You Need Help: What To Do With Your Gay Hair In Trump Country

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Q:

I currently rock a pretty Rachel Maddow-esque ‘do and I love the sense of identity and individuality it gives me, but I live and go to college in Kentucky. In the first week of President-Elect Trump, I’ve been catcalled more viciously and with more derogatory remarks aimed at my stereo-typically gay haircut than I have in the previous three years that I’ve lived here. They’re getting more physically aggressive too. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been seriously considering growing out my hair to a more generic bob length for peace of mind… but that also seems like giving up and giving in to everyone else. So, I’m stuck. Is growing out my hair to make myself less of a target giving in, or is it a smart decision given the current (hate filled) political climate?


A:

Don’t grow your hair out.

I know these advice posts aren’t usually so emphatic, but I must start by beseeching you not to do it.

I totally get it, and I’m pissed as heck that you even have to ask a question like this. I think we are all in our little corners of this dark, turbulent universe trying to figure out what will keep us safe in a world where Donald Trump is the next president and his VP is a guy who thinks electroshock therapy will fix our queer brains. I’m over here in Dallas, Texas going to Trader Joe’s instead of Kroger because TJ’s is easier to get out of and has a smaller parking lot, so if someone starts fucking with me I can escape more easily. I find myself trying to pass as male, trying to disappear, making myself as invisible as possible — and wondering, always wondering if there’s something else I should be doing to keep myself safer.

Babe, I get it.

But don’t grow your hair out.

I used to have long hair, and then I had short hair, and then I had long hair again, and then I cut it, and then, and then — this cycle lasted almost a decade. I probably spent a cumulative three years with an awkward half-mullet. The last time I started growing it out, I was moving to Nicaragua and I felt like growing out my hair would provide some semblance of protection, make me seem normal, shield me from critique in communities where traditional gender performance was not to be tampered with. And you know what? It didn’t fucking work. I still got harassed all the time, I still got groped, and on top of that, I looked in the mirror every damn day and thought about shaving my head. When I finally gave up and got it cut, the volume of catcalling and harassment stayed the same; the difference was with short hair I sometimes got called a faggot instead of a slut. The other difference was that when I walked down the street I felt like myself, and that made me brave.

Back in Texas with a #1.5 fade, I’m always aware that my appearance could make me a target. But it’s not about my hair. There is no hairstyle in the world that would make me seem straight, feminine, or “normal.” And friend, I doubt you could pull it off either. I think you could style your hair like Dolly Parton and people on Kentucky front porches and in Kentucky truck beds would still call you a dyke in that horrible ugly tone that only bigots can growl with.

For reference, here is Rachel Maddow with a bob looking gay af.

For reference, according to Google, here is Rachel Maddow with a bob looking gay af.

So fuck them. Wear your hair however you want to, and wear it like armor. They do not get to take your Rachel Maddow coif from you. Put your gay haircut between yourself and the world. If you are white, put your gay haircut between your black classmates and your racist professors. Put it between women who need abortion care and anti-choice protestors, too. Take your gay haircut to the polls every chance you get, and in the meantime take it with you when you volunteer at your campus’s SA/DV center or your town’s youth services center.

Be bold, darling. I wish I could tell you there is a switch you could flip or a wig you could wear that would make this time less terrifying and make the assholes less brazen, but there’s not. We have to be brave instead. We have to fight for people of color and Muslims and trans women and each other. We are looking at an impossibly ugly few years, and we have to find ways to settle into our bodies so we can be brave. Don’t make it harder for yourself, because God knows the people around you aren’t about to make it easier. Be your truest self and wake up every day ready to fight your best fight.

Keep your clippers at the ready, because you’re going to need them.

Adrian is a writer, a Texan and a divinity student at Vanderbilt University. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Adrian on Twitter @adrianwhitetx.

Adrian has written 149 articles for us.

55 Comments

  1. This is so interesting to hear a different perspective on short hair. First of all, I’m so sorry that people have been making these derogatory remarks to you and harassing you. That’s messed up, and I’m sorry that you have to deal with such hurtful and scary interactions.

    I’ve actually had the exact opposite experience with my hair. I’m not sure if on me, somehow, a Rachel Maddow-style haircut reads as totally 100% straight (maybe it’s my blonde hair? I have no idea), but I just got my hair trimmed over the weekend (it’s pretty damn short now) and today I’ve gotten 2 compliments from complete strangers who told me they love my haircut. (I live in Tennessee btw.) When I first cut all my hair off 3.5 years ago I was afraid of the reactions I would get, but everyone in the region where I live has had a positive reaction to it. The worst I get is pointed questions from my mother asking, “Are you ever going to grow your hair out again???” NO MOM I LOVE MY HAIR LIKE THIS THANKS FOR ASKING

    • It is interesting how individual experiences of this vary so significantly. My androgynous, short-haired Russian girlfriend and I lived together in a very conservative, homophobic former Soviet country for three years and never got harassed, even though this was at the time of greatest media attention on Putin’s anti-gay “propaganda” legislation laws.

  2. Inverse of the same thing for me. No matter what I’ve ever looked like, I’ve always looked queer. In transition but I’m still dressing as male on the street, only because I’m scared of being-beaten-or-killed (I’m starting to think it’s one word). I’m still scared to death of wearing my real clothes in public, at least in NYC. But ever since I got to this city I’ve been called faggot, etc. anyway, long hair or short, rain or shine, day or (especially) night. If I get attacked for being queer it really doesn’t matter at that point which gender or orientation it is they think they’re attacking.

    For me, cutting it short was giving in, trying to be “safe.” Trying to hide in plain sight. Never worked well or for long, unless I was all-in and put on a suit and tie. So now, post-11/8, i have long hair, longer than ever, plus a nasty attitude, and a leather jacket with a bunch of different buttons on it, queer and otherwise, for the first time in a while, let’s say. Leather thick enough to slow down a knife. And a pocket weapon coming in the mail, and two middle fingers when needed.

    Fuck them. You rock your Rachel, and I’ll fly my flag.

  3. So get this and agree. Just be who you are!

    It even makes me want to stop trying to grow my hair out now that I suddenly realize I’m spending a good part of my life with a half-mullet… just never had words to explain what that look was.

  4. A wonderful article!! I’m a transwoman and happen to live in Dallas,Tx also.i also wear my hair short af and I’m ultra femme in heels when i walk the street for whereever I’m going. I find it’s more of a deterrant to show your strength and let them see the crazy in your eyes from a mile away!! So far I’ve been able to keep my friends safe just by being nearby.

  5. i know this article is about 2 years old, but im having the exact same problem. i live in ohio and it’s a special kind of torture sometimes. there are people here with confederate flag tattoos, if that gives you any kind of idea what it’s like.
    i used to have hair that went halfway down my back. i hated it so, so much. ever since i was about 10 i wanted “boy hair” and my mom always said no.
    well, i’ve slowly broken my parents down on it and got my way lol. i now sport one side of my head shaved to a half inch, and the other side about 4 inches, swept back with gel. oh, and it’s all purple.
    i also dress mainly in jeans, sneakers and a flannel and tee, so that doesn’t help me look very straight either. in fact, i can almost pass a dude, much to the dismay of my mom and dad.
    so, yeah. every time i step outside i am guaranteed to get at least one glare.
    i mentioned it to my mom, and she said to grow out my hair.
    HELL NO is what i replied!

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