Hair

"HAIR" bandannaI’ve been thinking a lot about hair lately. Specifically, about queer visibility in hair. I make the choice to keep my hair short and butchy, but I like it to have some funk and style. And when I met Ellison, had super short, adorable, barbershop hair. But 8 years ago she started growing it out, and really loved it. We had lots of conflict about long hair and smoking – hair soaks up odors like nothing else, and going to bed with smoky hair was just not cutting it for me (2+years smoke free – wahoo!). I drew some poorly enforced lines in the sand, we argued, and the hair kept growing. Finally, last year Ellison decided to grow it out for Locks of Love, which provides wigs to children with hair loss from medical conditions. This required 10 inches of hair, which meant letting it grow.

Then last week, she cut it back to really short, cute, boy hair. I think she’s amazingly adorable, and so do many of our friends. But the public at large is having a different reaction. Folks she knows don’t understand why she would cut it off. Folks she doesn’t know are giving the hairy eyeball in restrooms again. There are positives and negatives to being visible as a queer person in this world, and I found myself thinking again about the choices we make to be seen, to be identified, to reject the privilege of passing and take on the challenges the world gives. Then I read this post by my friend Allison Moon (an incredible writer, you should read her stuff) about the privilege that comes from having “outsider” hair – the folks it draws, and the folks who just pass on by.

I can barely connect to the person who once sported a blue mohawk, a deep purple bob, and for many years had bright red hair I cut myself into a variety of strange creations. In fact I’m vain about three things in my appearance, and hair is one of them. I get my hair cut every five weeks, religiously, at an “eco-chic salon”. I haven’t dyed it in more than 8 years. But I think I’ve found a nice balance that lets me be visible to the folks I want to be seen by, and still doesn’t totally freak out the other folks in my life. Not looking scary gives me access to a lot of people who wouldn’t have listened to me when I rocked my gutter-punk DIY style. And now that I’m not angry at the whole world all the time, having “Fuck You Hair” is just not the message I want to be sending.

Hair. So complicated. Such a huge signifier in our society. But so infinitely moldable – it’s a really easy way to try on an identity without a permanent commitment.

2 responses to “Hair

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Woolverine!

    It’s funny – the first thing I thought when I saw Ellison’s new hair was “Wow, that’s a dykey haircut.” Of course, to me, that’s a complement and I think she looks adorable. But it was amazing to go from “passing” to “dykey” in 10 inches, considering she had changed nothing else about her look.
    Hair is strange and powerful stuff, yo.

  2. Hi Allison:

    Thanks for dropping by – yeah, it’s remarkable what some dead keratin can do. And how much cultural significance we ascribe to it, too – seriously, the fact that cutting your hair made you visible is both awesome, and a shame.

    And I’m going to put you in my blogroll right now, while I’m thinking about it. Your writing always gives me something to think about.

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