T the hairdresser has stabilized my head as I sat in the swivel chair, face mask, looking in the mirror.In December 2020, another lockdown was looming, and nearly 12 months earlier, II made a New Year's resolution to have short hair that year. In 45 minutes, my mop was reduced to a few inches.
People often get drastic haircuts in response to life-changing events , like a breakup or the loss of a loved one. I got mine because I wanted to embrace how I felt as a butch lesbian.
As far as I can remember, I have been gender non-conforming. Around the age of four, I organized a demonstration against wearing a dress at Christmas. I was horrified, on a birthday, to receive a Barbie.
My mom now loves me for who I am, but as a teenager , I grew up in Cumbria I knew she would not accept my sexuality. She had raised me as a Christian and homosexuality conflicted with her faith. In high school, I learned that words like "gay" and "lesbian" should be used in negative ways - like slurs or jokes. Rumor had it that a PE teacher was a lesbian, and students were chatting about her appearance. She looked quite masculine and had short hair.
I realized I liked girls when I was 13. Over the next few years, I hated myself. I felt sordid, ashamed and bad: I was told that people like me were wrong. I tried to pray and go out with boys. But I couldn't change who I was.
I connected with more masculine and butch lesbians, like Ellen DeGeneres or friends from my team at soccer. But they were laughed at for their menswear and their mohawks. School kids giggled about angry leather-faced dykese, hating men. I felt so ashamed when they did.
Finally, in 2011, when I was 17, I found the courage to come out by having my hair cut: a fierce short back and sides with a feather on top.
I drove to nearby Brampton and made an appointment with a hairdresser for the following week. I seemed fairly calm with the receptionist when booking but, back in the car, I cried violently, my head resting on the steering wheel.
I felt completely alone, trapped in a nightmare from which I could not wake up.
The day after booking, I canceled the appointment. I had gone out to a friend in the village, and she was wondering if it was not too much for me rather than going out gradually, then doing my hair betters late. Looking back, I'm glad she said that - I wasn't ready.
I actually came out about a year later : I was with my first girlfriend and I could not hide our relationship. My friends and most of my family have supported me. It took a while, but my mom is now one of my biggest supporters.
I was happier after I came out, but I felt repressed by my appearance and the stigma of human appearance. I gave in to what I perceived to be overwhelming societal pressure to appear physically acceptable to the heterosexual majority, but repeatedly looked online at people whose style I wanted to copy; for example, the actor Lea DeLaria and most recently Harry Styles - my lesbian icon. I idolized the Pompadour 2012 by Alex Turner , singer of the Arctic Monkeys.
I have also found inspiration in transgender and non-binary people, including included several drag kings in London, where I live now. I disagree with claims that transgender and non-binary people erase or threaten my identity as a butch lesbian and a cisgender woman. Conversely, they were a huge source of strength for me, especially in terms of authentic living.
In my mid-twenties, I wore more of men's clothing and less makeup. I bought costumes for formal events such as weddings, having given in to dresses until then. In 2020, it was nearing a decade since I had booked this first haircut and I vowed to myself the farea to be done before the end of the year. My then-girlfriend was encouraging and, due to the pandemic, I didn't see many people for months. I had time to adapt.
After my hair was cut, I felt revitalized. I ran my hands in the shower and smiled. A friend compared me to Charizard - the Pokemon - in that I had evolved into my final form. (I am in the "soft butch" subcategory: that is, I am mostly "male", but sometimes I buy from the women 's section and will consider a spa day strange.)
Sometimes I am innocently wrong in public. There is also occasional abuse. A few weeks ago a man on the street asked me aggressively if I was a boy or a girl. This n wasn't that he was eager to learn more about my gender identity: it was like he wanted to hurt me.
I am proud of my appearance now. But the sad reality is that I didn 't gain anything from those years when I wasn ' t been myself. I feel uncomfortable looking at old photos of myself taken at a wedding or prom: long hair, makeup on my face, and wearing dresses. I spent so much time playing because I was afraid of what other people might think.
Put pressure on people who don't want to not conforming to gender stereotypes does not change them. It damages them. My haircut helped set me free. I just wish I had felt able to do it years ago.