Trans Joy: Long Hair
Ahead of Smutathon 2021, we’re publishing a series of Trans Joy posts. As we’re fundraising for Gendered Intelligence and Trans Lifeline this year, we want to flip the script on trans people being asked to perform their pain over and over again to prove that they deserve human rights.
Instead, we want to celebrate trans joy and gender euphoria. We’ve teamed up with Quenby Creatives, whose Trans Joy series highlights the positive side of trans experiences to bring some balance to trans discourses.
Having long hair brings me trans joy. That’s something that could feel cliche and completely un-noteworthy, but it feels significant because as well as being trans, I’m also a man.
There’s a lot of narratives about being trans that get repeated over and over, both from those outside the community and from those of us within it. Hair and haircuts always seem to be a big part of the transmasculine stories we tell—the big moment of finally chopping off your hair, of going to a barbers instead of a hairdressers for the first time, and finally seeing yourself in the mirror afterwards. And I suppose for a long time, that wasn’t an entirely wrong story about me. I had short hair before I came out as a trans boy, but the moment of moving from a hairdresser to a barbers did feel like a big step in social transition. I did used to have nightmares about my hair growing too long but being unable to get it cut. I truly did feel more ‘like myself’ with short hair, and for a long time it was part of the story I told about myself, both inwardly and to others.
Another thing that has always seemed to be part of the stories we tell ourselves and each other as transmasculine people is about clothes. Some of the earliest resources I accessed about being transmasculine heavily focused on clothing, and the story 00s transmasculine resources often told about clothing was to fear alternative fashion and style, to choose more basic cuts and fits and colours, and to blend into the background. My adherence to this style advice wasn’t quite as strict as my adherence to the hairstyle advice—I was a teenager, both too broke to cultivate any kind of wardrobe and too angsty to say goodbye to black t-shirts—but as I came into adulthood it still took me a long time to shake off this sense that I ‘had to’ follow this kind of advice.
In hindsight, I think the way I held on to this fashion advice—along with the other things I kept me with from 00s FtM culture into my adulthood, like an eating disorder, a very pointed insistence that I didn’t want bottom surgery, a feeling that I had to keep my hair short, and both shame at my attraction to men and a deep desire for the sexual approval of cis gay men—because I was afraid of being Too Much. I was afraid of being too trans, too fat, too alternative, too masculine, too much like the ‘SJWs’ I saw my peers tear apart online, too hairy, too traumatised, too political, too difficult, too demanding. I made myself small because I was afraid that in authenticity—in living in a way outside the narrow boundaries I saw granted to transmasculine people—I would be something and someone that nobody else could desire.
In her essay for The Cut, ‘Sword Guys Are a Thing and I’ve Had Sex With All of Them’, Hana Mitchels talks about…. well, sword guys. The kind of guy who owns a sword. While I genuinely don’t think I have that many points on the sword guy scale—I only own one sword (a synthetic HEMA sword) and one tiny axe, although in fairness I have also said the words “I think I deserve a flail mace” so, you know—I take a whole lot of joy in calling myself a sword guy amongst friends. I think part of that is calling myself some kind of guy—somebody doing a very specific thing, to the point where others notice it, because they know it’s what they want—feels like such a big step, because I spent a lot of time trying to make myself as palatable and inoffensive and featureless as possible.
Being ‘some kind of guy’ is not the only reason I like having long hair, but it’s one of the things that brings me joy about it— the knowledge that I no longer feel the need to fit myself within a narrow definition of what transmasculinity is allowed to be. I am no longer afraid of my own transness. I no longer carry with me the shame I once held around it. Even though I still live with the results of living in a transphobic society—including a history of eating disorders and trauma from sexual violence—I know I finally accept my trans status, because it no longer feels like a reason I cannot be in particular ways. I can be fat and hairy and want bottom surgery. I can wear a battle jacket and stompy boots and grow my hair out as long as I want. I can do all these things and know I am still worthy of love and respect, that there are still people who will love and cherish and desire me. My transness is not something that needs to be made palatable by sanding down every other notable feature around it.
And that—knowing I’m finally at a place of acceptance—brings me joy.
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Donate to Trans Lifeline
At time of publishing, we’ve raised: