Hair and Presentation

Questions and discussions about gender, gender roles and identity.
Raffles
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Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Thu Apr 30, 2020 5:54 pm

I'm agender, but I present (sort of) with the gender I was assigned at birth (female). I don't really view my clothes as gendered because it's usually just a t-shirt and jeans. I don't bind, but my chest is relatively flat to begin with. My face is quite feminine even though I don't wear makeup due to my bone structure. My hair is also quite long. Because of these things, people often automatically label me as a woman and use she/her pronouns for me. This causes me to feel quite dysphoric. I am uncomfortable with my body when people misidentify me. Pretty much all of my dysphoria is social, but it causes body dysphoria, if that makes any sense. I'm not interested in starting hormones, as I am perfectly fine with my body, just not the assumptions people make because of it.

That really just leaves my hair. I feel like the most obvious thing to do is get it chopped short. The thing is, I'm pretty attached to it because I have dealt with alopecia (an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss) in the past. I was lucky because I had the type where only small bits are lost at a time, so I could generally hide it. This was a (mostly) contained episode all the way back when I was in second grade. I lost a singular chunk two years ago. Otherwise, it's never happened again. I know it's a bit shallow to be this attached to hair, but I'm afraid I'm going to lose it again and I won't be able to cover it up again because my hair will be too short.

Anyone have thoughts or advice?

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Heather » Fri May 01, 2020 5:50 am

<big-haired agender person waving at you!>

I feel you. I’m also someone agender without dysphoria in my own body, but who has a lot of frustration with external assignments and assumptions of gender based on what I look like. For me, that’s body shapes I can’t change: the couple of times in life I had buzzed hair didn’t change that.

But I also like my hair, something about my head shape and bone structure make me look more femme with it short, anyway (which is why I rarely wear mine up), and for me, longer shaggy hair is something all the men had around me growing up, so I also associate it with a brand of 70s masculine swagger that has always spoken to me. And, for me, my hair is a deep connection to a side of my family where nearly everyone is long lost.

Honestly, there’s no right way to do any of this, no one right way to look, but also no way to look that frees any of us of unwanted, wrong — or both — gender assignments. We also all have complex relationships with so many of our body parts that are about way more than just gender, if they’re about gender at all.

I think you should do you, whatever that looks like, and with whatever priorities you have at a given time. One common bit of advice is that hair grows, so you should do whatever anyway, but that obviously is not quite so for those with alopecia, where having it or not isn’t in your control the way it is for those who don’t have it. <3
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Wed Jun 03, 2020 7:56 am

An update:
I got my hair chopped, partly to change it up and partly to get over my fear of hair loss. I don't love it; it's in between a bob and pixie. Also the hairdesser always feels the need to reassure me that it's very "feminine and chic," which is not what I want. I'm probably going to grow my hair back out and just deal with being misgendered for the rest of my life or figure out other ways to look more masculine. Ugh.
So I woke up today and brushed my hair and realized that I'm either losing or at some point over the past few months lost a chunk of hair from alopecia right at the front of my scalp. Now that my hair is shorter, there's not a lot I can do to cover it up. I know I'm not going to really see people for a while because pandemic, but I'm still upset. I feel so shallow for being this stupidly attached to my hair, especially with everything that's going on in the world.
Anyone have advice or thoughts?

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Heather » Wed Jun 03, 2020 8:51 am

I don't know if you have listed to MA representative Ayanna Pressley talk about her hair loss at all, but if not, she might be someone to listen to to get a start reassuring yourself that it is okay to feel this way about hair, and that a LOT of people have very powerful, big feelings around their hair. I swear it isn't only you.

For sure, is this as important as people losing their lives right now? No, but you know that. That still doesn't make you shallow for having feelings nor for wanting some support with them.

Moving forward sounds like one thing you could benefit from is finding a hairdresser who better fits with your gender identity. There are some great queer-owned/operated barber shops out there, and even if you want to keep it longer, barbers know how to trim longer hair. I think it sounds like that might be a better fit for you.

