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

Welcome to You Need Help! Where you’ve got a problem and yo, we solve it. Or we at least try.


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.


Are you following us on Facebook?

Profile gravatar of Audrey

Audrey is a writer, a Texan and a sometimes-heretical Presbyterian. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They hope to adopt a dog some day. Follow Audrey on Twitter @audreywhitetx.

Audrey has written 131 articles for us.

54 Comments

  1. What a beautiful piece; especially the paragraph underneath Rachel Maddow’s fabulous picture.

    Related: If I were to ever design a flag for queer women, it’d be the regular rainbow flag, but with an image of scissors on it. Not so much to portray the sex position that we almost never engage in, but to represent all the awesome haircuts our community sports like no other.

  2. oh, honey.

    solid advice, and I think all things being equal the most correct.

    I would also like to just pipe up gently- if folks decide to go dark because it’s too much/it’s too hard/they can’t deal/they need to live in the world and not have strangers threaten them in front of the library, that’s also a legitimate survival choice. you know? If people are in that part of the process, that’s ok too.

    AUTOSTRADDLE: VALIDATING ALL THE WAYS YOU EXIST SINCE FOREVER.

  3. I feel this so hard.

    This week, in addition to getting my hair cut in order to maintain my gay af undercut, I also dug out the Star of David necklace that I bought in Israel 8 years ago. For 6 years, I never took it off, and then 2 years ago the chain broke during a roller derby scrimmage, and I hadn’t worn it since. But this week, 2 synagogues, a rabbi’s home, and a Jewish community centre were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti, so it felt important to find another chain and put that necklace back on.

    Of course, it’s below zero in Ottawa right now, and we just got 10cm of snow, so when I’m outside I’m wearing a hat and a scarf at all times so no one can actually see my gay af haircut or my Star of David. But both make me feel more like ME. They make me feel a little bit stronger, and a little bit more able to hold my head up and face the shitstorm that is coming.

    • Jewelry chain protip: The Winners jewelry department (at least in Vancouver) is the best place for ready-to-wear chains in precious metals.

      (RIP Sassy Bead Co. where I’d normally tell you to go in Ottawa but has now closed.)

    • Oh my gosh, so I usually wore one of my Stars of David or my chai pendent everyday. I always wear my Sh’ma ring and red string evil eye bracelet every single day, but 99% of goyim don’t know what those are anyway. But shit, ever since this election and a swastika being grafftied at the University of New Mexico campus, I am wearing the biggest Star of David I have constantly. To work, to the bar, to the gym, you name it. I will not hide in fear. I will kick your ass.

      • Yeah, I need to dig out my Star of David as well. I’m only marginally Jewish (that is, I embrace my heritage and some cultural aspects, but I’m also a real-life example of those militant atheists you always hear about), but the more it’s stigmatized, the more I want to be like, “So I am, so what?” A long time ago I used to have a chai necklace as well, but I haven’t seen it in years, so I think it may have gotten lost along the way.

        It’s kind of why I’ve tried being more “visibly” queer as well, in my random way. When I’m out with my fella I get read as straight, but most of the time I’m not with him I get read as a lesbian because of, y’know, the butchness. It used to bug me that people would make assumptions about me, but now I’m just, “yeah, OK, I’m not straight, you see it, think whatever”.

        • Okay, now I’m thinking about wearing my own Jewish jewellery. I hardly ever wear necklaces anymore but I have a hamsa and a star of David and usually wear one of those to the annual Jewish Film Festival for example. Most of the time it doesn’t feel relevant for me to wear those even though being Jewish by family/blood/background is an important part of who I am. But reading your words kind of makes me want to do it too.

          • I won’t wear a Magen David generally because I take a lot of issues with the Israeli government and lack of a two state solution. I won’t equate being Jewish with the state of Israel or Zionism. Chai or tree of life, on the other hand, I’ll never take off.

    • Ever since the election my hands have been itching to grab my Star of David whenever I reach into my jewelry box for some earrings. I’ll put it on today; thanks for the motivation and inspiration. I’m white and sadly pass for straight, wearing the star is one piece of resistance I can display.

  4. Thank you for this.

    I live in an urban city that is also in one of the most conservative states in the upper Midwest. The morning after the election, I got stared down by a skinhead as he was getting off the bus and I was getting on. The kind of stare you know means he wishes he could just beat the hell out of you right there, but for having someplace to be. He even turned around to give me the meanmug as he walked away.

