Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

North Shore barber refuses to cut transgender person's hair

Lorren Grabarek wanted a short back and sides but was refused at a Birkenhead barber.  Photo / Supplied
Lorren Grabarek wanted a short back and sides but was refused at a Birkenhead barber. Photo / Supplied

"You're not actually a man", was the reason allegedly given to a transgender person by a North Shore barber who refused to cut their hair.

Lorren Grabarek was born female but identifies as neither male nor female - otherwise known as gender queer or non-binary, falling under the transgender umbrella and preferring the gender-neutral pronoun "they".

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Grabarek wanted a short back and sides ahead of their 22nd birthday and on Sunday went to The Corner Shop Barber in Birkenhead.

"The shop was empty when I arrived, there was a woman sitting down. She looked at me and I sat down next to her.

"She was wearing an apron ... I asked her if she worked there and she was like, 'I am, but I can't serve you'," Grabarek said.

Asked why not, the staffer allegedly said "because you're not actually a man, so I can't cut your hair".

Grabarek explained that they were getting a men's haircut, but said the staffer asked if Grabarek was female.

"I didn't want to sit there and explain gender queer and non-binary gender identities ... so I just walked out. I just didn't know what to do after that."

Grabarek said it was discouraging to be treated that way.

"I spend so much time trying to present myself in a way that will get me by with the least amount of comments and stares, and in a way that will give me confidence."

Grabarek said to be told that their presentation was not "good enough or real enough" was hurtful.

They said not conforming to a male or female gender, but rather being somewhere in between, was stressful enough without having trouble doing simple things.

"It takes a couple of days to work up the courage to go get a haircut."

Grabarek said they had since spoken to friends who had similar issues trying to get haircuts at different barber shops.

"It's bizarre. You're still cutting short hair."

Grabarek planned to make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

Grabarek eventually found a man -- Bob Singh, a barber in Birkenhead -- to provide the haircut.

"A living person is a living person, doesn't matter what you are -- gay, straight or whatever -- I'll cut anyone's hair," he said.

When queried about the incident, Corner Shop Barber owner Laurel Hall said, "We've never ever done women's hair, love".

She said she had worked on Sunday with another staff member, but did not remember Grabarek.

Ms Hall said the staff member was out of town and unable to comment.

If a woman wanted a male haircut, Ms Hall said she would do it, but went on to say "we have traded here for 80 years as a barber shop. Barbers. We employ barbers. It's not unisex."

University of Auckland Human Rights Law Centre director Rosslyn Noonan said without knowing the exact details of the incident it was hard for her to say whether there had been unlawful discrimination.

"Transgender people have every right to identify with what they believe is their rightful gender, and it's not for you or me to judge that."

- NZ Herald

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