In 2015, Vancouver native Jessie Anderson realized his ambition of putting his hairstyling skills to good use when he opened Big Bro’s Barbershop, a safe space for the local transgender community. The shop not only provides barber services, but also stocks gender-affirming products, provides transition peer mentorship, clothing swapping and free harm reduction supplies (like sexual health supplies, safer drug or hormone injection supplies, menstrual pads, and more). A year after opening his business, Anderson won the Small Business BC’s Best Emerging Entrepreneur award.
Describe yourself in a six-word sentence.
Femme storyteller in MASC barber’s body.
What was the last thing you shared on social media?
The Big Bro’s Barbershop Facebook page just shared a post by the Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly, which is owned by my business-owner-buddies Courtney Rice and Kaja Sadowski. They posted a series of photos for International Women’s Day of themselves and their students (of various genders) doing martial arts in their favorite skirts.
What do you think is the main challenge facing LGBTQ people in your community?
I’d say that the current biggest issue in Vancouver’s LGBTQ+ community is poverty. Vancouver is an incredibly expensive city that contains several of the community’s most important resources on this side of Canada, and there is a very real risk of being priced out of the area (especially for trans people, youth, LGBTQ2S Indigenous folks, and queer people with disabilities). Finding housing requires a lot of creativity and community connections; it is hardly guaranteed.
What is your favorite LGBTQ business where you live?
I’m not sure how the ol’ pop-and-pop shop will change now that it’s under new ownership, but I was an incredibly proud employee of Little Sister’s Book & Art Emporium for four years! Janine Fuller, Bruce Smyth, and the late Jim Deva did so much for LGBTQ+ acceptance and safety in Vancouver – and anti-censorship laws via their Supreme Court battle against Canadian Customs – during the store’s 30+ year legacy.
What advice do you have for people looking to be just like you?
My best advice to aspiring queer business owners would be to fake it until you make it – no one knows what they’re doing, ever. With decent reading comprehension and good stress management strategies, you can do anything in the grown-up world.