Are you a black gay man who’s ever felt uncomfortable in a black barbershop? I’ll share my experience with a black barber near me and other barbershop experiences.
The barbershop is a cultural place in the black community. It is a safe haven for many black heterosexual men where they can chill and be themselves. But for many homosexual men, the black barbershop has been a frightening experience. Fortunately, I’ve been able to find a black barbershop near me where I feel comfortable.
Why the black barbershop is so significant
Black men are used to dealing with prejudice. Many times we go to offices, bars, restaurants, and other spaces where we are stared at simply because of our skin color and/or race. There are very few spaces where we can go and feel accepted. However, the black barbershop is a safe have for many black men. It’s a place where they have been able to freely express themselves without feeling judged or discriminated.
Despite the black barbershop being a safe haven for straight black men that’s not been the case for many black gay men.
My barbershop experience
I’ve had some interesting experiences in the barbershop. I started going to the barbershop when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My father would take me and it was an ok experience. I don’t remember too much. It wasn’t till I got older that I had more fresh memories of my barbershop experience.
When I became a teenager I started going to the barbershop on my own. During these teenage years, I had a better recollection of what went on in the black barbershop. I’ve been to a black barber near me and black barbershops all over the city. And on multiple occasions, I’ve felt uncomfortable because of my sexuality. I was still in the closet and felt a lot of shame and guilt about being gay. The reason I felt this way was because in the black community being gay has been viewed as disgusting and weird. This homophobic view was constantly expressed in the black barbershop. I would hear customers and even barbers talking about bad men being on DL and condemning same-sex relationships.
I did go to one barbershop where I did feel slightly comfortable. But there was one time where I got really irritated to the point I kind of wanted to slap someone. I regularly went to a local barbershop in my neighborhood. Some of the barbers made subliminal comments about gay men but the remarks were never too explicit. One day though one person in the shop actually referred to a man as a “faggot”. And this person was actually the owner of the barbershop! As I heard this remark I stood in the barber chair. After getting the cut I pulled my regular barber to the side and confronted him about the homophobic remark. The barber apologized. I accepted. The shocker was that the person who made the statement was the owner of the shop. Furthermore, the owner’s brother was gay. I stopped going to the shop for a few months. I went to another barber and found out that he wasn’t really fond of homosexuality. Bummer!
So I went back to my previous barber. He apologized for the incident that took place when I was last there. The barbershop felt more welcoming and inclusive with new ownership. I asked my barber what happened to the previous owner and he stated that he lost the shop.
Homophobia in the black barbershop
I love my black culture. Blacks have built a unique sense of identity mainly through the struggle with racism we faced throughout history. Despite our struggles, we’ve accomplished a lot. We created so many inventions that we’re not credited for. We are highly influential in fashion, sports, music, entertainment, and other industries. Even though we have so many accomplishments we still face many obstacles. Some of our obstacles are hypermasculinity and homophobia.
Hypermascunlity is imposed on my black men by their families and within their environments. if you’re a man that dresses a certain way or looks feminine you are not considered masculine. I’ve heard stories of men being shunned in the barbershop for appearing to be gay. I myself being in black barbershops where homophobic remarks have been made.
Today, homophobia in the black barbershop is not as apparent as it used to be. Homosexuality is much more acceptable than it has ever been. I’m open with my sexuality at the barbershop I regularly go to. However, overall it’s still not a complete safe haven. I know of gay men that have to adjust their appearance or “act straight” in order to fit in when they are at the barbershop. This is a problem rampant throughout the black community all over the world.
Black gay LGBT barbershops
Camera Ready Kutz
Camera Ready Kutz is an LGBTQ-owned barbershop in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. The shop is small but gives it a very intimate vibe. I’ve been to large barbershops and sometimes felt like I was just another customer on an assembly line. At Kutz you won’t feel that way. What I like most about Kutz is that it is a black-owned barbershop that caters to black LGBTQ people. This makes it a complete safe haven since many black gay men, especially the older generation, have often observed hyper-masculinity at the black barbershop. You’ll find old, young, gay, and even heterosexual persons at the shop. If you live in Bedstuy or nearby you definitely should come by.
Enkel’s is another black queer barbershop in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. The owner opened that shop as a safe space for LGBTQ persons. In an interview he stated that
As a black gay man I strive to find places where I can feel safe and accepted. I really don’t enjoy going to gay bars and gay clubs as I used to. As a mature gay man I prefer to socialize in spaces where you can actually build genuine connections with other gay men. Hopefully, all black barbershops will be spaces that allow that.