Intern Emily and the Case of the Hairstyle-Induced Identity Crisis

The last time I got a haircut was in the middle of August on top of a roof by professional hair cutter & stylist Laura Wooley Mammoth and I was half naked. Look, here is a picture from that same day:

my hair stylist and I are closepersonalfriends

I usually get my hair cut every ~3 months, as my hair grows fast and it is also short which means that I have to cut it in order to avoid the shaggy dog look. But this year I moved out of my parents’ house. September, October, November, and parts of December happened, and by that I mean my life disintegrated to the point where I was a frumpy mess of clothes lying in bed wondering if I actually existed. In between this and trying to spend as little money as possible, I seriously considered letting my hair grow out. I have not had long hair since I was 17. Mostly every time I think about growing my hair out, I think about the shaggy dog phase and then decide that I don’t want to do it.

In November I asked for a haircut for my birthday, which I didn’t get. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time. I think I just couldn’t be bothered to get a haircut / didn’t want to spend money on it / wanted my professional hair stylist to do it until I decided that I wanted to grow my hair long enough for a full ponytail and then cut it off.

Okay, most of that is bullshit.

Here’s what I noticed when I first cut my hair back in grade 11: people started calling me ‘sir’. I have never been called ‘sir’ until I cut my hair. I have to make a bit of a stretch to see where people get confused with my gender, but I can see it. I get it, kind of. One might say that I have an androgynous face. I don’t know. Some people are surprised when I tell them people call me ‘sir,’ some people are not.

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RIP sweet sunglasses

I also noticed that when I got a fauxhawk, I got called ‘sir’ a lot more, especially at work. This led me to wear v-necks and boots with heels more often.

You see, this is the truth: part of me is afraid I am growing my hair out because I want to “pass.” I’m afraid I’m doing it for the wrong reasons. Semi-consciously I’ve tried to pass at work because let’s face it, it’s fucking awkward when customers realize you’re not actually a ‘sir’. I’ve spent most of my life wanting to fit in with the “normal” kids, but I could never wear the dresses or heels or 234 different kinds of make up. But I could have the long hair. Right? A teeny tiny part of me wants to be normal.

People associate long hair with femininity. If you’re a girl with short hair, you have to have some other sort of “feminine” aspect, e.g. earrings, flowery dresses, shiny hairless legs, lipstick. See, in our world, most girls = long hair. Boys = short hair, and no one has to think too hard.

But really, I want to be a person who is not afraid to be herself. Sometimes I am. I want people to recognize that there is more than one way of looking like a girl. I don’t want to pass.

On the other hand, I want people to see that lesbians can have long hair.

On the other foot, I don’t want my hair to be my identity. Does anyone really care about my hair that much? So while I sit here pondering the meaning of my existence, my hair is growing longer. It’s in a ponytail and it’s really cute, if I may say so myself.

The other truth is that I will probably cut it all off and run rampant like a good angry queer feminist with a radical homosexual agenda and sweet combat boots.

JK about the combat boots.

I feel like you may have some hairstyle-related feelings and I think you should share them in the comments.

Originally published on The Shoreline Receding. Published with glowing, supportive permission.

Emily Choo started as an intern with Autostraddle when she was 18 years old. She's now 10 years older and lives in Toronto with her partner and cat. The defining moment of her career was when Riese said this about her: " I think Emily Choo is a very bright, 'poetically inclined' girl who pays attention to everything and knows almost everything (the point of stuff, how to read, how beautiful things feel, how scary things feel, etc.) but doesn't believe/accept/realize yet that she knows almost everything." She still doesn't believe she knows anything, so, thank you, Riese, for that.

Emily has written 114 articles for us.

180 Comments

  1. I’m rocking asymmetric bangs with long hair. It’s a nice nod to the Alternative Lifestyle Haircuts; most of my previous short haircuts involved funky banks and asymmetry and I missed that when I grew my hair out after 8 years of short.

    It’s funny–when I had babydyke short hair, I assumed that no one could read me as gay. I wasn’t sure how to be out, didn’t know many queer folks. I also continued to be hit on by men in public/at work/etc. I look back now and think “I looked so gay, how did I think otherwise?”

    With long hair now, I feel more confident these days. I even *think* that I read more queer than I did with short hair; it has a lot to do with my comfort level with my identity.

  2. I really want to cut my hair short, in October I went to London Comic Con as the Eleventh Doctor and got my fringe cut in a way that looked all floppy like Matt Smith’s when it was straightened, and just kept the rest tied in a bun.
    I have really thick, curly/wavy/frizzy hair and when I dry it naturally the fringe bit around my face goes really wildly curly and cute, normally I just tie most of it back in a messy bun.
    But the short front bit around my face is really cute and I’m dying to just have it all that length in a kind of mop of curls type thing, but my hair is so thick if I cut it short it’ll probably look like a mushroom or puff out hugely in an unattractive way and I’ll have to use loads of products. But on the other hand, I might be able to straighten it more easily because there’ll be less of it.

  3. Damn! As someone in the midst of queer hair crisis its nice to know Im not alone. Thanks for the article and everyone else for sharing.

    I had super short hair for a decade and spent the last 2 years growing it out to shoulder length. Enter the identity crisis of a newly out, gender queer 30 something and I suddenly feel like lobbing off my red locks to “fit in”. Ironic, since I spent so much time trying to “fit in” by trying to be straight! Taking a few moments to chill out Ive been experimenting with up dos for those times when Im feeling more “he” and keeping it long for those times Im feeling more “she.” Its amazing how hair has such an impact on what aspects of my personality are present. Im glad Ive had both long and short hair so I know how both look on me and the pros and cons. Right now Im leaving it long, it just looks better on me than short hair. Not to mention letting down an updo into a cascade of rouge is pretty damn hot ;)

  4. I am pansexual with a preference for ladies. After my first love left me, I needed a change. I had adored her short hair, as it had looked adorable and slightly rebellious. Since I’m very involved in the QSA at my school (and am president this year,) I had long hair and a feminine style and could still date her. Still, after her, I just didn’t want to be that mopey little girl that I was because of her. I wanted to be new.

    I had always wondered what I would look like with a pixie cut, so I chopped it off. With kitchen scissors, because my mother had always called my hair my best physical feature, and I knew my family wouldn’t be completely supportive. I learned later that my ex wasn’t attracted to me because I wasn’t butch like she wanted. But she could have just told me. I wouldn’t have wasted my time on her.

    A lot of things have happened this year. For a few months, I felt without anchors. My closest friends had graduated, my dog had died, my parents and I were fighting more than usual, and my hair was gone.

    It’s good to know that my hair doesn’t define me. My dad said right afterwards that if I ever liked a man, he wouldn’t reciprocate based on my hair (my dad doesn’t understand short-haired girls.)

    I was really surprised that the person who I fell in love with, a friend I never would have expected, is a man.

    Your hair doesn’t define you. I do miss its comfort, and how it connected me to my past as a flower child and my friends (most of whom are feminine, straight girls.) And I want it back. But it isn’t me. Because, as Walt Whitman, would say,
    I contain multitudes.

    It was never a question of picking men over women, but Nick over Chelsea, because nobody else has ever cared less about my hair, and more about me.

    And that feels good.

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