In 1985, it was unsafe to be trans in public. As a response, private salons were opened for people in the community to dress as their true selves. Carla’s Salon opened in 1985 by Carla Blair, a heterosexual woman. Those who attended would have a private place to explore their gender identity. It was a combination tearoom, beauty salon, boutique, and social center that became popular worldwide within the transgender community.
“In 1985, the word ‘transgender’ had not gotten into the lexicon yet. Honestly, we use that word loosely now, but it was the transsexual community at the time,” Aejaie Franciscus remembered about the time Carla’s Salon was founded. “This was happening in the middle of the AIDS epidemic, yet people didn’t understand the gay community or the AIDS epidemic. When you introduce the idea of someone wanting to change their sex, they really didn’t understand that.”
In 2010, Aejaie Franciscus and her husband took over the Carla’s Salon from founder Carla Blair. Carla approached Aejaie one day and suggested the idea, and after some convincing Aejaie accepted. The name changed from Carla’s Salon to Carla’s Social Club.
Aejaie has noticed a change in clientele over the years. As people have become more comfortable with presenting in public, there’s less need for haircuts and make up, and more need for socialization and support. Carla’s is a great resource for finding doctors as well. People participating in the salon need help at every level of transition.
“I have been on the fringes of cross-dressing for a number of years now,” said one reviewer about Carla’s on their website. “Recently I decided to go deeper. I decided to have a makeover to see what I would look like as a woman. Aejaie could not have been more patient, supportive as well as doing an excellent job making me up and describing what she was doing and why. It is so comforting to know that I am not on this journey alone. Thank you so much Aejaie.”
Membership at Carla’s is around 200 people, including 70 active locker members and people who come from all over the world to attend events. “There are a lot of people you could talk to from over the years that would say Carla’s was a life saver; it was a great resource. Whether it be through me, or someone else, that that’s where they found their family and place,” Aejaie said.
As of 2020, Carla’s is still in operation, continuing to offer members locker rentals and a safe space for those to spend the day en femme. The services and memberships are listed on their website, Carlas.com.