Trans Man Denied Haircut By “Religious Freedom” Citing Barber To Pursue Legal Action
Kendall Oliver, a US army sergeant and trans man is considering legal action against a barber in who refused to cut their hair. Why? Because the barber insists that he only cuts “men’s” hair due to his religious beliefs and that his shop doesn’t offer cuts to “women.”
In a phone interview with The Guardian, in which he repeatedly misgendered Oliver, Richard Hernandez, owner of The Barbershop in Rancho Cucamonga, California, says that Oliver did not identify themself as a trans man upon entering the shop. He says they are not “targeting the LGBT community,” but says that his business is “a traditional men’s barbershop” and “simply” doesn’t cut “women’s” hair.
Hernendez previously stated “I have religious convictions that prevent me from cutting women’s hair,” noting that “It’s a shame for a man to have long hair, but if a woman has long hair, it’s her glory and it speaks to being given to her as her covering, and I don’t want to be one who is taking away from her glory.”
This is, as you might imagine, a hornet’s nest of a discrimination lawsuit. First of all, being a public business and not a private club, The Barbershop is prohibited by California law from discriminating on the basis of gender or gender identity. As a cisgender woman, I have just as much a right to go in there and get a “high and tight” as a man does. Second of all, Kendall Oliver is not a woman in the first place, and so even if this were a legal form of discrimination, this rule would not apply to them.
Religious belief has been cited as a reason for discrimination for decades in the United States, from the days of segregation to the present day in which bakers, photographers and florists declare that providing services for same-sex weddings is a violation of their religious freedom.
While there is certainly room for a hair stylist to discourage certain looks, it’s one thing to say “Hey, you have curly hair, short bangs are not going to work for you” and another to refuse to cut hair a certain way or to cut a certain person’s hair due to your religious beliefs. Especially since, if you really were only cutting hair in a Biblical fashion, you would never cut the hair on the side of a man’s head, or cut a man’s hair at all if it were the source of his super strength.