MISSOULA - While a bad haircut can ruin your day, a great haircut can make your week. So it's no surprise the importance a haircut has in affirming someone's gender identity.
Compass Barbershop in Missoula has started offering free, gender-affirming haircuts to LGBTQ+ members. It's an initiative in partnership with the Western Montana Community Center.
“I really think that gender-affirming care is important," Zac Mayberry, co-owner of Compass Barbershop says. "And as barbers, that’s a big part of what we do, is being able to help people look on the outside how they feel on the inside."
Co-owner Shannon Smallwood says they know haircuts can be expensive, so they wanted to provide a way to reach all of Missoula. “Mostly I was trying to figure out a way to make our services available to our wider community."
Smallwood says now is a crucial time to support the LGBTQ+ community.
“Now more than ever we need to support our people in the LGBTQ community and show them that they are welcome in Montana, especially with what is going on in the legislature," she says. "And the smallest thing we can do, is a haircut."
Compass has always supported the queer community, according to Smallwood. And her customers agree.
“I appreciate that they support the LGBT community, and I feel like they’ve always had our back," says Compass customer Jesse Haberman.
Hairstyles aren't gendered as a men's cut or women's cut at Compass, and each style costs the same.
It's a way to make everyone comfortable with their own, personal hairdo, according to Smallwood.
“Short haircut, long haircut, whatever it might be, you walk out of here hopefully feeling more yourself," she says.
Beyond their support for the community, customers flock to Compass for their talented staff.
"It was the best haircut I've ever gotten," Daniel Alejandro, recalling his first cut at Compass a year ago, says. "I don't think there's another place I would go [other than Compass], at this point."
People can pick up a voucher at The Western Montana Community Center which is located at 27 North Higgins Avenue, Suite #202.
Compass is accepting donations to help pay for the free haircuts, and will match each donation given.
People can donate through The Western Montana Community Center or call Compass at 406-926-1778.