’s not enough to say ‘I don’t care what your gender is, I don’t care what your sexual preference is.‘ It isn’t enough anymore. When a group of people have been marginalized for so long by the industry that you work in, as a business owner, that’s a call to action.”
“We have to realize that we are the industry: it’s up to us to lead and inspire this generation and start representing everybody to create a much-needed change,” Zap stated. “It starts with us taking responsibility for getting it wrong for so long.”
“We need to do better, and I need to do better,” she insisted. “It simply isn’t good enough to say my business is inclusive. It’s not enough to be indifferent; we need to be allies and create space for everybody. I’ve decided to take actionable steps to make sure no one feels unwelcome or like they don’t belong at my studio.”
“Effective immediately,” Zap said, “My hair services will be gender-neutral. What does that mean? Instead of paying for a haircut based on gender, it will be based on your hair (makes more sense, right?). The time I need to book to create your look will determine the cost. I will be booking in 15-minute, 30-minute and 45min-to-one-hour increments. This may result in a price increase for some and a decrease for others, but many will stay the same.”
Zap expressed thanks to her salon guests “for supporting this necessary change and helping me continue to create a safe and kind salon culture that everyone can enjoy. All of you truly are the best!”
As a final message she said, “I would urge other business owners with a gender-based price structure just to think about making the change. It makes sense from a human standpoint, but it also makes sense from a business standpoint, because as a consumer, if I’m not on your price menu… I’m not inclined to take advantage of your services, either, because I feel like they’re not for me. So… we need to think about how we show up and invite people into our space if we really want to serve everybody.”
You can also learn more about becoming a better, more inclusive business by checking out Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CGLCC), a national not-for-profit organization advocating for change to make a more inclusive Canadian economy possible.