Hair is a form of self-expression. The same could be said for the piercings we choose. So, when we go to a salon we’d like to be supported in our choices.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, especially for people from LGBTQIA+ and diverse communities. In the United States, hair-care company Pantene surveyed 300 people identifying as LGBTQIA+ and found that 93% of them had been misgendered when visiting a salon or barber. Two thirds of them said their hair is an important part of how they chose to express themselves, but 58% said they had experienced stigma and judgment from others about their overall appearance.
In Australia, the good news is that an increasing number of salons are taking action to create inclusive, safer spaces. We spoke to Square sellers who are leading the way.
At our salon it’s long hair, short hair, who cares – you’ll pay for the style of the cut, not whether you’re a man, woman or non-binary person. This goes through to our beauty services too – everything on our list is available to everyone.”Tania and Andrew Martin → Owners, Bellarena Hair & Beauty
Bellarena Hair and Beauty is an Adelaide salon, run by Tania and Andrew Martin, that has created a gender-free service list.
“Style is already diverse for cis-gendered people but when we consider transgender and non-binary people, the archaic and outdated gendered services need to go! In addition to that, places that have ‘Men’s Cuts’ and ‘Ladies’ Cuts’ don’t technically offer services to non-binary people because they don’t fit the mould,” the couple say.
“When we were developing the service list in Square Appointments, we asked the question, ‘What’s the difference between a man getting a short-back-and-sides or a woman getting a short-back-and-sides?’ And – other than the $15 price difference between the comparable men’s and ladies’ cuts – nothing! There went gender.”
It’s a position that’s increasingly being endorsed by industry leaders. The CEO of the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Association, Sandra Campitelli, recently told the ABC, “We have advised the industry that you can’t base your pricing on the client’s gender, it has to be on the time and the skill it takes to do a particular cut, style or service.”
Similarly, the Dresscode Project, an international alliance of inclusive salons whose motto is “Hair has no gender”, suggests salons structure their pricing by length, time or the type of service. (The Pantene statistics quoted above are the result of a partnership between the two organisations.)
Like the gender-free approach to hair, piercing is meant to be about celebrating your body, your way. Body Pleasure Piercing has been in business since 1986 and now has two Victorian stores, one in St Kilda and one in Geelong. Its owners, Geoff and Rhonda Polley, have tried to be inclusive from the get-go.
“We deliberately made our shops user-friendly and made sure to project a completely non-judgemental policy. We designed our colour scheme, our set up, our staffing to be accepting of all people who wanted a piercing. From the mum with the infant to the 80-year-old wanting an ear piercing, and anyone and everyone in between. That includes having wheelchair-accessible shops.”
“Due to our original policies of being user-friendly and non-judgemental it would be hypocritical to not encompass all people who want piercing, regardless of age, culture, gender or sexual identity.”
Back at Bellarena, Tania and Andrew believe that education and advocacy are important pieces of the puzzle.
Without talking about gender-free service lists, people who are seeking a safe, non-discriminatory salon where they are not going to be judged for the services they choose would not be able to find us. By incorporating this into our services, brand and marketing, and in other ways, we are actively and sometimes quite subtly challenging the way people think, their beliefs and the general community acceptance of all people,”Tania and Andrew Martin → Owners, Bellarena Hair & Beauty
“We are slowly getting more known and have partnered with My Lover Cindi, a queer, inclusive and accessible nightclub here on Kaurna land. They’ve been promoting safe spaces in amazing ways and have been more than happy to cross-market.” they say.
For Rhonda and Geoff at Body Pleasure Piercing, equality is simply a guiding principle.
“I don’t know that we actually highlight this as a marketing point. We have in the past put up rainbow stickers and advertised that we are accepting but, overall, I think it is just our policy to accept all clients as equal and provide the best service we can to anyone who enters our studios,” Rhonda says.
“We have a large number of LGBTQIA+ clients and find that they tell their friends, and this helps our business grow. Word of mouth is powerful advertising!”