When you’re a woman in the United States, cutting your hair can be a big deal. People suddenly think you need their opinion. Headlines about Emma Watson and Rihanna come to mind, as do my own experiences rocking a pixie cut. Sometimes, cutting your hair is a political act.
Twice now I’ve turned my long hair into a short crop. The second time was soon after our wedding. With a new town and a new last name, I had my photo taken for a new driver’s license, and then I had my hair cut about a week later. Now I get a lot of comments on my hair transformation from strangers looking at my license. TSA agents have given me the most unsolicited opinions on my appearance. Many of them have asked why I cut my hair, as if they’re owed an answer.
I’ve come a long way in learning to anticipate and respond to these questions and comments about my body. Today, I welcome compliments when they are genuine. Last week, I clapped back at the latest male TSA agent who asked why I’d cut my hair.
“Because I look amazing.”
I have learned to accept (and even be proud of) how my short hair identifies me as queer.
The First Cut
The first pixie cut came during the summer before Ada and I started our discernment process. We shared a dorm room nestled in a stuffy Western Massachusetts armpit of a valley, and it was hot as hell. I had just finished acting in my classmate’s short film, where my long hair was key to my character.
When filming adjourned, I made an impulsive appointment at a nearby salon. My stylist asked several times if I was sure about my decision. For added drama, she hid the mirror until the cut was finished. I left feeling physically and emotionally lightened. It was soon after that Ada admitted she had romantic feelings for me. (She… appreciates short-haired women.)
My family, on the other hand, hated my haircut. To them, it symbolized my lack of straight-ness. It was a visual, omnipresent confrontation: a reminder of their homophobia. (No comment from Nana on her own prior pixie cuts, though.) There was no hiding that I was queer. But I couldn’t blame them because I myself wasn’t immune to that same heavy homophobia either.
During that summer, I traveled alone to Cape Cod for a reunion with former shipmates. I arrived early and walked through touristy downtown Woods Hole. It was swarming with young, healthy, straight couples and families. I remember being almost in a trance: “They all know I’m gay. They all can see that I’m gay. Their lives are normal, and mine is not.” I was ashamed, and I was relieved to return home to Ada.
“I’ve Never Felt More Feminine.”
It wasn’t until the second time cutting my hair that I was ready to embrace my hair as a symbol of shame-shattering pride. I was inspired by an episode of The Fosters (*spoiler alert*) where Stef cuts her hair short just before undergoing a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
I hate that I have my own internalized homophobia. Breasts and long hair do not make me a woman. I just wanna look the way I wanna look. Letting go of that fear… I’ve never felt more feminine.
After a few years of being open and out about being queer, after a few years of being with Ada and a few weeks of being married to her, after spending time in affirming churches and with affirming friends: I was ready to love myself, my hair, and my femininity. I was confident enough to defy patriarchal expectations of womanhood. I was ready to lay down my straight-presenting armor.
To me, femininity is synonymous with strength. Women bear the weight of the world on their backs and often in their bellies. Women thrive even in the face of pain and oppression. Like Stef, I’ve never felt more feminine than I do now, having released my fear of ridiculous stereotypes.
Pride is the Opposite of Shame
In a piece for Pride Month, fellow gay Christian bloggers David and Constantino Khalaf wrote:
Pride for the LGBTQ community is not the opposite of humility. It is the opposite of shame.
For many queer women like me, short hair invites the world’s assessment. I’ve had happy moments where that assessment is positive and fearful ones where it is not. By now, my scale has equalized in favor of pride, in favor of the absence of shame.
But what’s more – the world’s assessments matter less now that I know that God loves me for who God made me to be, and now that I love who they made me to be, too.
I already know how I look, and I’m proud of that and all it signifies. Beyond the political act of being a short-haired woman, beyond the open road of a world without patriarchal expectations, beyond the assertion that queerness – mine and yours – is beautiful, I also know something far simpler:
I look amazing.