Kareem Woodson used to take a deep breathe before rushing in and out of the barbershop when he needed a fresh cut.
Woodson, who is gay, told New York Daily News he had long overlooked the barbershop culture of hypermasculinity, until one day he witnessed an encounter with a barbershop regular and a transgender woman who was standing outside.
The 29-year-old stepped out to diffuse the situation, and decided in that moment to open his own shop to create a safe space.
“I would love a barbershop for our people — even if there is no hairstylist there for my trans sisters to get a hairstyle, they can at least walk past my shop and be fine,” he told New York Daily News.
“They can walk past my shop and we can have a conversation, we can talk about things, we can have fun.”
In April, Woodson opened Enkel’s barbershop on Quincy St do provide just that.
“The conversations really flow in here, and it just feels like a community. I believe all barbershops are a community for someone, but when you identify as queer, or trans, it doesn’t always feel like a community for you,” he said.
Currently Enkel’s has one barber, Kenshy Delva, who, using the shop’s locally-sourced, Black-owned products, focuses on making customers feel good in their own skin and giving great service.
“One thing I love about Kenshy is when she’s cutting your hair, she asks you, ‘Hey, would you like it this way, would you like it that way?’ Woodson said, adding in other barbershops, barbers often give you the style they feel is best.
Woodson said although business started slow, it’s starting to pick up, and he has had people travelling from across the five boroughs and from out of state to experience the shop’s welcoming environment.
He said he hoped his barbershop’s presence would start a conversation and help other barbershops to realize know, “Hey, we aren’t comfortable when we’re in your spaces.”
“The idea is not to divide, but it’s more so to get us to be in the same places, and to have them come here and we go there, and everyone kind of understands our differences and what makes us unique,” he said. “We stand stronger together than apart.”
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