WATCH: Trailer For “Shape Up: Gay in the Black Barbershop”

By Nick Delmacy | Posted Aug 5 2016 | 9 Comments  

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In the documentary “Shape Up,” gay filmmaker Derrick L. Middleton explores an oft ignored issue in the Black community, homophobia and hyper-masculinity in barbershops. This documentary has not only been winning film festivals, it even had its’ premiere at the White House last month.

Back when I used to get regular professional haircuts, I often heard the Black barbers make casual homophobic jokes and comments. They seem either oblivious to the possibility that gay men were in the shop waiting for haircuts, or they just didn’t care.

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo-2

In an interview with OUT Magazine about the film, director Derrick L. Middleton added:

“No matter what black neighborhood you go to, any black neighborhood, you’re going to find two things—a church and a barbershop,” he says. “And the barbershop for black males is about as sacred as the church. It’s one of the only safe spaces for black men today, where they can talk about politics or sports and speak completely openly. But these same black men just don’t realize they have gay men in those spaces—that we’ve always been in those spaces. We’ve been there in silence, and we want to be a part of this space as well.”

No word on when the full documentary will be released to the general public, but for now you can view the trailer here:

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SCREENSHOTS:

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo-3

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo-4

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo-6

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo-7

Trailer Shape Up_ Gay in the Black Barbershop-HD on Vimeo-5

 

About the Author
Nick Delmacy

Nick is a founder, editor and the pop culture expert at Cypher Avenue. Serving as the designer and webmaster of the site, he is the architect of The Cypher Avenue Matrix.

   
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9 Comments Feel Free To Join The Cypher.

  1. BlackguyExecutive
    BlackguyExecutive | August 5th, 2016
    0

    Interesting. I have always gone to a black barbershop and for the longest time, I had only had one Barber (for nearly 20 years). In fact, before my barber got his own shop, I followed him to every shop he worked at. I always had a love hate relationship with the Barbershop. On one hand, I never felt like I fully got it but I always felt welcome even when they were talking about something controversial or homophobic or sexist or whatever. In many ways being inside the Barbershop was a safe space to be a black man. Looking back though, I remember some homophobia but I remember the obviously gay men being treated like paying customers and when shyt was said, it was said from both sides. I remember telling my barber I was gay after like 20 years of him cutting my hair and he was like Ok….are you getting your usual cut. My barber even came out to my wedding venue to get me a fresh edge up before joining my mom and family in the audience. I don't know….maybe that just my Tampa, Florida experience….it could be worse elsewhere. I feel like the the Barbershop just like any other traditionally masculine space (i.e., locker room or gym) deals with issues as they arise and are not as bad as the worst case scenarios.

  2. LeMignon
    LeMignon | August 5th, 2016
    0

    This would be interesting to watch… I've had my fair share of worry when it comes to entering the black masculine sacred grown known as the barbershop, but I've never had any trouble. Still, I'd like to know what the experience of the noticeably balck gay guy is in this sacred space. Good article, @Nick Delmacy !

  3. SB3
    SB3 | August 5th, 2016
    0

    Yea, this is interesting. I, personally, have never witnessed any homophobia in the shop. That said, I went to Dominican shops for most of my adult life. But thinking back to my days growing up, the barber shop has always been a space for general shyt talking. Now that I think about it as an adult, with all but 1 of the 7 barbers at the shop I went to being really good looking guys, I wonder what they'd have thought if they knew what I was thinking about them…

    I do wonder what experiences some more obviously gay men have had. I'll def check this out.

  4. Keith | August 5th, 2016
    0

    T4P Nick. I will definitely keep my eyes open for this one. Like one of the guys in the trailer said I, too, was terrified when my father left me alone in those spaces. And going to the barbershop close to my HBCU campus in undergrad was as stress inducing as anything. Fortunately for me, I began balding early so I was able to shave my head myself and haven’t been back (nor would I go) to a black barbershop in what is now 25 years. I conquered my fear of exercise but I took a pass on that one but I’m certainly interested in the experiences of other BGM in regular interactions in that space.

  5. OhSheit
    OhSheit | August 5th, 2016
    0

    I'm interested. I've heard stories around the internet but never experienced it myself. I can only imagine what feminine gay men or gay men who fear the shop have to deal with.

    I've never been to a black barbershop before, only Mexican and Dominican. My current Dominican barber talks so much shyt with his non-barber ass friends that he let's hang out in the shop though.

    That posters pretty cool too.

  6. JohnDoe
    JohnDoe | August 6th, 2016
    0

    This would make for a great social experiment: find a naturally flamboyant guy, send him to a black barbershop "with a reputation" and observe how he is treated.

    Although it's not a black barbershop in the American sense you find a regular barbershop is a hypermasculine space in any country, like the locker room. Personally I have heard alot of misogyny and discussions of sexual conquest, maybe the homophobia happens AFTER I leave…lol

  7. Rico
    Rico | August 6th, 2016
    0
    OhSheit

    I'm interested. I've heard stories around the internet but never experienced it myself. I can only imagine what feminine gay men or gay men who fear the shop have to deal with.

    I've never been to a black barbershop before, only Mexican and Dominican. My current Dominican barber talks so much shyt with his non-barber ass friends that he let's hang out in the shop though.

    That posters pretty cool too.

    Yeah, in addition to this brother's film, it'd be interesting to see a doc on different experiences with hair. Not every black male has had that stereotypical Ice Cube movie life in the shop. For the most part, when I came along in the New Jack era (when I thought I was straight), there wasn't a lot of homophobic talk as most of us cut each other's hair or just DIY, so we created our own young "masculine spaces" in each other's home/dorm room and eschewed the traditional shops. Since the styles and conversations were my black male peers, I never felt like I missed out on some black male communal thing (plus we kept our own money in our pockets). Hair cutting was like a mini-house party; our music, our convo, even food if we wanted. Ironically, even though an artist, I was only good for giving out those military recruit fades lol.

    Where I lived then, the shops were mostly manned by older black men and you usually only went there if you were under 12 and dragged in by your dad, uncle or other significant older black male to get that MLK/Church Sunday generic cut. They didn't know what to do with us young dudes that wanted a short, twisty "Bugging Out" (Do the Right Thing) do, or a Kid n Play eraserhead, or Tupac-in-Juice two-stepped cut. Seems like my nephews went through the same thing when they came along in the Dubya era, as I took took them to shops as shorties in grammar school but as soon as they hit junior high they would do their own or their friends' hair. Luckily, none of them are walking around with those "staph infection bumps" you see on DIY victims.

  8. African King
    African King | August 6th, 2016
    0

    This stuff is true. I grew up in the barber shop since my dad owned one when I was little. Lots of homophobia in there.

    I am happy that my twin brother is open with his sexuality to his barber and they have a dope relationship. all respect and they both discuss straight and gay relationship stuff.

  9. Crescent Mugizi
    Crescent Mugizi | August 7th, 2016
    0

    I've noticed my fair share of homophobia in a few barbershops, but usually they talk about football, basketball, and women. I don't stay with barbers for that long. To me its just a place of business. I go, get my cut, pay and get out. I've only found out about how much a black barbershop means to the local black males when I moved in here.

    In my home country, we have mostly hair salons which are mix of women and men hair services. <Most> barbers are stereotyped to be gay but they cut hair real good so nobody ever complained. my family had one barber when growing up that we all went to. He was gay, we knew it but he was a really good friend of the family. He was also the one who did my mom's hair, organized most of our parties(he later became owner of an events management business), and even the one who put together my dad's funeral ceremony. This guy is a true polymath. I heard he can even cook so well too lol




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