Strands for Trans

Stop Bad Hair And Uglier Legislation

Story by Karen Giberson
Photo by Andrew Egan
Nominated for a 2024 GLAAD Media Award

In 2016, Rose Trevis walked into Hawleywood Barber Shop in Long Beach, CA and asked for a haircut. Trevis, a transgender man, was turned away by the shop, who cited a long history of not serving women. Humiliated and frustrated, Trevis along with high-powered attorney Gloria Allred filed suit against the shop alleging discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity. While the case was settled, it ignited a conversation that caught the attention of Xavier Cruz and JP Gomez, co-owners of New York City’s Barba Grooming Boutique.

“Haircuts are historically gendered: Salons for women. Barbershops for men. This leaves the trans community feeling uncomfortable, unwelcome, and unsure,” Cruz and Gomez explained. “The simple act of getting a haircut should not be discriminating.”

Gomez, a creative director at the ad agency Terri and Sandy, engaged his team for assistance and in 2017 established the branding that launched Strands for Trans, a digital registry of trans-affirming shops around the globe. The movement encourages hair, beauty, and wellness, industries to establish a welcoming environment with menus that offer pricing for short, medium, and long hair rather than traditional gender specific offerings.

Shortly after the launch of Strands for Trans, iconic fashion designer Marc Jacobs went to Barba to color his hair inspired by the trans flag and posted the video on his Instagram. That video rapidly accelerated the message and soon thousands of providers were signing up, posting the pink, white, and blue barber pole stickers provided by Strands for Trans in their windows indicating their business was a safe and affirming space.

Today, Strands for Trans has over 7,800 shops in 28 countries listed on their digital registry. Last year alone, they added 4,000 new members as the wave of anti-trans politics became a leading topic of political discourse. The time for safe spaces has never been more important. The Pew Research Center notes that while only 1.6% of adults in the United States identify as transgender or nonbinary, that population is four times more likely to be the victims of violence.

In March, Strands for Trans became an official not-for-profit and added a board of directors. The group has planned to host regular zoom education and feedback sessions to train stylists, barbers, and technicians to recognize signs of crisis and provide resources for those in need. Their future goal is to partner with beauty schools to integrate the messaging into existing curriculum. In 2023, Strands for Trans was recognized as one of Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas in the small business category.