Transgender Man Sues Barbershop for Turning Him Away. Could He Win?


Barbershops with no-women-allowed policies — and which discriminate against transgender clients — are in violation of California state law. (Photo: Getty Images)

A transgender man is suing a California barbershop for denying him a haircut, and his case represents the second instance of alleged gender discrimination by a barber just this month.

“I felt humiliated, discriminated against, and frowned upon,” Rose Trevis, who identifies as male, said in a statement issued Tuesday through his attorney, the feminist champion Gloria Allred. “I was dumbfounded and appalled that this type of behavior continues to exist and hope that we can bring an end to this absurd type of discrimination.”

Related: Man Undresses in Women’s Locker Room in Apparent Protest of Transgender Inclusion Policy

Allred announced at a press conference on Tuesday that Trevis was filing a civil-rights lawsuit against Hawleywood’s Barber Shop, in Long Beach, for discrimination based both on gender and on perceived gender identity.


Lawyer Gloria Allred, left, with her client Rose Trevis at a press conference on Tuesday. (Photo: NBC 4 Los Angeles)

According to the lawsuit and Allred’s statement, Trevis was walking with his domestic partner when he impulsively decided to get a haircut at Hawleywood’s. The barber allegedly stated that they didn’t serve anyone without an appointment and when Trevis asked for one was told, “We don’t cut women’s hair.” Trevis responded, “Who said I’m a woman?” and was met with, “Like I said, we don’t cut women’s hair.” Trevis then noted that such discrimination was illegal and was allegedly told by another barber “We don’t care” and that it was “an old-school barbershop.”

Related: The Complex Relationship Between Transgender Women and Makeup

It’s a philosophy that Hawleywood’s appears to be proud of, as it features the following description on its website: “Remember waaay back when in the good ol’ days when you could go down to the local barber shop, get a straight razor shave, a nice tight haircut and enjoy the relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of a real men’s sanctuary? Well guess what? It’s back and it’s called Donnie Hawleywood’s Traditional Barber shop!” It continues: “One thing you won’t see at Hawleywood’s is women. You all know how distracting a woman can be and who wants a straight razor shave with a buxom blonde in the joint? So leave yer ol’ lady at home because you might need to talk about her. And besides, no one ever looks cool in the middle of a haircut.”


Inside the “real men’s sanctuary” of Hawleywood’s. (Photo: Courtesy of Hawleywood’s)

The attorney for the barbershop, Bryan Kazarian, forwarded a statement to Yahoo Beauty, which denies the allegations. “We are informed and believe that a customer entered our establishment and requested an appointment for a haircut on a ‘walk-in’ basis. … An appointment was scheduled for a time the next business day. Hawleywood’s is not aware of any discrimination that has been alleged to have taken place. Moreover, Hawleywood’s takes accusations of any law violations very seriously and will continue to investigate the facts and circumstances that surround this alleged incident.”

The case is reminiscent of one from earlier this month, when U.S. Army Sgt. Kendall Oliver, who is also transgender, announced he was suing The Barbershop in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., after being denied a haircut. Owner Richard Hernandez, who is religious, reportedly told Oliver he did not cut women’s hair, later telling the Guardian, “We’re definitely not targeting the LGBT movement. We simply don’t cut women’s hair. It’s a traditional men’s barbershop. To cut a woman’s hair would be a violation. God teaches a very clear distinction between the genders.”

Policies like Hernandez’s and Hawleywood’s, however, are also brazen violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly outlaws businesses from discriminating based on sex as well as gender identity. Examples of no-no’s given in the description of the law include “establishing a ‘women only’ or ‘men only’ business establishment that would otherwise be completely open to the public” and cover businesses including bars, theaters, retail shops, hotels, hospitals, and “barber shops and beauty salons.” The law is the basis of Trevis’s lawsuit, which seeks a court order against Hawleywood’s discriminatory policy, as well as damages in an amount to be determined.

There’s no doubt in either case, though, that the discrimination is two-pronged. “For one thing, the California civil rights law prohibits businesses from discriminating based on sex — there’s no question at all that keeping women out of barbershops is against the law — so that’s one half of this,” Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center in Oakland, tells Yahoo Beauty. “And in [Trevis’s] case, the plaintiff is a man, a transgender man, and the law also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and says an individual must be treated in accordance with their gender identity.”

While it’s impossible to know whether or not a feminine woman wanting her head shaved would’ve been rebuffed from Hawleywood’s in the same way that Trevis says he was, “It’s quite likely that this discrimination was based on a particular bias against transgender people,” Turner says. “Because unfortunately, there’s still a lot of bias and misunderstanding about transgender people.”

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