The Gender Neutral Hair Salon Changing The Hair Game
It's something many of us might never have to think about.
While most of Australia is catching up to the fact that gender is fluid and trans and non-binary people exist, there's one place where gender is still a male-female construct -- and no, it's not the bathroom.
It's actually your hairdresser, a place most of us go to feel good about ourselves. Take a look at a salon price list, and the first thing you'll see is a gender-divided price list.
One hairdresser in Melbourne is working to change that. RespeKt your HAiR in Windsor is a gender-neutral, "human friendly" (and animal-friendly) hairdresser specialising in pop art colours.
Run by partners in business and in life, Julia Stevens and Angela Poignée, RespeKt your HAiR also provides a safe space for trans and gender diverse people to explore how their hair can support their expression of identity.
It's earned the couple a nomination for the ANZ Excellence in Small Business at the GLOBE Community Awards, Victoria's largest LBGTI awards evening.
"When I started out hairdressing, 20 years ago, the pricing structures were $40 more for a ladies haircut than a man's, and it's not fair. It killed me," Stevens told ten daily.
Once she and Poignée opened their own salon, almost a decade ago now, the pricing structures were one of the first things out the window.
"We went and changed the booking system," said Stevens. "We just took gender out of it."
Choosing to dress and appear as your true gender is one of the earlier stages of transitioning, and for clients who come in to see Stevens during that process, she's more than happy to help them find -- for want of a better phrase -- their 'new look'.
"We use the word 'butch', we use the word 'feminine', there's no discrimination of words here. We talk about whatever makes them feel comfortable."
Fifteen years ago, before she was able to open her own salon, Stevens had one client who would go to a barber to get her hair clipped, before visiting Stevens to have it coloured.
"It killed me," she said, that her client had to visit a different hairdresser to have the more masculine haircut she wanted. That's no longer the case -- and the client is still a regular.
For Poignée, who runs the business side of things, the salon is her "happy place".
"I know first hand how it feels to be singled out and still today find myself in environments in which I am not comfortable," she said.
"To have a space where everyone gets treated equally is my perfect world."
As they say, the reviews speak for themselves, and Stevens and Poignée have clearly made a mark on their customers.
"I have nothing bad to say. Nothing," reads one five-star review. "The team are amazing, you feel welcomed and part of the family from the second you walk in the door."
Another five-star review reads: "One of the joys in life is to walk into any business premises and find happy, contented people working there, and the atmosphere is a place you like being in. It tends to say a lot about the place."
The Globe Awards, which recognises the amazing work across Victoria's LGBTI community, will be announced at a gala next Friday, but for Stevens, the dream is more than that.
"I want everyone to not care about gender, and just make the person feel comfortable," she said.
"It shouldn't matter what's underneath the cape."
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