Looking back throughout my childhood it’s clear I was rocking a non-binary look long before I understood what I was doing or why.
In primary school I had a short bowl haircut that I remember slicking back with gel for the year six disco – completing the look with a denim button up shirt and a pair of light up shades.
In my teens it was a short pixie cut, leading to various experimental styles, colours and crops, culminating in a full buzz cut at 18.
Throughout this identity journey, I visited hairdressers just a handful of times. For me, they were places of limitation, misunderstandings and disappointments – and the stress involved with visiting them, only to then ‘alter’ the cut myself once I got home, became something I simply couldn’t endure anymore.
Having adhd and ocd also means that I’m partial to the odd meltdown – triggered by anything from overstimulation (too much noise, too many people), anxiety (stressing about appointment times, what to expect or how to get there) and, of course, the inevitable ‘wrong’ haircut nuclear meltdown!
Suffice to say I’m what many traditional salons might describe as a ‘difficult’ customer. However, a few positive moments do stand out amongst the void of decent hairdressing experiences.
There was the time I first got my hair cut almost as short as I wanted, when I was around 6, and someone at school said ‘wow you look like a boy’. I can still feel that same emotion when I remember that moment. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I recognise it now as both gender euphoria and pride.
Then there was the pixie cut, age 13, at a little place near Brentwood Station where my cool older sister had gotten hers cut a month before. I left there feeling 10 feet tall – and again – I felt pride.
There was also my recent trip to BeBop hairdressers in London where I had my first professional haircut in a long time. I was nervous! But once again, as I left the salon in Hornsey Street last week, I felt absolute euphoria and pride!
Getting a haircut and colour should be one of life’s great joys – a moment of calm and care where you are taken care of, listened to, seen and respected.
The experience should culminate a sense of identity affirmation and gender euphoria – rather than scurrying home to have a Dysphoria based meltdown and start hacking at your fringe with the kitchen scissors.
Unfortunately, our socio political system is saturated in binary gender concepts that have seeped into every facet of mainstream society – with high street salons and barbers naturally becoming some of the front runners in binary enforcements.
I don’t remember who cut my hair when I was six – it might even have been my mum – but looking back at that pixie cut aged 13 I realise the person cutting my hair was definitely gender non conforming, which is probably why they gave me the cut that I wanted. It was very short and most hairdressers wouldn’t have dared to do that to a ‘girl’ – especially somewhere like Brentwood in Essex.
Sadly they moved away, and after a series of failed attempts to replicate that experience (and that haircut) at other salons, I turned to Argos clippers, bleach sachets and at-home hair dyes.
The idea of visiting salons became redundant and DIY hair became a staple in my aesthetic and lifestyle. Living in Artist warehouses I didn’t stand out too much with my badly buzzed Chelsea cut – but I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that maybe, sometimes, I deserve something better. Maybe we all do!
As non binary, gender fluid or gender queer peeps it can be easy to resign yourself to homemade hair and most of us are a pretty creative bunch with an ever growing set of queer based life skills!
But with more queer, non binary and gender fluid hairdressers leading the way in a new wave of salons, barbers and scissor shacks – why deny ourselves the experience of being cared for, professionally pampered, and showing our hair some real love.
But where to begin? How to find a place that you can trust? And what to say once you get there after so long a time spent cutting your curls in the bathroom mirror?
Fortunately, LGBTQ Wellness is building a directory of queer friendly, queer owned, and generally queertastic, hairdressers to suit every budget, style, neurodivergence and need!
And as a certified difficult customer – non binary nuisance – serially dissatisfied neurodivergent – I have bravely stepped up to put a few of them to the test and explore these unchartered waters.
Firstly – there’s the issue of what cut to decide on! Personally I’ve always found inspiration from my trusty idol Tank Girl (whom I believe to be more of a tank person FYI). However, if you’re struggling to find your vibe, then you do have options!
Social media hashtags like #nonbinaryhair #genderfluidhair and #genderqueerhair can give real inspiration, as can searching hashtags for specific tried and tested ‘queercuts’ like #mullett #undercut or #chelseacut.
But then there’s the issue of which salon to choose!
Doing some searches on google like ‘queer hairdressers near me’ or ‘queer friendly salons in my area’ will bring up quite a few results – but don’t be afraid to reach out to friends for recommendations too.
Look the salons up on social media and visit their websites to see what they’ve done before and read about their stylists. Take your time, consider your budget and access needs, and take a look at some reviews. Once you have an idea of what you like and where you want to go, you can book a consultation in person or on the phone.
Remember – a consultation doesn’t have to mean a haircut! If you feel like they aren’t going to give you what you want, feel free to look elsewhere!
Be sure to mention your pronouns and to express any needs you might have such as physical access needs, mental or physical disabilities, or whatever you feel is important. You can then use the consultation to not only talk hair, but to see how well they meet and respect your requirements.
It’s a good idea to also discuss what level of change you want to make. Drastic changes are exciting and it’s easy to get swept up in euphoria and then later experience overwhelm – particularly at the reality of living with this change day to day.
Remember that you can make changes gradually and incrementally and that this can be a great way to experiment with how you present and what makes you feel comfortable.
A good hairdresser will be invested in this journey with you and excited to help you explore your identity – so if you’re really ready to go all out then just let them know how they can help!
silk-line pockets. What haircut could we do that captures the essence of that please?
Ask about what hairstyles are achievable with your specific hair type, what products you might need to style the cut, what will suit your skin tone and face shape, and how often you’ll need to come back for a maintenance trim.
Most of all, remember to be true to yourself and maintain your boundaries. For me the scariest part of a salon experience is the impending sense of doom that happens as I sit paralysed by circumstance whilst something terrible manifests atop my head before my very eyes. A good consultation, suitable environment and regular check-ins throughout the haircut can all work wonders in making sure you stay in control.
Now go get that hairstyle you’ve been dreaming of and we’ll see you out there living your best life soon!
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