Hair Styling

Enter this queer-friendly salon needing a haircut, leave with a new sense of self

For the initial time in 10 yrs, Kameron Hendricks sat in a salon chair to get a haircut. His hairstylist peppered him with concerns: What items did he use? Did he co-clean? How typically? Does he set his hair up?

He’d experienced hairstylists refuse to give him a brief haircut just before. And barbershops geared towards male haircuts make him unpleasant. But on a sweltering Thursday afternoon, Hendricks was ready to attempt yet again at Salon Benders in Very long Beach front, which is regarded for its gender-neutral and inclusive tactic.

The 25-12 months-outdated faculty university student is 50 percent Black, fifty percent Mexican, and was assigned woman at start. Despite the fact that long hair is expected of females in his relatives, he explained, he by no means related with the “feminine image.” He experienced all but given up on obtaining a stylist he could have confidence in to make him glimpse like the man or woman he desired to be, not who he was advised to be.

“Hair is vulnerability, hair is the way you are perceived,” Hendricks explained.

For the queer community, hair — with its gendered undertones — can be tough to navigate. When salons are for women of all ages and barbershops are for adult males, where by do you go to get a haircut? Queer consumers journey from significantly and broad to get new seems to be in a harmless place at Salon Benders.

Owner Jessie Santiago opened the salon in 2017 with her spouse, Cal Bigari. The salon rates by the hour instead than location selling prices by gender. Hairstylists are experienced not only in haircutting approaches but also in interaction and a trauma-informed technique to operating with LGBTQ consumers.

As Hendricks obtained his cut, a toy Aussie named Frieda, an employee’s provider puppy, scampered about to the doorway to greet consumers. A suncatcher at the entrance scattered rainbows on the ground. It felt like household.


Enter this queer-friendly salon needing a haircut, leave with a new sense of self

Jesse Santiago, 39, co-operator of Salon Benders, suggests she is “humbled and honored to supply a place to people today that have not had a place in advance of.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Instances)

A person with a beard and a baseball hat poses for a portrait.

Cal Bigari, 35, is a co-founder and co-operator of the salon. “In the world, we have constrained room and in this article we can lay our armor down,” he said. “A huge element of what we provide is freeing you from that gendered expression.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Moments)

The side of a person's head has shaved hair, long hair on top and a tattoo behind the ear

Kinuyo Fujikawa, 41, claims: “Hair telegraphs to people a little something about you before you interact. It is a shared practical experience and a connection.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Periods)

Hendricks arrived out as transgender to his immediate family on his birthday in 2021 and commenced transitioning this year.

“I was really enthusiastic and anxious to get a haircut since it would be the to start with adjust that everyone else would see,” Hendricks explained.

“And which is why we’re taking it sluggish,” said his hairstylist, Lizz Meador. With a pair of electric clippers, Meador gave him an undercut the audio buzzed via the quiet salon and prolonged ringlets blanketed the floor under. Switching to scissors, she trimmed and formed his Afro, checking in periodically to make certain Hendricks was Okay with the size.

When he was young, Hendricks experienced wanted to minimize his hair small, but his parents disagreed. When he later on tried using receiving it reduce by himself, he was turned absent by two salons. The stylists instructed him to go residence and imagine about it.

“I was so place off about the reality they did not hear to me,” Hendricks claimed. “[Like] they knew improved than me what to do with my very own hair.”

He stopped likely to salons following that.

But when he came out to his family members, they were comforting and supportive — and finally understood why he desired his hair short for so extended.

“And which is why I was like, ‘You know what, I’m freaking having a haircut,’” Hendricks mentioned.

Meador completed off the lower by massaging hair tonic into his scalp and functioning curling product by way of the strands, painstakingly shaping each and every curl with her fingers.

“I did not hope to be so emotionally invested,” Meador claimed about functioning at Salon Benders.

Just before he remaining, Hendricks produced his subsequent appointment.


A woman with short red hair sits on a pink velvet backdrop wearing white shoes, light brown pants and a striped shirt.

Amanda Black, 29, says that doing the job at the salon encourages her to be herself. At other salons, she suggests, remaining the only queer staff pushed her to conceal items of herself and her knowledge. “Hair was my protection blanket and now it is an extension of my expression. It’s queer signaling,” she claimed.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Moments)

A person with black-framed eyeglasses closes their eyes and smiles.

Karina Rayo, a supervisor at Salon Benders, said the salon “feels secure and inclusive.” For the 34-calendar year-aged, “Hair suggests strength and vulnerability.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Occasions)

A person gets their hair done at a salon.

Rachel Fishbough, remaining, is effective on Dr. Kasa Niesner’s hair. Niesner is a loyal client who flew in from Nashville to get their hair done at the salon.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

In one more corner of the salon, Kasa Niesner sat in a leopard-print salon gown as a hairstylist labored bleach through their strands.

Niesner experienced hopped off a airplane at LAX and headed straight to Long Seaside for their hair appointment. They desired to dye their shorter, black hair a blend of dazzling teal and indigo — mermaid colours.

The 38-year-outdated professional medical resident has homes in Tennessee, Arizona and Nevada, touring regularly, but always returns to Salon Benders for a haircut.

It is a location “where you truly feel risk-free close to many others,” Niesner claimed.

