Alf Posen never felt comfortable going to salons. They charged too much for haircuts that never made him feel comfortable as a transgender man; stylists only knew how to snip locks in to shapes tailored to cisgender, heterosexual — or “cishet” — individuals.
“I remember having a stylist tell me that because I wanted my hair short, that I was going to look like a man, and that sent me into tears,” Posen said.
Posen felt pressured to act feminine growing up. When the hairstylist told him this about the haircut he wanted, it devastated him.
Posen, determined to change the all-too-common narrative for the LGBTQ community, has worked at Goldenrod Parlor, an inclusive salon offering gender-affirming haircuts at 220 NW 8th Ave., for about three months.
The 30-year-old hairstylist said the salon — which is offering free haircuts to the queer community through the Gender Free Haircut Club event on June 12 from noon to 4 p.m. and holding a weeklong fundraiser June 20-25 — is an anomaly, especially in Gainesville. It requires stylists to complete a course on asking clients for everything from pronouns to style preferences, even down to sideburns. This, Posen said, can easily affect how clients feel about themselves depending on if they’re cut in a more feminine or masculine way.
Sarah Kleeman opened the LGBTQ-friendly salon in November 2021 after a nonbinary client from her former suite at Sola Salon Studios noticed a lack of inclusive salons in Gainesville.
Goldenrod Parlor is not only a queer-safe space, but a safe space for all marginalized individuals, Kleeman said.
“In the beauty world, we tend to create spaces that are just for people that are in magazines and people you see on TV, and I think representation is really important,” she said.
Kleeman said her vision for the parlor was validated when a 14-year-old gender-nonconforming client visited. The child would not leave their house because they felt insecure about themselves; their mother had to fill out Goldenrod’s new client form.
Posen, who cut the client’s hair, and Kleeman cried together after the experience. Kleeman said it was moving to watch this client enjoy their gender-affirming haircut.
Kleeman wants Goldenrod to encourage more spaces that promote safety and discourage children from disguising themselves, she said. As a mother, Kleeman said she wants her son to comfortably and confidently walk into a beauty space to get his hair done, whoever he turns out to be.
Grant Hudgens, a 35-year-old autistic UF software developer, said Goldenrod’s accommodations helped them feel secure in an environment that can be a “sensory barrage” of noises.
Before their appointment, Hudgens filled out a form that asked clients preferences for communication. The form gave clients the option for a talkative experience or a quiet one.
More people are on the LGBTQ spectrum than most think, Cole Serrafo, a 28-year-old UF graduate, said. A safe space for people to get their haircut free of prejudice, judgments or harassment is a human right, they said.
Serrafo said going to Goldenrod feels like being pampered at a spa.
“I’ve gone to many queer-friendly or queer-specific salons in New York City and I have not received the amount of attention and care I did by going to Goldenrod Parlor,” Serrafo said.
Allyssa Keller is a third-year journalism major who reports for the Avenue. On a typical day, you can find her at Starbucks, fueling her caffeine addiction.