For now, why don't you play around with styling the new cut some? If you have some pomade or wax, you can see how it looks, for instance, slicked back, or otherwise styled in what are often thought of as more masculine ways. If you put "tomboy hair" into a search engine, you can get some visuals for ideas.

What kind of emotional support do you think would help you out right now?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Wed Jun 03, 2020 10:18 am

I'm not out to a lot of people, including my hairdresser and my parents (that I'm currently living with). I can't fault him for thinking that I want to look feminine, especially because I've insisted on long hair in the past. I sent him pictures of what I wanted this hair cut to look like, and they were all female models, so I totally get it. I've looked up some queer salons in my city, but I'm just really not sure what I want out of my hair at the moment. I do (did) like it slicked back, but that's how I realized I lost an area of hair in the first place, so that's probably out of the question for now. It's just not the best situation. It's also not that big of a piece, so I'm really making a bigger deal out of it than I should be. If I'm correct in my analysis, I think I may have actually lost it a while ago and it's starting to come back. That might just be wishful thinking, though. Either way, hair grows back, even the spots I've lost to alopecia in the past. I just have to be patient. I just need to suck it up and get over it.

Heather
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Heather » Wed Jun 03, 2020 1:23 pm

Well, if you don't mind my suggesting, maybe instead of sucking it up and getting over it, you might instead want to let yourself feel your feelings and work to accept them?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Wed Jun 03, 2020 3:33 pm

I honestly wouldn't even know where to start with feeling/accepting emotions. It's a long-standing habit of mine to invalidate my feelings because I feel guilty for having them. I think this might be getting a bit off topic, so I'll stop until I have another (hopefully positive) update. I'm sorry that I sound bitter. Thank you for your kind words and advice.

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Karyn » Wed Jun 03, 2020 9:09 pm

No need to worry about getting off topic, and please don't apologize about sounding bitter or not as positive as you think you should. This is clearly important to you, and you get to feel how you feel about it. If you'd like to talk about starting points for learning how to sit with your emotions, feeling them and accepting them, I have a couple of thoughts, just let me know if that would be useful.
"Where there is power, there is resistance." -Michel Foucault

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Thu Jun 04, 2020 8:27 am

Sure. Resources are never a bad thing. Thanks!

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Karyn » Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:04 am

Sure thing. Before I start listing things off, I do want to say that these are just suggestions, and you can take or leave whatever feels right to you.

So, the first thing that came into my mind when I read your post is that something like mindfulness might be helpful. A lot of people hear 'mindfulness' and think of long meditation sessions, but really it's just practicing becoming aware of what we're feeling when we're feeling it, and cultivating the ability to kind of sit with those feelings without trying to DO anything about them (like make them go away). It does take practice, quite a lot of it, especially with feelings like guilt or shame or fear - it's a very human instinct to want any pain of any kind to just be GONE - but it's possible.

This article is a pretty good overview of what mindfulness is and the potential benefits. To get started, lots of folks find apps with short guided meditations (five or ten minutes) helpful: I like Smiling Mind, but there are plenty to choose from.

If the idea of an app doesn't appeal, you can try just setting a reminder for yourself once or twice a day to just take a couple of minutes to just try and notice what you're feeling at the time. Sometimes starting with noticing your thoughts rather than emotions can be a bit easier, or noticing physical sensations (like, what is your breathing like in this moment?) instead of emotions. You can even set a timer: say, for one minute, and just sit with yourself for that one minute and try and pay attention to what you're feeling. If you find yourself starting to feel guilty for having whatever feelings you're having in that one minute, then that's something to notice too!

