Barber Denies Service to Transgender Veteran, Citing Religious Beliefs

By Adam Polaski • March 16, 2016 • 5:57 pm

Last week when 24-year-old Kendall Oliver entered a barber shop in Rancho Cucomonga, California, all they were trying to do was get a haircut.

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Kendall, who is a transgender male and uses gender-neutral “they” pronouns, sat down next to another man and asked for a similar haircut. But the barbershop owner said no, explaining that he would not cut any woman’s hair because cutting a woman’s hair violates his religious beliefs.

The Washington Post reports

Other customers were watching the encounter, Oliver said, and Oliver left the store with cheeks burning from embarrassment. After thinking it over, Oliver decided to try again. “I called back to try to talk to him and explain that I identify more male than female. He said, ‘It doesn’t matter, ma’am. We don’t cut any type of women’s hair.’ ”

Kendall is a sergeant in the United States Army reserves, through which they served a tour in Afghanistan. They explained that being rejected from the barber shop was hurtful and embarrassing. Kendall told The Guardian

“It did hurt my feelings, and I don’t want anyone else to experience that. There is a separation of church and state. And if you have a public business, then everyone in the public should be entitled to access those services.”

Beyond the embarrassment prompted by the refusal, the barber shop’s action violates California’s broad non-discrimination laws that have been in effect since 2005. Fortunately, the California Civil Rights Act of 2005 protects from discrimination based on gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation – as well as race, national origin and many other classifications.

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The shop’s transgression is twofold. First, the owner denied Kendall their identity, outright refusing to respect their male identity and repeatedly calling Kendall a woman. And second, the owner decided to issue a blanket discrimination against not just women, but transgender men. This is clearly discriminatory based on state law – and it should not stand.

If Kendall lived in one of the 33 states without full protections for transgender individuals, however, the law would not be on their side: That’s because in 33 states, non-discrimination laws don’t fully protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In 31 states, in fact, transgender Americans have zero state-level non-discrimination protections.

That has to change – no one should be denied service because of who they are, whether it’s in a barbershop, in a restaurant, on public transportation, or in any kind of business. Freedom for All Americans stands with Kendall – and all LGBT people – in pushing for full protections for all.

Read more about why non-discrimination laws must include public accommodations, in our informational backgrounder here. 

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