Confession: when I was in my 20s, I cut off my ponytail one night. I had shoulder-length curly hair, and I was tired of it. I kept standing in the mirror and holding my hair to different lengths, trying to imagine what it would look like. Finally, I found one I liked. When I got the courage, I took out the scissors and chopped off the ponytail.
Boom. Cheap haircut.
Here’s the catch. Remember how I said I had curly hair? Not only was my hair unevenly cut, but it was also short in the back and long in the front. I looked ridiculous. Imagine Bozo the clown meets a hairdresser from the early 90s. Nothing good was happening.
I wish I had a picture of the hairdresser’s face when I walked into the salon. It was one part shock and one part hilarity. I imagine it’s the face a lot of people make when they watch Jackass.
We were instantly friends. I explained what happened and got a lot of “oh honey” sympathy. We tried a few things before I ended up with the haircut I have now.
Haircut: How My Hair Changed My Life Experience
I didn’t expect to make a new friend, but even more so, I didn’t anticipate how this haircut would change my life and experience of the world. I had no idea it would change how I think about even the most simple things like going to the bathroom.
Up until this point, I could pass for straight. I wore girly clothes, and my hair was long. No one thought twice. Most people do assume you’re straight until proven gay.
Not after I cut my hair. It’s like I was wearing a sign that said, “I’m gay!”
That wasn’t the only message I was sending. Some people mistook me (and still mistake me) for a man. “You don’t belong here,” strangers would say in the women’s restroom. My favorite: “What are you doing here?” As if people go to a room full of toilets because it’s a hobby or fun time.
Free Webinar: Building Belonging: Pronouns + Creating Inclusive Candidate Experiences
The scariest moment was in New Orleans when a bouncer threw me out of a bathroom as I walked down the hallway. I remember his hands on my back and him shouting “wrong bathroom buddy” in a playful tone. He thought I was some drunk dude walking into the women’s bathroom. Instead, I left that hallway shaking.
What I remember most is how the woman in the hallway in front of me stared. She was scared. She didn’t know what to do.
If you aren’t sure what you would do, I think you should attend my webinar. I don’t host webinars often, so I hope you’ll hold the time and join me tomorrow, August 18th, at noon ET/ 9 am PT. Register Here.
If you were on my email list, you’d get more notice. Make sure you are. Subscribe already.
That moment and so many moments of fear that I heard over the last months doing presentations on pronouns led me to write this webinar on creating inclusive candidate experiences that I will be sharing tomorrow. It’s one part pronouns and another of active allyship adding up to a guide they can help you learn to be an ally, not just say you are one.
This is not a presentation about making anyone understand what it feels like to be gay. That’s not my point. Instead, I want to remind you how important it is to feel safe at work, then teach you how to make work safer for LGBT+ people.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.