When Charli Bonham opened Acute Salon — Fort Worth, Texas’s first gender-neutral hair salon — they did so as both an activist and a hairstylist.
This work is nuanced, Bonham balancing their values and providing resources for community members, while knowing it can be difficult to do so within systems that make it unsafe to be queer.
“Acute Salon strives to create a safer space while recognizing that a 100% safe space is not necessarily possible in a capitalist, patriarchal, white supremacist society,” Bonham told Good Good Good.
“We are committed to helping folks to express themselves through their hair regardless of gender identity… to cultivate an environment that is devotedly intolerant of racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, and bigotry.”
It’s a breath of fresh air in Texas, a state that amplified its anti-trans sentiments — and policies — in the state legislature this year.
Since 2018, Acute has developed multiple opportunities for guests to get free or discounted haircuts.
Whether Acute hosts gender-affirming haircut events for the trans community, offers easy-to-access coupons for free LGBTQ+ youth haircuts, or even embraces the support of LGBTQ+ hair care lines, like Barb, which sponsors gender-affirming haircuts, the salon snips inaccessible personal care in the bud.
“Salons can be an intimidating place for folks in marginalized communities,” Bonham shared with Good Good Good. “Beauty and wellness in media is often coded white, thin, able-bodied, and hyper-feminine.”
“We have found that even outside of the queer community, folks struggle to find a safer space when dealing with issues like alopecia, trichotillomania, or sensory issues. We strive to do what we can to help facilitate a safer space, create community, and simply provide quality services that everyone needs.”
Apprenticeships also include training in mindful consultations and gender-neutral barbering, and all stylists at Acute have lists of local LGBTQ-affirming organizations, therapists, doctors, and more, to provide guests and their loved ones with resources for additional support.
“Positive representation has proven to be helpful in increasing self-esteem for people of marginalized groups,” Bonham said. “And there isn’t anyone who doesn’t want to feel a self-esteem boost after getting their hair done.”
A version of this article was originally published in The 2023 Pride Edition of the Goodnewspaper.
Get your own Goodnewspaper by becoming a good news subscriber today.