Christopher Abair is offering $5 off for anyone who comes into Handsome Fellow Barber Shop and mentions this article! Handsome Fellows Barber Shop offers precision haircuts, straight razor shaves, and beard trims in a traditional, modern-rustic space. “I think it’s important for queer Louisville residents to feel that they have a safe space to get a haircut! Queer, trans, nonbinary: I welcome and affirm all!” Abair said.
- What do you identify as? Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything?
I identify as a cisgender gay man, but I also don’t conform to traditionally male gender norms so sometimes I just like to consider myself queer. It took me a really long time to learn to not only be comfortable with myself but to love myself. Now that I’m older, Ithers no going back.
- What does the word Queer mean to you?
To me, the word “queer” means anyone who doesn’t necessarily conform to traditional gender or sexual orientation roles. A queer person is more than just “gay/straight”. A queer person in America understands the historical context of gender roles and norms in our country and says “no, that’s not for me. I’m different, and I’m going to celebrate that.”
- Where are you from and explain what it was like growing up/living in Kentucky?
I grew up in a suburb in Baltimore, MD where I went to an extraordinarily strict and oppressive Catholic schools. I’m grateful for the education I received, but I was also taught that homosexuality was inherently “wrong” and a “sin.” I always knew there was something very different about me, but I hadn’t really figured out what exactly it was until after I’d graduated. Lack of exposure to any other gay or queer people didn’t help. Luckily, my parents were amazingly supportive and my coming out after high school wasn’t as daunting as I had expected. Later in life, after college, I moved to Chicago to be a flight attendant. It was here that I blossomed as a queer person and gay man living in the Boystown neighborhood, and where I learned to feel comfortable being me. After many years of living in Chicago, I’ve moved here to Louisville with my husband Anthony (and our dog Jolene!) after searching for a smaller, more affordable, slightly southern and decidedly queer-friendly city in which to make our mark. It’s been difficult meeting new people during a pandemic, but we’re loving this city so far. This is home for us, and because I’m also a licensed barber with lots of experience working in one of Chicago’s most queer/trans/non-binary-friendly barber shops in the city, I wanted to make my new clients in my new city feel safe in my chair.
- What would you say to anyone struggling to come into their own identity?
You must have patience if you can. You must remember that, although you might not be surrounded by the love and acceptance that you deserve right now, you WILL. I promise. Explore your identity safely and healthily, and make sure to try on lots of hats. Explore. Try different things. Once you’re able to come into your own identity, you’ll feel so much more comfortable being you.
- How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
My identity definitely runs how I carry myself. I have two careers: one as a traditionally “gay” career as a flight attendant, where I’m almost expected to be gay or queer as a cisgender male, and the other is a licensed barber, which is a career where it seems rather unexpected to identify as a gay or queer male. I sometimes feel that I have to ping pong between both careers while presenting my sexuality and queerness differently. As a barber who is comfortable being queer, I want my clients to feel that they too can be themselves and feel that I am offering them a safe space in the sometimes toxic masculine environment of a barber shop. In Kentucky, I have noticed that it’s not common for barbers to advertise themselves in this manner, and I want the queer community in Kentucky and Louisville to know that they can feel safe and comfortable being who they are in my barber shop and in try chair. I think it’s really important.
- What issues do you see in the queer community?
The problems I’ve seen in the queer community are something that might be a different answer than others. I feel that the queer community should be more open to meeting other queer folks entirely unlike themselves or the subculture in which they feel more comfortable. It’s become very compartmentalized, and that’s unfortunate because we need to forge friendships and community outreach with our non-binary or trans friends. Our queer brothers and sisters of color. We need to learn about each others’ collective experiences in order to understand and have empathy for our struggles. We need to be there for one another and to embrace our differences in the queer community. Who wants friends who look, dress, and act exactly like them? Not me.
- Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
Living in Chicago for so many years, I was acutely aware of the subcultures in the gay/queer community. There’s a huge scene for every subculture imaginable, from twinks to bears and cubs to muscle daddies and leather and otters and everything in between. Even though I may have fit into the mainstream queer community in Chicago. In my twenties, I felt myself shifting away from that as I began to venture outside of the subculture in which I had been “placed.” This is common in cities like New York, LA, and Chicago, in Louisville, because the queer community is exponentially smaller, it appears to be more “queer.” I like that because it has helped me to surprisingly meet diverse queer population. I know that doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s true.
- Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)
I feel at my best when I’m in my home with my husband and my dog. I’m so grateful to have a safe place to come home to after having two jobs in which I work with the public and must be “on” at all times. We bought a tiny little shotgun home here in Louisville, and I feel at my best just sitting on my rocker with my dog and my husband next to me. It took a long time to get to that place.
- Who influenced the life you live now?
This is an interesting question because I know everyone says they had so many gay or queer role models growing up or people who influenced them. For me, the truth is that I had none growing up. I grew up in the 90’s before there was any real presence at all of queer people in the media or even many out celebrities. I knew no other people like me until college, and even then I had a hard time finding other queer folk until I was in my mid-twenties. By then, I wanted to forge my own identity very fiercely. Therefore, I like to say that my main influence is….me.