Queer People Are Changing the Toxic Culture of Barbershops But Black barbershops can also ooze — unapologetically, intentionally, and sometimes violently — with the worst strands of toxic masculinity. For people assigned male at birth, there’s very little room to safely express a different gender. And in an era where people assigned female at birth have the space to express their gender as queer, trans, or gender nonconforming, short hairstyles have become an important part of gender expression. Businesses like Camera Ready Kutz have become more than just safe spaces. They’re necessary ones. The writer's experience at a barber shop. Still, I faced my own challenges every Sunday as I rushed along the main thoroughfare of my Brooklyn neighborhood. I prided myself on efficiency when I ran my errands, and the fact that my laundromat was next to my grocery store, which was next to the nail shop where I got my eyebrows done. I loved caring for myself, and feeling cared for, and it should have been natural to add a trip to my closest barbershops on that same commercial drag. But I felt intrinsically wary of them. When I did venture in, there was a vibe, and it wasn’t good. Client after client would be chosen ahead of me. Barbers suddenly lost their ability to make eye contact. Mostly, I was wracked by an all-encompassing self-doubt as I sat in awkward silence. Was it awkward because I’m awkward? Or was this a sign of something more nefarious? I’d heard stories, from other friends who were masculine-of-center, of barbers cracking homophobic jokes with each other as they sat in the chair. Mine was a subtle discomfort — but it was there nonetheless. So I looked for something different.