By D’Anne Witkowski
Hair is a very charged and political thing. It has been since, well, forever.
For example, a colleague of mine once called the mullet “the hair cut of the oppressed,” pointing out that it was a style most commonly worn by Native Americans, lesbians, and lower socioeconomic whites. It helped me to understand why mullets are so easily ridiculed and the joke suddenly became much less funny.
Then there’s the fact that men traditionally go to barber shops, and women go to salons. Because men have short hair and women have long hair, right? Well, no, but hair and gender identity are closely linked and American men and women are expected to stay within the “normal” range. Men can have as much body hair as they please, their hairy legs and armpits a sign of virility and strength, while back hair is often frowned upon. And pretty much all of the hair on a woman’s body is considered gross and should be removed via razor or hot wax at regular intervals so that her body may remain as hairless and smooth as toddler.
But if you think about it logically, our “rules” about hair don’t make any sense. They are silly and even harmful, especially since we don’t live in a world where each and every person has a gender identity that neatly fits into cultural expectations of “male” or “female.”
Which brings me to Kendall Oliver of California who identifies as genderqueer and keeps their hair closely cropped as is their right. It’s their hair after all. Oliver sued when they were denied a haircut at a barbershop because the owner told Oliver, “We don’t cut any type of women’s hair.”
Keep in mind, it’s not like Oliver was asking for a perm or something. What Oliver wanted was totally within the barber’s experience and abilities.
Except the owner doesn’t cut women’s hair because it says in the Bible that a woman should have long hair. Thankfully California law says discrimination is wrong, even if you claim God is telling you to do it, and so the barbershop lost the case.
Which led professional homophobe Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth about Homosexuality to declare this “yet another example of what I’m calling LGBTyranny—ridiculous even by ‘gay’ standards.”
LaBarbera claims that anyone identifying as “genderqueer” should totally expect to be discriminated against and should basically shut up and like it.
“For goodness’ sake,” he writes, “if you identify yourself as genderqueer, you should expect a little pushback, right?”
LaBarbera then goes on a rant against “genderqueers” as if it is the craziest and most dangerous thing he’s ever heard of then adds, “These LGBTQueer lawsuits make a mockery of real civil rights, and America a laughingstock around the world.”
Ah, so Oliver’s civil rights aren’t “real” because Oliver doesn’t look the way LaBarbera would prefer a woman to look.
Referring to a picture of Oliver that LaBarbera posted on his website he writes, “By the way, look at the photo: there’s a beautiful woman under all that faux masculinity.”
Nope. Nope. Nope. Get out with that sexist bullshit. Oliver’s gender is not for LaBarbera or anyone besides Oliver to decide, nor is their beauty up for LaBarbera to define. LaBarbera’s opinion doesn’t matter in the slightest, thank you very much, because it’s none of his fucking business.
By the way, look at LaBarbera’s photo. Perhaps under that combover is a man with some compassion for fellow humans, but I’ve yet to see any. Hey, the combover, in all it’s maligned glory, is his right, after all, but if you identify as a anti-gay bigot, you should expect a little pushback, right?
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.