Commentary: Heard enough about story reading drag queens? Do you not quite believe the Attorney General’s accounting of the Russia investigation? And Jussie Smollett. Boy, bye!
While these stories have dominated the last few news cycles, our GOP friends in the Texas legislature have quietly been working on a few bills that should be of pronounced interest to the LGBTQ community.
Plano Republican Matt Shaheen filed House Bill 1705 in February. The Texas Barber and Cosmetology Abolishment bill deems licenses in those two fields would no longer be recognized nor required in the state of Texas.
HB 1705 directly affects a large portion of the LGBTQ community. Not to stereotype but when is the last time you met a straight male hair stylist? A large number of makeup artists are part of our community, as well.
These professionals have spent countless hours studying and perfecting their craft. Barbering and cosmetology education consists of learning about the anatomy and physiology of hair, skin and nails, chemistry, ecology, trichology, and more.
“I studied full-time 1500 clock hours which took about 10 months straight with no breaks. Part-time students go a year and a half,” licensed salon operator/cosmetologist Cesar Umana said.
“For those that are new to the Cos Industry, this bill that’s trying to do away with Cos licenses, has been raising its head for several years! Many have lobbied against this and we will still! However, think about this, would you let an unlicensed Doctor perform surgery on you? I think not! Cosmetology is far more that creating hairdos, using PUMP IT UP, Clairol BOXED Color, Dark and Lovely and over the counter “perms” as the population calls it! I am passionate about this INDUSTRY and the education that comes with it. To do away with our licenses is a slap in the face, saying our profession is worthless! The day that happens, I’ll NEVER visit, sit or allow anyone unlicensed and uneducated to even part my hair!” Umana wrote to HRH.
Having unlicensed personnel performing these and other tasks will result in unnecessary injuries and deaths. As recently as February of this year, officers with the Houston Police Department arrested a medical assistant for performing non-surgical cosmetic procedures, including injections, without a license or doctor supervision. Luckily no one died in that case but there are others where fatalities have occurred.
Allowing non-licensed professionals to practice would be an insult to the people who currently have licensure and have worked and struggled to obtain a certificate that they proudly hang at their stations.
Removing that requirement places clients at risk of chemical exposure and burns, infection, hair loss, communicable diseases, and a really bad hair day.
NOTE: Just before press time, Shaheen made changes to the bill that was filed after meeting with members of the cosmetology industry. In a statement, Shaheen said that the bill will no longer abolish cosmetology licensing requirements, but will change the approach for reducing the barriers to employment instead.
At first read, this sounds like reduced training, making it easier for unqualified persons and unlicensed persons to practice cosmetology and barbering. We’ll keep watching.
The Texas legislature isn’t stopping at making it risky to get your hair dyed the latest color trend. (You know who you are). Not to be outdone by its fanatics in the House, the Texas Senate is contemplating Senate Bill 17, a bill that would allow state-licensed professionals to refuse to serve LGBTQ people if they cite their religion. Lubbock Republican Charles Perry authored the bill which advanced out of committee with a 7-1 vote.
“Living our faith does not stop when we start to work,” said Perry. “When we see what we may perceive as immoralities, those people who hold those beliefs should be able to defend their faith…without fear of losing their livelihood and their license.”
What this bill does, if passed, is grant a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people. It specifically singles out sexual identity as who can be denied services. It may start with a state licensed mental health professional or lawyer who refuses to see a lesbian patient by saying, “Due to deeply held religious beliefs I cannot help you.”
Maybe a state licensed teacher refuses to teach a gay high schooler by saying, “Due to deeply held religious beliefs I cannot teach you.”
Then a pharmacist refuses to fill a prescription to a transsexual and says, “Due to deeply held religious beliefs I cannot fill this for you.” Maybe a real estate agent refuses to show you your dream house.
Eventually bigots and racists in other professions will start to clamor for the same religious protections. Waiters will refuse service to drag queens, bartenders can deny a drink to a queer, or maybe even a landlord will refuse to rent to you for whatever religious reason he chooses to cite.
The fact that these two bills have advanced as far as they have should be concerning to everyone. Passing the Texas Barber and Cosmetology Abolishment bill places every Texan at risk and invalidates the hard work and dedication of people like Cesar Umana. Passing SB 17 is state endorsed discrimination against LGBTQ people. Both of these bills must be defeated where they stand.