The other thing that came to mind that might be something to try is journalling. In my experience, noticing feelings after the fact through writing them down can be another way to start accepting them. Sometimes that's easier to do than starting with trying to be aware of what we're feeling as we're actually feeling it. You can do the more 'traditional' style of journalling with full sentences and paragraphs, but I'm wondering if something like a bullet journal could be a better fit for you. It's a very flexible approach that can be used for almost anything, and the beauty of it is there's no need for full sentences or lots of writing. You can just jot down a couple of words - maybe a short phrase that sums up a situation that was emotionally difficult (or good! that's always nice to recognize too!) and then a few words that describe your emotions at the time as you remember them. Taking maybe five minutes to do that at the end of the day would be one way to start. (Or even once every few days, if every day seems like a lot to begin with.) If finding those words is tough, a friend of mine developed this Find Your Feelings sheet that I love, that includes a ton of feelings words so that you're not trying to pluck them out of thin air. It can be used as a tool to compare how you are feeling vs how you'd like to feel, but it's also great as just a list of terms to describe emotions.

That's kind of a lot, so hopefully it wasn't too overwhelming! There are a lot of different ways to approach learning to just feel your feelings, and you don't have to start everything at once: my last suggestion would be to maybe pick ONE thing to start with, make it as un-intimidating as possible, and go from there.
"Where there is power, there is resistance." -Michel Foucault

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:04 pm

Update/vent- I went to the dermatologist, and he confirmed my suspicions. He said it that the spot is still "active" which means that the autoimmune reaction is still going on. The hair loss usually occurs over just a few days, so the good news is that it hasn't grown larger. In past experiences, it usually just stays the size and then grows back. This spot is much smaller (like a quarter size) than others I've had. He also checked my head and there are no other spots, so that's good. When my immune system calms down, it will most likely grow back (considering earlier experiences with alopecia areata, my spots do grow back. For refrence, 10% go on to develop alopecia totalis/universalis which is complete hair loss). He said it will take about 6ish months for there to be stable hair growth like fuzzy buzz cut growing out hair. If memory serves, that's consistent with my last episode. My hair usually grow back curly, which might be cute to just have a single awkward curl at the front, haha.

Anyway, when I got home I made a comment about how I'm annoyed with it and wish that it weren't happening or that it would just hurry up and grow back. My dad immediately said "well, at least it's not Crohn's disease or lupus." Which, yeah, that's true, but really not what I needed to hear at that moment. I'm grateful that, besides alopecia and eczema, I am in good health. It just kind of made me feel more guilty about getting upset over this.

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Amanda F. » Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:54 pm

Hi Raffles,

I'm glad you got some positive news from the doctor, in that it's likely to grow back once things calm down. Awkward hair can definitely be cute hair!

I'm sorry your dad didn't validate your frustration. This is a big deal to you, as I think it would be for just about everyone. Hair is a big part of our self-image and how other people see us - so your upset feeling makes complete sense to me. Feeling confident and happy with ourselves is just as much a part of a happy and healthy life as anything else.

Do you think this is something you could bring up to your dad? If so, what would you say?

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Wed Jun 17, 2020 9:38 am

I don't think so. He's a ER doc, so little problems like this aren't really on his radar (though I doubt he'd be happy if he started losing his hair). He also isn't really the emotionally supportive type or receptive to criticism. It's okay, though.
I'll make another update when there is one.

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Amanda F. » Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:16 am

Okay. We'll be here, and thinking of you!

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Jacob » Wed Jun 17, 2020 11:20 am

I just wanted to add Raffles that it can be good to lay the groundwork for future, like talking about things in the abstract rather than direct conversations which feel like they won't go well... Is that something you'd consider? I know for me it has helped if I can say I've "put it out there" even if the other person didn't engage with it. I know it might make future conversations easier if they ever do loosen up.
"In between two tall mountains there's a place they call lonesome.
Don't see why they call it lonesome.
I'm never lonesome when I go there." Connie Converse - Talkin' Like You

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:48 am

Thought I'd share an update-

This current episode of alopecia areata was likely triggered by excessive amounts of stress (quarantine, protests, a friend of mine going through a break up, and so on). For me, this really made me realize that ally-ship does require a certain degree of self-care. I would spend a lot of time feeling guilty that I'm not reading every single article/news report or signing every petition or posting about ways to help or just in general not doing enough. I still do feel guilty for needing to take time, but I get that it needs to happen.

