Holding Space Through Hair Cuts | With Queer Hairstylist Andrea Neeley | Episode 25

Holding Space Through Hair Cuts | With Queer Hairstylist Andrea Neeley | Episode 25

Join me as I talk with Andrea Neeley–a queer hairstylist specializing in transition haircuts–about what she does and why she does it. We will discuss:

  1. How she holds space with hair cuts
  2. Her own coming out story
  3. How cultural permission to explore sexuality is shifting
  4. How living an authentic life is an act of rebellion against patriarchy

Follow Andrea on instagram @andreaneeley

Follow Kimber on instagram @justbeyourbadself

For guest bios, episode transcripts or to leave a review, please visit: www.justbeyourbadself.com


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[00:00:00] Intro

Kimber: , Join me today as I talk with Andrea Neely, a queer hairstylist specializing in transition haircuts. About what she does and why she does it. Okay thank you so much, Andrea, for coming and being on my podcast today.

Andrea: You are so welcome. I'm I'm excited and honored.

Kimber: So really quick, give us like the low down. Who are you? What do you do? What's your, what's your deal?

Andrea: I am Andrea and I. I'm a hairstylist. I do hair. I love connecting with humans. I love hearing people's stories. I do a lot of work with the LGBTQ plus community, and I just love creating a space for any human to come and sit in my chair and share who they are, whatever that is, whether they're going through big changes in their lives or they're physically.

Cha like so many changes I get to be a part of. So I get, do a lot of transition haircuts. I just, not only like physically or with gender, but like in life too. So,

Kimber: I love that you found that niche. I didn't even know that was like a niche. It wouldn't have occurred to me that that would be a niche that needed to be filled. How did you find it? How did you get into this?

Andrea: so being like a member of the queer community and then having friends Oh, I'm so happy. You're doing hair now, because then I could just come and hang out with my friend and get my hair done. And I don't have to worry if they're like gay affirming or accepting, or I don't have to worry, like walking into a barber shop.

Am I going to be accepted? Because I want like a, more of a masculine haircut or going into a salon. And I'm wanting to transition into like a female haircut or grow out my hair, or like, just to have that space where you will be accepted and understood for whatever you're doing in your life and accepted.

And like some of these big changes when. Little kids come in and they want to cut off all their hair and their mom's just like tears rolling down their face because they get to see their baby for the first time, how they want to present. Like, those are big moments, not only in the kid's life or in the human's life.

That's in my chair, watching all of their hair fall to the floor and just introducing them to themselves for the first time. And being able to emotionally hold space for that. I love it. I love every single day

that I get to do my job and the hearts that I get to touch.

[00:03:41] Holding Space Through Cutting Hair

Kimber: yeah, you do a lot more than just cut hair, obviously. Right? How. How do you hold that space for people? What does that look like? When someone comes in for a transition haircut?

Andrea: So I have on my schedule, like a transition haircut, and whether it's just like just coming in and they're like going through a divorce or a breakup or getting ready to have a baby, or like big moments in their life where I'm going to be the night, it's an hour and a half. So. Block out my space and my time, because I know it's not only going to be just a haircut?

Like we might have to pause for tears. We might have to pause for explanation and understanding and walking through and just like holding space. And I think during the pandemic and everything, being able to slow down with myself and recognize like conversational health. It's so important to be able to hold space for these humans, that we're only talking to the people in the four walls of their home.

I was like, Ooh, I need to make sure that I have the capacity to have conversations, even if they are emotionally heavy or emotionally light, but like, Holding space for emotion is what I try to practice and understand and just hold space for.

Kimber: Yeah. I mean, you told me before we started this call, you talk for a living, right?

Andrea: Yeah. Yeah. I talk for a living like doing hair is like the bonus, but I basically, yeah, I talk

for a living.

Kimber: how long have you been doing this?

Andrea: I've been doing hair for about a year now? No, just kidding. Like 10 years.

Kimber: to say, there's no way I've seen your work and you're so good at what you do.

Andrea: I'm like, why are you here? No, I've been doing hair for about 10 years, but I've basically been doing hair my whole life. Like from my best friends to my sisters. Anybody like to feel like getting to do.

like my best friend's hair from like, when I was 12 I'm like, those are like when we were kids, because it's like, but for real, it seems like I just barely started.

