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Michigan city investigates salon owner's online comments about gender identity

Christine Geiger cuts a customer's hair at her salon Wednesday, July 12, 2023, in Traverse City, Mich.
John Flesher
Christine Geiger has drawn criticism after posting on social media that anyone identifying as other than a man or woman is not welcome at her business. Geiger tells The Associated Press she believes small businesses should be able to serve whom they wish. City officials are investigating whether she is violating an anti-discrimination ordinance.

A northern Michigan city is investigating after a local hair salon owner posted on social media that anyone identifying as other than a man or a woman is not welcome at her business.

Christine Geiger's online posts have drawn criticism from Traverse City's mayor and other officials, who said they were looking into whether she was violating a municipal anti-discrimination ordinance.

Demonstrators chanted and carried signs Wednesday outside the business, Studio 8 Hair Lab — Education & Beauty Supply.

In an Associated Press interview, Geiger stood by her posts and said small business owners should be free to serve whomever they wish.

“I just don’t want the woke dollar. ... I’d rather not be as busy than to have to do services that I don’t agree with.”

A post last weekend on the salon’s Facebook page, which is no longer available, read, “If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer. You are not welcome at this salon. Period. Should you request to have a particular pronoun used please note we may simply refer to you as ‘hey you.’”

In another post regarding whether her establishment was “LGBTQ+ friendly,” Geiger wrote, “LGB are more than welcome however the rest of it is not something I support.”

Geiger told the AP her statements weren’t prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's June 30 ruling that a Christian graphic artist who wants to design wedding websites can refuse to work with same-sex couples, although she agreed with the decision.

Geiger, 48, said she was motivated primarily by personal experiences and objection to schools and doctor's offices informing children about gender identification matters.

She said she had been a licensed hairstylist since 2006 and never knowingly had rejected a transgender person’s request for service. Her salon does not take walk-in clients. Her customers are mostly acquaintances and people whom they refer.

“I’ve had a big outpouring of support from my existing clients,” she said, but she’s also been flooded with angry messages, some making threats.

Jack Winn, CEO of a Texas-based hair products company whose merchandise Geiger has used and promoted in her salon, said Thursday he disapproved of her comments and had severed ties with her after receiving more than 1,600 emailed complaints.

State Rep. Betsy Coffia, a Democrat from Traverse City, said Geiger's comments reflected “breathtaking hate and bigotry.”

City attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht said she would investigate complaints against the salon “based on the relevant legal standards,” including Supreme Court rulings and Traverse City's 2010 ordinance barring discrimination on numerous grounds, such as sexual orientation and gender identity.

“We are disheartened to hear of any discriminatory behavior in our region," Mayor Richard Lewis said. “The City of Traverse City has valued itself on providing a safe environment for all people.”

The city of 15,700 anchors a Lake Michigan resort community with sandy beaches, cherry orchards and arts festivals. Some residents say the city's cheery exterior masks racial and cultural divides similar to those elsewhere in the U.S.

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