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A Burlington hairstylist gives back to their community with gender-affirming haircuts

A hairstylist about to shave the back of a little boy's head.
Marlon Hyde
/
VPR
Dana opened Talmo Hair Co. over a year ago. It is located in the Chase Mill by the Winooski River.

Inside Talmo Hair Co, the pink and white walls are almost hidden behind a jungle of plants and lively posters. Will, 9, is sitting in a boosted barber’s chair, feet dangling, looking at his long hair in the mirror.

Will, who uses he/him pronouns, is having his side-parted hair hairstyle turned into a lighter part with a fade underneath.

“It made me happy,” Will said, “I just remembered that I told no one in my class that I was getting a haircut.”

For Will to go with something so different than he did for years, it means that he's comfortable with himself," said Will's mom, Cynthia. "And that's what I want for my child, I want them to have the freedom to have themselves on the outside."

“For Will to go with something so different than he did for years, it means that he's comfortable with himself, and that's what I want for my child, I want them to have the freedom to have themselves on the outside."
Cynthia Ryle, Will's mom

She brought her son in today for a free gender-affirming haircut. These are hairstyles that express how someone feels on the inside and are popular amongst trans youths, trans adults and non-binary kids.

And that freedom to be oneself authentically is something Talmo Hair Company’s owner specializes in.

More from VPR: 'Incidentally Queer': A Short Comic About LGBTQ+ Vermonters Living Life To Its Fullest

Dana Talmo, who uses they/them pronouns, started hair styling over seven years ago, because when they were younger, they struggled to get the haircut they asked for. Haircuts are traditionally divided by gender: Women go to salons. Men to barbershops.

“I even would go in places [salons] with a picture drawn. Like, 'Here, this is exactly what I want.' Then I would be faced with someone saying, 'Well, that looks like a boy, you don't want that, because that will make you look like a boy,' because I look, you know, female,” they said.

“I even would go in places [salons] with a picture drawn. Like, 'Here this is exactly what I want.' Then I would be faced with someone saying, 'Well, that looks like a boy, you don't want that, because that will make you look like a boy,' because I look, you know, female."
Dana Talmo, owner of Talmo Hair Co.

Dana says they want their clients to not only feel heard, but to feel empowered — like how Dana wishes they were.

Another client Juni, who uses he/they pronouns, is having his overgrown buzz cut turned into a fashion mullet. Juni, who is 12, and Dana are like two friends catching up after having not seen each other in a while .

“Here we are doing a fashion mullet. Heck yeah!” Dana says.

Juni's mom found Dana a few years ago, after, she says, another salon refused to cut Juni’s hair short. Since then these haircuts have been really important, Juni says.

It's really kind of opened my eyes to like, I can alter the way that I look to make me feel more comfortable with myself, and that's really wonderful,” he said. “It makes me feel more masculine, and I can present more masculine, making me feel better in my skin.”

An adult fluffs a preteen's hair while looking in a mirror surrounded by plants.
Marlon Hyde
/
VPR
Dana preparing to give Juni a "fashion mullet."

And it’s been important for Dana too. Not the one cutting hair, but the little Dana waiting for a hairstylist to listen to them for once.

I definitely felt like giving these haircuts was making amends to the past," they said. "Not to make it about myself, but it definitely provided some healing. Just kind of taking my skills and career into the direction of helping kids and adults, everyone just feels good about their hair."

Access to gender-affirming haircuts is growing. Since Dana did the haircuts, other hair stylists have heard about their work and want to join in. Dana hopes to run monthly gender-affirming haircut days for the foreseeable future.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Marlon Hyde @HydeMarlon.

Marlon Hyde is the Sunday Weekend Edition Host and Vermont Public’s first news fellow. He reports on Arts, Culture, and Community stories. He joined Vermont Public in the spring of 2021 after graduating from Saint Michael’s College with a degree in media studies, journalism, and digital arts with a minor in Philosophy. He has been honored with a National Murrow Award for reporting on the 9/11 Remembrance Project alongside Jane Lindholm and Melody Bodette.
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