And then I have those moments like, oh, this is what I do for a living. This is what I do. Like, this is what I do. This is what pays my bills. Like I get to hang out with the coolest humans and like, that's what pays my bills. I work at the desert lounge, downtown St. George and I work with Evan installers. He's created a really cool space. And so we have two little salon right next door to each other, and I run the smaller space and we have a handful of stylists over there. So we just. Rock and roll and do lots of hair and lots of fun.

And that's also like one of my favorite parts about doing hair is like the people I get to do hair with. It's just it's so it's so fun. I love this industry because it's basically like, yeah, we're doing hair and yeah, it's fun and creative, but like the humans that I get to surround myself with and interact with is just it's.

It's so good.

[00:07:00] Andrea's Coming Out Story

Kimber: Are you comfortable sharing your own story of transition?

Andrea: like

my coming out


Yeah. I kind of grew up in a little bit of a bubble. So like a little bit of a backstory on me. I am a homeschool plyg kid and I know, right.

Kimber: I homeschooled. I'm a homeschool kid, but not a whole school plyg kid so you got me beat.

Andrea: And so like I grew up on a farm in California and we like worked. Raising chickens and bees and making honey, we all work together with like a tight knit hub. And then we moved to Utah, to Cedar city when I was like 11 and then kind of like a country bumpkin, like. So I didn't even realize that I liked girls until I met my ex-wife and I was 20.

And I was like, what is this?

Am I just like Crushin? Or am I intrigued? Or like what? And I was like, kind of confused I was only really exposed to like one gay person in my life. And it was like one of my best friend's dad. And I was like, oh, I knew what it was, but I like didn't really think anything about it.

And so I, yeah, I met my ex wife at work and I was just like, what is this about? And then we just started hanging out until I was like, oh dude, do I like. I think she's cool, but like, am I like liking her, liking her? And so I just had to like sit with myself and have lots of questions and then just like talking to her about it and then just starting to hang out.

And then we got together and we were together for 10 years. And so I'm like, okay. Yeah.

Kimber: where you religious, when you met her or had you kind of exited that life?

Andrea: So like we were raised. It was like, I guess, independent polygamous. So my parents, they were LDS when I was little, like when I was five and then they left the church. And So my parents took on the second wife when I was five, but it wasn't like an organized religion. So it wasn't like we had to leave or get it out of that.

It was just like, we were normal people. We just had

more moms

Kimber: So I'm curious how your parents responded then, because they did something. I mean, they left the religion to go kind of live their life that they wanted to live. So were they cool with it or was it

Andrea: So like when I came out to my mom, cause my parents were divorced divorce and I came out to my mom. Before my dad and my mom was accepting. And she told me that my grandpa, when she graduated from high school, my grandpa left my grandma for a man. And I was like, why? I didn't, I didn't even know this.

And I remember going to my grandpa's house when we were little and him having a roommate, but I didn't even know. Cause back then nobody talked about. And so, and then when I came out to my dad, I might've not approached it the best way. Cause he was always like, there's no band good enough for my daughter.

And then I was like, Hey dad, remember how you said there's no man, good enough for your daughter. Like I kinda like a girl. And he was like, whoa. And he, he had a harder time with it and I think. With different beliefs. And even though like we weren't religious, like he still had his core belief and his core values of like what he thought, what, what was right or wrong.

And so he didn't talk to me for three years, which was a little bit like, ah, Because I'm the oldest girl. I have lots of siblings younger than me that were like my babies that I wasn't able to be a part of. And it was just like, but I took those three years to like live my life. And then finally I talked to my dad and I told him, I said, if I am going to hell or whatever, hell you believe in because I get to live this life.

How I want to live it, that I get to experience love and peace and joy and happiness right now for me, then it's worth it. It's worth it. And after that, he just hugged me and he was like, it was kind of like we had. Nonverbal understanding of like, okay, we can move forward from this. Like, I love you and your lifestyle that you've got to choose to live, and I want the same. And so, and then we've had conversations since then. And he's like, I, well, all of my kids to understand that they have a safe place to land. And I don't think he would have had that without that experience.

And then my younger sister, her partner is trans. And I think that wouldn't have been as easy to digest if it wasn't for me and my experience. So

Kimber: Wow.

Andrea: yeah, That was like my coming out story.

It's kind of like, whoa. And then I think, because I grew up in such a bubble in such a, like not really understanding or not being able to connect to like my sexuality or like attraction. Really, it was like, boys are bad. You're not supposed to do that until you're married that dah, dah, dah. So it was just like, okay.

I was just kinda like bee bopping around in my happy joy, joy little world. And then I was like, yeah, this makes a lot of sense.

