After decades of discomfort in barber shops and beauty parlors, I finally found a lesbian haircutter. She co-owned a little salon on the north end of a hot dry town at the tail end of a series of mountain passes. Both owners were local moms, with a loyal following of housewives, retired ladies and dykes. It was a strange mix that might have made me hopeful that this right wing county would learn that we’re not contagious except that my haircutter, in her forties and a member of the pre-liberation generation, wasn’t out. Didn’t need to be because she could talk about her kids with the straights and whisper coded words with “family.”

Of course I had heard the old stereotype of gay men as hairdressers, but I’d never been lucky enough to find one. When I learned that lesbians did this sort of thing, well, I knew there was a haircut heaven somewhere. Another lesbian cut hair an hour west of us, but that was too far. 

Once I’d experienced the relative comfort of a half-lesbian salon, I was spoiled. Sure, the family tie was kept underground and sure, we never exactly hit it off, maybe because I was too out. Being politically active in a conservative climate can get one a little bit shunned. Or maybe I made our contacts awkward because I get all shy around haircutters after a lifetime of hair professionals who didn’t get it that I wanted to look gay.

I had no idea how to hunt down lesbian haircutters in the recreational fishing village where I moved. This town was even smaller than where I had been living, and I was glad to find that small actually improved my experience. My haircutter, it turned out, was related to the mayor, who I was out to because he was my attorney and whose wife’s sister I also knew because she was, lo and behold, gay. This connection enabled me to be more comfortable, but the hairdresser still had no clue about androgyny. I didn’t want to look like a guy, but I also didn’t want her giving me silly little spit curls in front of my ears or bangs, although they all give me bangs, no matter what I say. I learned to sweep long bangs to one side, or part my hair in the middle and let them flop to either side of my forehead so I look like a cross between Alfalfa and a butch intellectual.

The problem with the mayor’s sister-in-law was her place of business. I was allergic to the perfumes and the sulfurous chemical smells. Men, the focus of most conversations, came in for fancy styling and blatant flirting.

Someone recommended a woman who worked on her own in another bump on the Pacific Highway that consisted of one strip mall of antique shops, wood carvers, a realtor and a hair salon. She was a religious proselytizer. That didn’t sit well with me. Then I heard of a gay man a bit north in a city defined by fish processors on one side of the harbor and a university on the other. He would have made a good fish processor. South of me, perched over the Pacific Ocean in a last hippie enclave, there was another gay man highly recommended by lesbians. A big-city transplant, he was as out as out can be and good at his job, but I abandoned him for another glimpse of Haircut Heaven.

This hair stylist, who showed up at a potluck that drew dykes from miles along the coastline, was femme, but she understood butch. She dressed however her mood inspired her, from plain and simple to punk to retro to killer-femme. She was funny and out even when she worked in shared spaces. When she opened her own salon the interior design was just like her: eccentric, eclectic, a little goofy and all woman. The neon peace sign in the window was particularly pleasing.

My all-time favorite haircutter by far, the Hair Stylist and I cried on each other’s shoulders through breakups and dished dyke dirt with relish. I brought girlfriends to meet her. An out lesbian, she volunteered her time for civic activities. We could talk books, spirituality, music. Best, she cut hair with a lesbian flair. This woman had loved butches and knew our style.

At last I had found Haircut Heaven! Then, I moved to the South…

The woman who cuts my hair now is married to a man. They have two children. She grew up in a flat whistle-stop town known for the annual celebration of its berry crop. She’s a nice woman with a talent for her work, but when my sweetheart went to her she couldn’t say I’d referred her. During haircuts we talk about weather and local news and her life story – she has nothing to conceal, nothing to fear.

She always gives me bangs and little points in front of my ears. She babbles or works in silence. I listen, saying little. I doubt there’s as good a haircut heaven in the world as I found with the Hair Stylist. There are lesbian potlucks in the South, though. Maybe I should get to one.

[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author of over 12 books. Her latest, Sweet Creek, is a bittersweet love story. You can reach Lynch at]

Copyright 2009 Lee Lynch