I belong to multiple private groups for parents of trans or LGBTQIA children. We help each other and listen to each other. Often we give one another recommendations and resources. In the last week I have seen the same topic come up more than once in different spaces. Where do I take my kid to get a haircut that is safe? Their child’s safety was threatened getting a haircut? Yes it was.
Parents and our children are often interviewed in the local and national news speaking about restrooms and locker rooms and medication. These little and every day matters escape notice, but they affect our kids. Done right, establishments offer life. Done poorly, they threaten life.
I spoke with one of the parents who asked about the hair cut issue. She asked to remain anonymous but told me this much. Her husband took their transgender son to the barber her husband went to up until now. The barber took it upon himself to express some of his thoughts about transgender people and their rights. He essentially called this young man a girl a dressing up as a boy. The young man left that space triggered, dysphoric, and deeply hurt.
I’ve a friend who is about my age. She is a transgender woman. Sometimes my partner and I will meet her for karaoke. One night I got into a conversation with her about how hard it was for her to find a karaoke bar. The biggest issue was her safety.
I had asked her about that. What she told me was alarming. If patrons are allowed to talk about you and what a “freak” you are in the bar, there is a greater likelihood someone or multiple people will threaten you in the parking lot. Sometimes they attempt more than mere threats. This always happens in a bar where patrons are allowed to speak ill of you. They are encouraged by the fact there is an trans antagonistic DJ or bartender. Either one of those people whispers about you, the threat to your safety goes up as people are emboldened by alcohol. She has never once had a safety issue in a space where the DJ and bartender are not only supportive, but let other patrons know that negative statements abut someone’s gender identity are not welcome.
These are just two examples of everyday things cisgender straight white male people like me do without thinking twice that can emotionally or physically harm someone who is LGBTQIA. A barber, a bartender and a dj can be the gatekeeper of the difference between safety and danger. Who else? What other every day things do many people do that are not safe for my son and people like my singing friend?My son has yet to fly without being singled out by TSA. Going to a gym could go horribly wrong. Adult transgender people have told me the horror stories when dating got dangerous. If you are a transgender woman, a women’s event can become dangerous if there is a trans exclusionary feminist presence (also known as TERFs. These are people who have doxxed and physically assaulted or had violence threatened against trans women). Changing rooms. Bars. Hookah Lounge. Going to a church.
Little things and events that I take for granted are like tap dancing in a minefield for many LGTBQIA+ people. What is the biggest difference between life and death? What is the biggest element that will not only help people feel safe but also be safe? Staff that not only does not express anti trans sentiments, but asks patrons not to do so either.
How is a parent of a trans child or a trans adult supposed to know which space is safe and which is not? Sometimes it is trial and error. If you have no friends that have been to that barber, sung at that bar, or gone to that gym, you often have to either ask or roll the dice. Having to call a mini golf course/arcade to ensure it is a safe space to take your kid is a bazaar experience. I’m glad I did. There was one time a mini golf course wasn’t safe.
To ask staff to not speak ill of people based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and many other things is not about being the tone police out to restrict first amendment rights. It is a matter of life and death. Haircuts and karaoke should not be dangerous.
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