[00:12:53] Shifting Cultural Ideas

Kimber: I just heard so many stories lately. I feel like of people that don't discover that till like twenties, you know, you're pretty old, like not old, old, but old enough that you would have thought maybe you would have had some inklings before that, but there are some people that are like, Thirties, forties, fifties figuring this out because the permission in our culture just hasn't been there.

And in, in, in this little Utah bubble, even less so right.

Andrea: Yes. Yes. And so, like I do a lot of work with encircle. I'm one of their first queered board members, which I'm very proud to be. And seeing these young kids come into this home and , one minute they come in and their name is Robin. And the second minute their name is Susie or Bob or whatever. And it's. They get the space to try on and like, does this fit? Yes, no, I want to be non-binary today. I want to be a boy today. I want to be a girl or like figuring out that space to like figure out their identity and their sexuality. And I was like, wow. I think it was like, not even five years ago that I had the conversation and realized like how you identify and your sexuality are two different things.

I was like, oh, okay. But just now, and to like, even think like my grandpa, which was two generations ago, couldn't live the life he wanted to live. And now I could get married to the person that I love. If I want to, I could walk down the street, holding hands and not be fear full. And that's only two generations later.

And just like how much we have grown, like we have a long way to go, but I'm just like so proud. And when I get to see these young kids come in and out of theEncircle house, I'm just so thankful. That there's space for that because who would I have been if those parts would have been encouraged at a younger age?

I don't know.

[00:15:02] Working with Encircle

Kimber: Can you talk to us a little bit more about circle? I don't know much about it. I've only heard about it a couple of times. And so I'm sure a lot of my listeners have no idea what you're talking

Andrea: Yeah. So Encircle is a nonprofit that started in Provo and it's a cute little house for the LGBTQ plus community for the queer community. For allies, for parents, they have therapists, they have resources, they have friendship circles. They just, it's just a safe space to come and connect to in circle.

Love to no sides, choose love kind of thing. And our house in St. George was the third house. It's the four year old nonprofit, and we're just like, we're going all over. And so it feels really good to be a part of something so needed

from kids that are like wanting to connect with other kids that look like them for adults that are like I didn't come out till I was 40.

Whether it's parents, that their kids came out 20 years ago and because of their religion, they didn't handle it the greatest, but now they have community and space to have conversations, to navigate that now, to want to educate themselves and do better.

So it's just a space of love and acceptance.

[00:16:28] Midroll Ad



[00:17:20] Permission to Explore Sexuality

Kimber: A couple of things that you've talked about, just keep reminding me of this post I saw on Facebook. You were talking about Watching these kids that go intoencircle and then their names change. And there they're exploring different things. And I have a gay friend who's married to a man, but is still surprisingly conservative.

I feel like, and this post was so fascinating because he said something about how. He felt like people were still acting like homosexuality was a choice. And that he kind of implied that that was kind of archaic thinking. And then when it got really fascinating was in the comment section when people were talking about, well, in the high schools right now, people are just like, kids are just exploring.

Like, am I gay? Am I straight? Am I, you know, and. We've come such, like you said, and just a couple of generations we've come such a long way from like homosexuality is a sin ASN or B, it's just not real. And you're choosing sin right. To then being like, oh, it's not a choice. Like people can't help, but be this way.

And so, you know, you've got to love them through it still kind of like sin, but. You know, it's not, it's like the burden that people have to bear if they're born queer. And then now it's like, no, it's okay. If people like people should have the chance to explore this, right? Like it should be allowed to be a choice.

It should. And people don't just come in, like knowing their sexuality. And it should be something that people have space to explore and try different things on and like find what fits.

Andrea: Yeah, Cause it's like a pair of shoes or like your hair color. You don't know that you love being this fabulous red head until you like try it. Like you never know, like what's gonna fit and what's going to land and. And it could change and it could evolve and like it's such a spectrum. And if you go back and forth and it's so fluid, and I think so many people want to like put it in a box. So many people want to put it in a box and put it on a shelf in the closet and closed that door and pretend like it isn't there, but it's like, eh, it doesn't work anymore. So many people with like the internet and. The apps that are out these days, like watching people discover and transition and experience themselves and the joy and the happiness, even though it's like heartache, sometimes when you have to choose yourself over your family, over your friends, over your whole community, like sometimes that's really hard. Sometimes like you have to leave all of that behind to discover this and to live this. then once you do, then you get to find your people, you get to find your people that align and know how to hold space and welcome you. You get to pick your family, like your chosen family, like the humans that build up the foundation of you. But it's scary when you think. Your foundation or what it used to be to like, get rid of all of that and to rebuild it just because you want to live the life that feels comfortable to you. It's like one of the scariest things, but one of the most empowering things to.

