A transgender male walked into a California barbershop earlier this month and was denied service after the shop’s owner said, “We simply don’t cut women’s hair.”
Kendall Oliver, a U.S. Army sergeant who identifies as a transgender man, said The Barbershop in Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California refused to cut the soldier’s hair on the grounds that Oliver was a female.
Oliver, who does not identify as female and uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they,” plans to take legal action against the business’ owner, Richard Hernandez.
Hernandez has spoken out after the incident, explaining his reasons for refusing his services. He said that Oliver did not make it clear to him that she identifies as a male.
“We’re definitely not targeting the LGBT movement,” Hernandez told the Guardian in a phone interview.
“We simply don’t cut women’s hair,” he said. “It’s a traditional men’s barbershop.”
Hernandez, a Christian, made it clear that in his mind, no discrimination took place. To him, Oliver is a woman who entered a business that exclusively serves men.
In his conversation with the Guardian, Hernandez repeatedly referred to Oliver as a “woman” and used the pronoun “she.”
Oliver said that the experience was painful and insulting to LGBT people, and others have deemed the denial of service a violation of California anti-discrimination laws.
“It did hurt my feelings, and I don’t want anyone else to experience that,” Oliver, 24, said. “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.”
“It’s not our intention to discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or gender of anything like that,” Hernandez told KCBS-TV. “The Bible teaches us that a woman’s hair is … her glory. I would not want to take away any glory from her.”
The American Civil Liberties Union told KCBS that they weren’t persuaded by Hernandez’s argument that his is a male business. According to the ACLU, the barbershop must follow the same rules as a diner or coffee shop. In California, it’s illegal for such businesses to discriminate based on gender, gender identity or gender expression.
Oliver told the Guardian that even with the legalization of gay marriage in the United States, the fight for LGBT people is not over, which is the reason for the lawsuit.
“If I have the opportunity to keep things advancing … I would like to try,” Oliver said.
But Hernandez is confident he acted within his constitutional rights.
“I value the Constitution we have in this country, and I hope it upholds for me as well as others,” he told KCBS.
Hernandez said he belongs to the Church of God, a branch of Protestant Christianity that believes the Bible mandates that women should have long hair.
“To cut a woman’s hair would be a violation,” he told the Guardian, adding, “God teaches a very clear distinction between the genders.
Front-page image via Shuttershock