The spot is getting a bit larger (just a little bit), but there's hair growing back so I'm (trying to be) not all that concerned and maybe even a little bit positive. It's not normal hair yet, but some hair growth is a good sign. It's getting close to time for me to get my hair trimmed again, but I'd dreading it. He's cut my hair during a previous episode, but I think it was more grown back at that point. I get that he can help me figure out a hair style that will make it easier to disguise, but I hate being vulnerable so much, especially if it's someone I feel I can't be out to for various reasons. If it were someone who would be open to working with me on creating a look that gives me gender euphoria and works with my hair loss.

Switching stylists isn't really an option at the moment because shut-downs (he's open for business because there is only ever one client in the salon at a time and they can wear masks at all times) and also he's been cutting my hair for 10 years now and cuts my parent's hair as well. There's a place near where I'll live next year for school that's queer affirming, so I'm hoping I can start getting my hair cut there when I move in fall.

That's it for now. Thanks y'all for listening as always.

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Siân » Fri Jul 03, 2020 5:28 am

Hey Raffles,

Thanks for sharing this update. It sounds like you're mostly sharing, so I'm not trying to give you a lot of specific advice here but I want you to know that you're seen and we hear you.

It sounds like you've been putting a lot of pressure on yourself to do or be everything all the time, and so giving yourself a break sounds like a good idea. What if you just try telling yourself "I am doing enough" and see how that feels?

I'm glad that your hair is starting to grow back - and it's exciting that you've researched places that might feel good to go to come autumn! Having a stylist that makes you feel comfortable can make a huge difference. I know that it can feel silly to have big feelings around hair but as a lot of folks have said upthread you are not alone. It took me years to go from hating and fighting my hair to loving it. I've had it every length from halfway down my back to a (new this week!) full buzzcut. I'm thirty years old, generally very confident, have little interest in how I "should" do my gender and still earlier this year a barber made me cry. Hair is emotive, even if wish it wasn't. To steal wisdom from my sister "we let stylists into our very close personal space and we literally let them change how people see us". It's a position of trust - no wonder you don't want to feel vulnerable with someone who you can't even explain how you want to be seen to.

Raffles
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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Raffles » Mon Jul 06, 2020 10:45 am

Hi!

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I don't want this to get too off topic, but I feel really weird about self-affirmations because I generally don't believe them. Like if I were to tell myself "I am doing enough," I'd immediately think of all the money I haven't donated or the articles I haven't read or the phone calls/emails to representatives I haven't made. What does it mean to do enough in times like these?

Related to the original question of hair and presentation, how has your gender identity shaped y'all's opinions and habits when it comes to body hair?

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Re: Hair and Presentation

Unread postby Sam W » Mon Jul 06, 2020 11:09 am

Hi Raffles,

I feel you, I'm someone who struggles with affirmations a lot of the time, for a similar reason. Something I've found that makes it easier to do those affirmations, or at least give myself permission to do self care, is to take time to decide what's actually within my capacity to do. With political stuff, that could be setting aside time to do the five calls thing or five messages on ResistBot. Or dedicating time and energy to one specific thing in local politics. With information, my rule currently is that I consume what I need to in order to stay informed, then cut myself off. It's so tempting to take in every single account of the bad stuff that's happening right now, but at a certain point steeping in tragedy is paralyzing rather than energizing, you know?

What a lot of the above boils down to is being honest with myself about my own energy, resources, and influence. Once I know where those things are, it becomes easier to believe things like "I'm doing what I can" because I know where the actual limits of my "can" are.


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