[00:20:54] Living an Authentic, Examined Life

Kimber: Yeah, definitely. I don't identify as queer, but I find myself so attracted to the queer community because of what you're talking about. I love authenticity. And you don't find people that are more authentic than people who have gone through the heartbreak and the, the transformation that coming out brings because so many of you have had to just.

Start from the ground up and rebuild your life the way you want it to be. And I think it's just the most beautiful example for everybody about, and that's why I called this podcast. Like, just be your bad self because. The only way to be authentic is to let go of, what's going to please everybody else and really get down to the nitty gritty of like, what do I like?

What makes me happy? And to kind of like, say screw it to everybody else. Cause it's not their life. Like this is your life. And so I find. Like sometimes I almost feel like I'm doing like a queer podcast because so many of the guests that I find that I'm like inviting to tell their stories are trans or BI or gay or lesbian.

And I think it's because they just do such a beautiful job of being examples of authenticity for the rest of us. Are you familiar with Glennon Doyle and

Andrea: A little bit. Yeah.

Kimber: So. I I was listening to one of her podcast episodes with her and Abby, and then they do it also with Glennon's sister and theyAbby and Glennon were talking about talking about like, when they first realized that they were lesbian. And then the interesting part to me was when Glennon sister, they were like, well, when did you realize you were straight? Cause that's not a question people get asked. And this was such an interesting, this was such an interesting conversation because she said, I think she was like in fifth grade and there was this cute boy.

And, and she said, I feel a little bit cheated though, because heterosexuality is so the norm and like expected that it was kind of like, okay, I checked the box. Now I can move on with my life. Instead of really like examining my sexuality and exploring that part of my life. She said they told this funny story about Glennon and Abby's family went to the, the immersive van Gogh art museum.

That's been touring around. And they went in and saw this art and they sat down on this bench and just kind of watched the art and then left and thought, okay, that was cool. That was okay. But it wasn't as cool as they expected it to be. And then after they left, they found out that they had been sitting in the lobby and they never actually went into the real part of the museum and, and Glenn and sisters.

Like sometimes I wonder if that's what I did. Like what if I just checked off the lobby box and there's this whole other world. The, I didn't even get to explore. And I relate with that because I'm like a happily married to a man woman, but I didn't have permission to explore any of that before I got married.

And, and now I'm a little bit like jealous of people that got to explore this. Cause I'm like, I don't know. Maybe I'm BI, I don't know. And I don't really have the permission to explore that anymore, but I think it's really cool that our society and culture, and like, even within Utah, To a large extent is so much more accepting of this.

And I bet you get to see so much of this within circle and with your work as a transition hairstylist you're like right in the middle of watching all of this cool

Andrea: Yes. It's, it's amazing. It's amazing. And to see like, yeah, permission and curiosity, and to like, not just do this. Status quo like checklists, like married kids, check, house, check, check, check, check, check. Like people do like slow down and realize that they are important. And to discover what that is. To take the time to have a relationship with yourself.

Like, I didn't learn that the importance of having a relationship with myself till like my thirties, but I'm ha I'm thankful that I'm learning it now, but like what makes me tick? What makes me, me, what intrigues me? Where do I like to spend my time? Where do I like to spend me? And how do I take myself on dates?

When I'm wanting external, like comfort to make sure that I'm getting it from me as well before. I just like, want it externally. And I don't think that's talked about enough. And then I think that goes hand in hand with exploring your sexuality or your identity is having a relationship with yourself.

And I don't think the importance of that is talked about. it's so like, Kay, you're going to school, you graduate high school and then you get married and you have babies, not all cultures, but here in Utah, that's like the norm. And so it's really cool to see people stepping back and not just going around, not just living their life to the narrative of the generations before.

[00:26:09] Flipping off the Patriarchy by Living Outside the Box

Kimber: Yeah, I've stepped into that kind of a Headspace so much with this podcast and it's cool to see all kinds of people realizing like, oh, I don't have to do it this this way. And as I've been doing the podcast, I've realized like, this is kind of me putting my middle finger up to the patriarchy because.

I think my definition of, of patriarchy is what you've been talking about is these check boxes. I don't think it's necessarily like straight white men are the patriarchy. I think, I think what the, I think what patriarchy is, is like, this is the right way to live your life and anything outside of these boxes is not okay.

