More than just a place to go for a fresh line up, the barbershop has always been a cornerstone of the black community and a safe place for black men to gather together and be themselves. However, the comradery isn’t always unilaterally extended to black gay men.
As much as societal attitudes have favorably shifted concerning homosexuality, it continues to be taboo within many pockets of the black community.
In his documentary, Shape Up: Gay in the Black Barbershop filmmaker, Derrick L. Middleton addresses this culture of homophobia in black barber shops. As a gay black man, Middleton is all too familiar with this discomfort. In an interview with NBC OUT, he recalls having his father take him for a haircut and understanding at an early age that he was not embraced there, saying, “My fear of the barbershop would be something I carried from childhood into adulthood.”
Middleton wants to change the narriative saying, “It is time for dialogue — a conversation of the minds to bring an end to what many gay men of color like me experience daily when we want to simply get into the shop and get out.”
Shape Up premiered July 20 at the White House in Washington, D.C. and won the best emerging documentary award from the March on Washington Film Festival.