The month of June is Pride Month. For some, this is a month to fly a rainbow flag and have parties but to most, it is so much more. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognise the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally. We interview Felix Lane, one of the directors at Open Barbers, to find out more about this amazing barbershop which is open to everyone - all genders, sexualities and hair types.
"It takes no compromise to give people their rights...it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression" - Harvey Milk.
It began with the Stonewall Riots, also called the Stonewall Uprising, which began in June 1969 when New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club. In the early hours of the 28 June police entered the bar and harassed those inside. They arrested 13 people, including those who they considered to be violating the state’s gender-appropriate clothing law.
Due to the constant harassment by police, the LGBT people outside the bar became increasingly agitated. This led to an uprising of hundreds of people. The protests, involving thousands of people, continued in the area for five more days. Many of those who instigated and took a vital role within the uprising were transgender people particularly transgender women of colour. Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are two trans women who have been identified as playing a key role in the uprising and subsequent protests that followed.
"This world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another" - Elliot page.
At Denman we love and support the LGBTQ+ community. To highlight and advocate Pride Month, we interviewed Felix Lane, one of the directors at Open Barbers, alongside Greygory Vass and Toddy Peters. Open Barbers was founded in 2011 by Greygory (with another stylist called Klara Vanova, who went on to found Barberette) who wanted to create more positive hairdressing experiences for queer and trans people in particular. Both Greygory and Felix are trans and have had difficult times accessing gender affirming haircuts in the past, and many others in their community have too. Their salon is open to everyone, all genders and sexualities, and they cut and colour all hair types. Their hope is that anyone can feel welcomed and affirmed in their space, and that anyone can afford to access their services, because they have a sliding scale, pay-what-you-can pricing policy. They try not to make any assumptions about what someone might want for their hair, and their services are client led and collaborative.
We asked Felix a few questions…
How important is equality to you and how do you think we could best achieve this?
Inequality is inherent to capitalism and patriarchy. We need to dismantle these institutions if we are ever going to get close to true equality. We live in one of the richest countries in the world and yet there are thousands of people living in the UK in abject poverty. The UK claims to be progressive and open minded, but trans people can’t use a public bathroom without facing hate and have to wait years to access gender affirming healthcare. For queer and trans people, equality could look like us being able to live our lives in happiness and peace, with our healthcare needs being met, and our relationships being respected. We certainly don’t have this at the moment, in fact transphobic hate crimes increased in the last 2 years. Equality needs to come from the bottom up, not the top down. If we work to include the most marginalised, everyone will benefit.
We love your policy of paying what you can. Could you explain a little more about this and how it can work?
We have always had a sliding scale pricing policy, and we have consistently found that clients are as generous as they can possibly be. People can pay what they can afford from £2 upwards for their cuts, though no-one is turned away for lack of funds. For our colour services and our longer Afro textured hair services, such as braids, cornrows, or twists, we still have a sliding scale, but the range of the scale is adjusted in line with the service duration and material / product cost. Those who can pay more always do, and they help subsidise those who can only afford to pay at the lower end of the scale. This redistribution of resources ensures that everyone can come to Open Barbers. I don’t think that just because someone has more money that they should receive a better service, everyone deserves a haircut and everyone deserves to feel special and taken care of at the salon, no matter how much they can pay.
What does the future of hair salons look like to you in an ideal world?
In the dream future, Open Barbers would no longer be needed, because everyone would be able to access affordable, respectful, and affirming hair services! Salons wouldn’t price clients out or charge women more than men. Salons would actively seek consent and not push clients to do things they don’t want. Salon staff would be treated with respect and not made to work ridiculous hours for bad pay and conditions, as we know from team experiences to be the case in some other salons. The culture of competition, and over-focus on looking ‘perfect' would no longer exist, and salon spaces would be about kindness and care, not getting a good picture for social media.
With Pride coming up do you have any specific ways you are planning on celebrating?
Pride is a protest, and there is still so much work to be done to make queer and trans lives more livable. We resist the corporate takeover of pride; big organisations putting a rainbow logo on their brand is so often just virtue signalling or an empty gesture, and it’s not enough. We would ask organisations what they are actually doing beyond that to support and uplift LGBTQ+ people, and challenge systematic homophobia and transphobia? We want and need an end to the vitriolic attacks on trans people, especially trans women, that are happening across the UK, both in government and the press. We celebrate all our clients, especially those who are most marginalised, those who do incredible activism to challenge the capitalist hetero patriarchy, and those who are caring for others in our communities. Those are the real heroes of Pride, not a bank or supermarket making their logo rainbow for a month and then forgetting all about us.
Some charities you could support are:
Gendered Intelligence - www.genderedintelligence.co.uk (supporting trans youth)
Mermaids - www.mermaidsuk.org.uk (supporting trans youth)
Bent Bars - www.bentbarsproject.org (letter writing project for LGBTQ+ prisoners)
Outside Project - https://lgbtiqoutside.org
LGSM - Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants - http://www.lgsmigrants.com
We Exist - https://www.weexist.co.uk
AKT - https://www.akt.org.uk
Tonic Housing - https://www.tonichousing.org.uk
LGBTQ+ Community Centre - https://londonlgbtqcentre.org
We love your safe space policy actions and believe they should be implemented throughout everyday life. Could you explain these in a summary and how we can respect others fully?
Safer spaces policies are a great way to keep thinking about access and inclusion, and about how people might interact within the space and with one another. They are ever evolving, not a static or finished document. They work best when they are created in collaboration with the team and service users. Our policy is about how we want everyone to treat each other in the salon, what we value, and the ways in which we try and make Open Barbers a good place to be for as many people as possible, while prioritising access for those most marginalised. One of the most important parts of our policy is not to make assumptions about anyone’s gender or sexuality, because you can never know how someone identifies just by looking at them. You can see the full policy on our website at openbarbers.com.
And finally which Denman brushes do you love and use most?
If Open Barbers like the Original Styler then they will love our limited- edition, web exclusive D3 ‘Love Wins’ brush because “Hate may win some battles, but love wins in the end”.