And so, yeah, my goal with this podcast is to be like, yes, it is whatever it's like feels true to you. That's okay. You don't have to fit these boxes.

Andrea: Yeah. And I think that comes down to like also emotional intelligence and how you gain more emotional intelligence is by experiencing culture and other cultures do other things completely different and to realize like, yeah, there's more ways to live of that box. Like that. It doesn't work for everybody.

Like it's work. You did it, but that doesn't mean that that same shoe fits me.

Kimber: Yeah. And I think the biggest problem comes in is when we attach morality to the box,

Andrea: Yes, yes,

Kimber: You're only a good worthy person. If you can live inside this box and if you can't live inside this box, then, you know, attach whatever label, like you're weird. You're a freak, you're evil, you're sinful. You don't care about your family or I don't know whatever.

We'd like to attach these labels to people because they don't want to fit. They don't fit in the box, which I think is, is detrimental to everybody. men, women, all races, . Like we shouldn't have to all fit this one predetermined box.

Andrea: yeah, yeah.

[00:28:17] Holding Space for Other Life Transitions

Kimber: So I'm curious, you say you do transition haircuts for more than just people who are doing queer transitions. You've mentioned a few other things. I want to know more about that.

Andrea: Ah, so I don't know. I get to be a part of like big moments, like. People getting ready to have babies. And they're like, Hey, I want my hair done because this is the last time I'm going to be able to like self care for a minute because I'm going to be mom and, or like graduations. And like, those are big moments.

You're graduating from one part of your life to another part. Like I get to be a part of birthdays, weddings I get to be a part of celebrating so many parts of life and then I get to watch people grow. I get to be a part of life stories when they're coming to me every six weeks or housing for many times of year, I get to do like. Back to school haircuts. And I just get to watch these little ones grow. Like I have a client I've been cutting his hair since he was in a booster. Like I had a sit him in a booster and pull out all the tricks. Like this is magic spray and it makes you like invincible and dah, dah, dah. And now he's taller than me.

And just to watch you humans grow and to be a part of their lives and be a part of this. Amazing moment. And just like, I don't know, just to sit back and recognize how many lives I get to be a part of. It's really cool.

[00:29:53] Takeaway

Kimber: I've never had a desire to cut hair before, but you'd make it sound like such a party.

Andrea: It is such a party. like it's physical, we're standing all day. We're like constantly like going and like, oh wait, did I. I just barely cut hair for six hours straight. Do I, am I still a human, but it's like, you get so wrapped up and it's just so like, I love getting lost in my work and I am trying to set healthier boundaries with myself and my schedule.

Cause I'm realizing that like, just because I love it doesn't mean I have to do it all day every day, but I need space to connect. Outside of the chair, but It's just, that's, that's my world. That's my home. That's where I thrive.

Kimber: It's so cool to find people who have like found their calling and. Yeah, just, you're just lit up about it. I get that. When you talk about needing to set boundaries, like I have three little kids and I've now found this podcast and my poor kids, people be like, where's your mom? They're like, she's podcasting.

Cause like you I'm like, I just love it, but, but boundaries are so important too. Cause there's. All these parts of our lives I need a lot of solitude that sometimes I don't take the time for yeah. Boundaries are important, but that's awesome. You found something that lights you up so much and you're so good at it.

I follow you on Instagram now and beautiful work. So w I guess, first of all, where can people find you.

Andrea: So I mostly on Instagram to Andrea Neely And that's, I think the easiest way to con contact me, see my work, see what I'm about. And then I worked downtown at the desert lounge and I'm there. Monday through Thursday because I'm working on those boundaries and yeah. So mostly on Instagram is the easiest place to find me.

Kimber: And then if you have one takeaway from everything, what would that be for our listeners today?

Andrea: Spend more time, self care. Set aside moments to spend time with you and to discover who you are, because it's important having a relationship with yourself and then sharing that with the world, but taking those moments, whether it's like five more seconds to rub your favorite skincare lotion on, or taking more time to wash your hair in the shower or just recognizing where you get to spend time. Self-caring.

[00:32:30] Marker


Andrea NeeleyProfile Photo

Andrea Neeley

Queer hairstylist

Andrea Neeley is a queer hairstylist specializing in transition haircuts. She's lived in St. George for 15 years and has been doing hair for 10 of that. The desert lounge salon is her hair home, where she gets to provide safe spaces for connection and for humans to come and be themselves.