Niesner was born intersex and surgically selected male at a younger age. However they invested most of their youth presenting as male, they always determined as female and transitioned in 2016. As time went on, Niesner recognized they had been nonbinary.

They’ve tried using both equally salons and barbershops but have been usually misgendered and offered pixie cuts or under-shaves they didn’t want. Stylists built them unpleasant and didn’t inquire for consent in advance of touching their hair — something intensely emphasized at Salon Benders because of the trauma numerous queer men and women face.

Niesner also enjoys the “quiet service” selection with no the strain of banter that normally accompanies salon appointments.

“I just really don’t get my hair completed any where else,” they reported. “That’s just how particular this put is for me.”


A person's back is seen; they lift their hair to reveal a small shaved patch

A human being who questioned not to be identified in this picture said: “Hair … signifies getting what I see in my head and in the mirror.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Situations)

A person with glasses and short blond hair poses for a portrait

Finley “Fin” Frye, 25, grew to become a manager immediately after finding a genuine property as a client at Salon Benders. “The capacity to have an individual do my hair properly is a sport-changer to the way I feel about my gender. I have arrive a long way from just shaving my head. It’s a workforce work.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Moments)

For the entrepreneurs of Salon Benders, cultivating this distinctive place was a “healing journey” for them way too.

Santiago has slice hair due to the fact she was 17, but she virtually quit remaining a hairstylist altogether.

“It’s a very toxic industry as a total,” Santiago said. “It’s particularly poisonous and not super helpful to queer men and women and persons of color, which I am both of those of those people things.”

Just before assembly Santiago, Bigari had by no means had a haircut that produced him come to feel like himself. He hadn’t discovered about what goods to use with his brief hair or what to do with his beard. Like Hendricks, when he arrived out and begun his changeover, he wasn’t comfy in the “ultramasculine environment” of a barbershop.

But Santiago aided him determine his glance in an atmosphere in which he felt secure, an encounter the couple hopes to offer you consumers.

Salon Benders is about “people being euphoric in their bodies,” Santiago explained.

Santiago also emphasizes generating a healthful work ecosystem for her stylists soon after her have activities with burnout.

The 5 stylists they hire are paid hourly plus commission, obtain paid time off and cash for continuing training. It is unheard of in the hair market, and it is not a sustainable model, Santiago admits. Equally she and Bigari have other employment and don’t gain off the salon.

Bigari performs as a college liaison for the LGBTQ Middle Prolonged Seaside, giving youth and family members solutions and advocating for students. The salon typically has booths at community outreach activities, offering totally free scalp massages and boosting revenue to present discounted haircuts for shoppers who need to have it.


A person with a red shirt, black pants and sandals stands against a pink fabric background touching their head

Shelley Norfleet, 27, poses for a portrait just after a haircut. “Hair usually means a great deal as a mixed-race individual. My hair is my identifier. It’s my identity,” they explained. “Before I uncovered Salon Benders, I hadn’t slash my hair for 10 yrs.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Situations)

A woman with purple hair and glasses runs her fingers through her hair.

Adrie Silva, 39, touches her hair just after a haircut and coloring. She mentioned she likes to experience the wind on her scalp.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Moments)

A person with curly long hair looks up for a portrait against a pink background.

“Every working day we are building these massive impacts on men and women,” claimed Andrea Arriola-Pinto, 31, a stylist at Salon Benders. “Hair is outside of the size, it’s further than the development. It is the resourceful outlet that saved my daily life.”

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Soon after Hendricks left feeling additional like himself, a couple of buyers remained that Thursday afternoon. 1 of them was Adrie Silva, who came into her fourth appointment at Salon Benders wanting a big improve.

She was eyeing dusty purple, possibly some pastel pink hair dye — in stark contrast to her common head of dark hair.

At the mixing station, Andrea Arriola-Pinto swirled mild magentas, indigos and dim purples in 4 independent dishes like an artist mixing paint.

Silva, 39, is queer and a veteran. The Orange County resident earlier obtained a mullet — partially by accident — but preferred the way the stylists at Salon Benders fastened it up for her and has stuck with the glance ever due to the fact. This was her initial shade appointment, having said that.

“I’d fairly have it shaved off and not truly assume about it,” Silva claimed. “[But] if I have to have hair, I like to experiment with it.”

She gave Arriola-Pinto some images for inspiration but if not enable her just take the reins, even nevertheless she’s normally picky.

Five several hours of bleaching and dyeing later, Silva’s mullet “literally appears like purple quartz,” hairstylist Meador said as she walked by.

“Or an iridescent crystal,” Arriola-Pinto reported. She gave Silva a granola bar, a a great deal-desired snack following a lengthy hair appointment.

“There’s not a further salon which is quite like this,” Silva reported.

A person with rainbow glasses, elf ears and short hair poses for a portrait

Rachel Fishbough, 24, a stylist at Salon Benders, claimed it’s wonderful to get the job done somewhere so accepting. “Being in a position to appear how you come to feel is incredibly significant and even far more critical when you are queer,” they stated.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Instances)

A woman in a blue blouse smiles and looks skyward.

Adore White sells a tincture for all hair types at the salon. “Hair is reliable expression — getting genuine to the self and getting genuine,” she mentioned.

(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Situations)

Supplemental reporting by Dania Maxwell.

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