Studio 8 Hair Lab is in the “find out” phase of its “fuck around and find out” transphobic journey that began in July.
At that time, the business posted to Facebook, “If a human identifies as anything other than a man/woman please seek services at a local pet groomer.” To drive home the point that they really, really mean it, Studio 8 added, “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.'”
As Pride Source reported at the time, the salon’s owner, Christine Geiger, took the post and the studio’s social media accounts down when things didn’t go her way (to the tune of hundreds of super angry responses and angry-face reactions), but everything on the internet is potentially immortal. Screenshots of the post spread quickly, and a would-be localized story about a single anti-trans hair stylist in a quiet Michigan town soon made international news.
Five months later, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has handed down a discrimination charge to the Traverse City business, which faces potential fines and the suspension or revocation of its business license. A hearing will be held before an administrative law judge.
John Johnson, Jr., executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR), said during a press conference on Nov. 15 that the salon “flagrantly violated” the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act’s (ELCRA) public accommodation provisions, describing the case as “not complicated.” “It is not a case that relies on complex legal concepts or that requires expensive or convoluted arguments to explain. Christine Geiger has responsibilities under law as the owner of a business offering services to the public in the state of Michigan,” he added.
While the expanded ELCRA provisions related to LGBTQ+ rights does not go into effect until Feb. 13, the commission has interpreted the law to include sexual orientation and sexual identity for many years, an interpretation upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2022.
Geiger has not participated in the MDCR’s investigation. “Our staff attorney attempted to set up a meeting with [Geiger] to address the issues in the complaint and to go over the sufficient evidence that we found,” MDCR Director of Enforcement Marcellina Trevino said at the news conference. “To our dismay, the respondent refused to participate in conciliation, and therefore our staff attorney drafted a charge which was filed this morning with the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules.”
The salon has, however, sued the city of Traverse City and three individuals who filed certified complaints with the MDCR on free speech and free exercise of religion grounds in late October, citing her business’s right to “use its talents and the expressive platform they have to celebrate and promote God’s design for male and female.”