I've read a lot of articles about the pressure for women to have long hair, how long hair is seen as the marker of femininity, of heterosexuality, of womanly submission to male aesthetic preferences or whatever, and how women are sick of being told they have to wear their hair long. I have kind of the opposite problem.
I have really long hair. It’s to the middle of my butt and I’m growing it past my butt (I write about my hair a lot). My hair is one of my major hobbies and I spend a lot of time rinsing it with different weird things (coffee, tea made with dried catnip, diluted vinegar) and experimenting with products to keep it healthy and happy. I collect hand-crafted hair accessories to decorate my hair with. In short, am pretty obsessed with my long, pretty hair.
However, I’m also pretty sick of people assuming I’m straight, a woman, and/or generally interested in pleasing men based on my hair.
Actually one of the reasons I wear it so long is as a screw-you to one particular man, an abusive ex-boyfriend who made me keep it short while we were together. The other reason I have it long is because I like it, and the other other reason I have it so long is because it makes me less dysphoric.
See I’m genderfluid, meaning for me there are days I spend feeling like a man, days I spend feeling like a woman, and days I spend feeling like something else entirely. I’m femme, I’m always femme. If I’d been assigned male at birth, I’d still be femme and I’d still probably wear my hair long. If I were to transition to living as a man, I’d still wear my hair long.
My long hair makes me feel like a J.W. Waterhouse nymph or a super slutty hair metal groupie when I’m a woman. When I’m a man, it makes me feel like a badass glam rock viking warlord. And on other days, well, it makes me feel like me.
Despite all this, I often feel frustrated by the assumptions people make about me based on my hair. I do not like people taking me for a straight woman, because I am not a straight woman. I do not like people assuming my hair is there for men’s benefit. If I had to explain my sexuality succinctly, I'd say that I’m attracted to all genders, and don’t really care much what genitals folks have. But I’m only attracted to femmes, people who sometimes wear makeup and dresses, people who take time on their hair and like being thought of as pretty, people who never dress in classic BUUUUTCH style.
In my life I’ve been in four serious relationships, two with women, two with men. One of the men is now my husband. I’ve had somewhere around 25 sexual partners: men, women, and people of various other genders. More women than men -- if one is attracted to femininity it’s a little easier to find women who fit the bill. I think it’s absurd I have to give my sexual credentials to prove I’m “queer enough” but I end up having to, and I end up having to a lot more than when I had shorter hair.
When I was in high school, when I’d just started dating my first girlfriend, I felt like I was “supposed” to cut off my knee-length hair to prove that I was in fact actually queer. Later, when I figured out my gender identity, I felt obligated to cut it shorter, because well that’s what DFAB trans are supposed to do. So I did both times, and I hated it.
By the time I was with my second girlfriend I’d grown my hair back out, rebelling against that abusive ex-boyfriend I mentioned. Men didn’t believe us when we said we were a couple, and frankly I think the fact that we both had long hair had something to do with it.
When I started dating again after she and I broke up, I was acutely aware that there was a queer beauty standard, and it was one I didn’t fit. With my long hair, my makeup, my long nails and my miniskirts, when I went to gay bars, everyone assumed I was a straight girl there to dance. I’ve had so many people tell me my hair, more than any other aspect of my presentation, discredits my gender identity that I’ve lost count.
I’m also sick of feeling like there’s some tacit agreement that my hair makes me somehow less of a feminist, because the asshole dudes who think what women do with their hair is somehow their business might approve of my hairstyle. I shouldn’t have to give a damn what those dudes think either way.
Admittedly, I am a sex worker, so concessions to the male gaze must be made here and there. (Mostly I don’t have as much ink as I would have if it wouldn’t really hurt my earning potential.) But my hair is not one of those concessions. Although I’ve had clients who specifically wanted to be sure I hadn’t cut it off before booking with me, they don’t see it loose anyway.
I wear my hair up in front of anyone who’s not my husband or immediate family. I get hit on a lot less in public with my hair up, but I also think people think I look less queer than ever. Because A: even if we accepted DFAB trans people with long hair, buns would probably still be unacceptable and B: I think a lot of people see what they think of as “married woman putting her hair up” as a sign of modesty, like I'm saving my "crown of glory" for the eyes on my husband/owner. As much as I may be into some weird stuff in terms of my private sex life, that has nothing to do with it.
I’m a sex worker, I make more money if I get naked, and I wanted to have one part of my body that wasn’t up for public display. It’s not a modesty thing, it’s a privacy thing, and it’s definitely not a gender or sexuality thing.
I’m sick of there being a dress code I have to conform to before my politics, my sexuality, and/or my gender are seen as valid.
I know for a lot of people a haircut can feel immensely liberating, but for me? It feels like an act of submission. My hair isn’t my femininity, my hair isn’t my womanhood, my hair is my freedom -- from my ex, from social norms concerning men’s (and women’s) appearance, from all that is tidy, clipped and authoritarian. My hair is long like a Cavalier fighting Puritans during the English Civil War, like a Viking, like a Spartan warrior. (Yes, they wore their hair long, and they got it done before big battles, so if you saw a Spartan whose ’do looked especially good, you knew to run the other way.)
Also if I ever see the term “queercut” again I will punch a wall. Can we quit doing the “really *insert type of people X* only look like *Insert narrow stereotyping physical description Y*” thing? I know who I am.