“Can I ask you something?”
My one night stand had a perplexed look on her face. I was pulling a T-shirt over my head and preparing to open my bedroom door quietly. It was 4 AM. I lived with my grandparents, and I feared that my grandpa, who drove trucks early in the morning, would run into the girl I was just holding in my arms and wonder why she was leaving at this hour.
“Sure,” I replied.
“Would you ever consider shaving?”
I frowned. In an instant, her comment transported me back towards the closet — which I had only recently come out of. At this point in my life, I still identified as a woman, but I was slowly steering away from the rigid gender binary. For me, that meant growing out my body hair.
In retrospect, I didn’t decide to stop shaving because of my gender identity or my political ideology. I was getting ready to drive to the beach with my family — a trip that was over four hours long — and I couldn’t find a razor to shave my underarms. That trip ended in a walk down the beach with my dad, who spat out Bible verses and tried to convince me that shaving made me more suitable for companionship. I internalized my dad’s comments. Back at home in my mom’s bathroom, I lathered shaving cream under my arms.
I had my fair share of boyfriends who didn’t like my body hair. They would say, “You need to be shaved — completely.” I found this to be both unreasonable and impossible to maintain.
I always felt disconnected from myself in my relationships with men. I thought dating women would be different — and, in many ways, it was — but I still held onto the cisheteronormativity that had been ingrained in me. Although there didn’t seem to be any gender hierarchies that I had to navigate while dating women, some women still expected me to adhere to society’s idea of what a woman should look like.
As time went on, I found myself buying razors less often. Eventually, I moved out of my parents’ house and accepted that how they view me is ultimately not my responsibility. After I moved out, I started to have a better understanding of who I was outside of the roles that people expected me to embody.
I kept my underarm hair to rebel against the gender binary, but I still found myself shaving my bikini line so I wouldn’t “scare off” the people I was dating. Still, I thought about the fact that having a smooth bikini line was a result of the harsh and unfair beauty standards that are imposed on women — and was I even a woman in the first place?
After two more years of cosplaying as a cis woman, I came out as nonbinary.
A couple of months after my last breakup, I went to a bar with my friends. As I danced on the back patio, a mutual friend told me in between steps that I deserve to be with people who accept me.
“Stop shaving, and maybe prioritize having sex with people who are nonbinary or trans. See if that helps you feel a little better,” they said as they pulled me into them and taught me how to move my feet correctly to the Latin beat.
I thought about their words for a while. Later, I started downloading dating apps. In my bio, I clarified that I was interested in pursuing T4T relationships. It’s not that I was no longer attracted to cisgender people — I was hoping to find parts of myself reflected in the people I dated.
I stumbled in and out of T4T dates and hookups. I fully grew out my underarm hair and my pubic hair, and at first, I would still hold my breath whenever I pulled down my pants in front of a new partner. Fortunately, other nonbinary people were usually unphased by my body hair, and most of them also had visible body hair, too. Eventually, I found that my body hair was actually helping me feel more confident and affirmed during sex, as long as I was having sex with people who appreciated me exactly the way I am.
Now my body hair reminds me that my gender is not fixed — I don’t have to fit the mold of what a woman is supposed to look like, no matter what my previous partners said. Instead, I’m free to bend the rules.