    I read GAYGAYGAYGAY whether I am rocking a high-and-tight or long, shaggy hair. I’ve never been able to hide. And goddammit, I will not spend the rest of my life trying to hide when I have lived out and proud for decades.

    Do what you have to do to be safe, but don’t let them take away who you are. <3 Love to everyone struggling with this right now.

  5. Totally feeling this! While I am pretty femme, I have been sporting a short asymmetrical style of some sort for a couple years now. I have been working on growing it out for a bit ( because sometimes I really miss the ease of a ponytail) and kust got it cut last week in a way to make it grow out looking better? Anyways, I am already missing my short hair, the one thing I felt looked maybe gay about me, so I am making plans to go get it cut again next month (or at least one side cut!) I think now is the time to stand out as much as possible for me, and ignore all the people who don’t like my hair

  6. I can deal with the name calling and harassment when it comes from straight people. It’s almost expected for them to be ignorant and pretentious. What I cannot handle is being called dyke or faggot by other lesbians, usually femmes. I don’t know why my hair matters so much to any community, but I hate that even in the lesbian community, having short hair can carries the automatic assumption that you are butch, stud or boi? Even if it hurts to be labeled in my own community, I am not going to let anyone take away my self expression. There will always be hateful people that will justify bigotry just because you look different and you don’t fit the mold of femininity because of a hair style. But that’s the reason I try not to be so hateful and judgmental. I would rather fit the criteria of a stud (I’m not) than be like those who call me bad names. And you can bet your ass I will look damn good while not giving a fuck.

  7. I wish we could all just get along. What difference should it make if my hair is long or short? Why attack someone just because they look gay? Why attack anyone at all if they are not hurting anyone?

    I get called different names all the time. It hurts but I try not to let it show. If they see that you are weakened by it, they get empowered and it can progress to something worse. Just be safe out there and stay strong. If something happens, know that there are people to talk to, especially on here.

  8. I’m not alone! I’ve been stressing this same issue. I’ve had long hair for the 30 years I’ve been on this earth, and at the urging of my wife I got my first fauxhawk about 6 weeks ago. I never felt more like myself as I did when I first walked out with my new do. I felt confident and empowered… just from a simple haircut! Then the election happened and I started to feel nervous. While my weekday stomping grounds are quite progressive and diverse, my weekend ones are sadly not. It’s sad that people will experience derision and bigotry over a simple hair style.

    So thanks for this. I’m not going to grow my hair out either. Fuck em. I’ll spike it even higher.

  9. I second, third, fourth, and fifth this article. The last time I grew my hair out, the guy at the door of the costco I shop at(a different one than the one I work at) kept calling me sir, that whole year. I have been called a hippy for having medium(for a girl) length hair. The hair will not do the job on its own, I’m not sure how they see it, but they keep on seeing it, and at least you should have a slick ‘do

  10. As a fellow Kentucky queer lady, I feel this all so hard. This post election world has led to a bunch of soul searching as to how to proceed. It’s nerve wrecking if I pause long enough to realize that the majority of people that I interact with on a daily basis voted red; that the majority of everyone around me elected those that see my queerness as a disfunction.

    But! I believe that now more than ever is a time for everyone in our community to live life as their most authentic selves. When I see other rocking their alt. hair styles, I see MY people. My brothers, sisters, and family.

    Be you. Be confident. Be visible. We’re gonna need each other more than ever these next four years.

  11. I’ve had short hair practically 90% of my life. Only in the past two years did I let it grow out (accidentally though it may be) but I have left it.

    On the one hand, I like it–its the first time I’ve kind of liked having long hair!

    On the other, I’m stuck going “but I want my hair a little gayer”. I’ve yet to reach a middle ground or consensus. If anyone has a mid-length level of gay haircut please let me know, it’d at least be a stepping stone before I swap and cut it all off again!

  12. I just wanted to say how much I fucking adore and appreciate and admire and am proud of you fierce fucking warriors who couldn’t hide that strength or that amazing queerness if you tried. I’m a femme, very straight-passing queer lady living in the SF Bay Area, and I gripe all the time about invisibility and feeling like an outside in the community in like the safest bubble there is, but then there’s y’all. You are lightening rods for so much of the pain and the awful, and I love you. World is so much better for having you in it.

  13. Audrey’s advice is spot on, and I will add just one more suggestion: your comment that cat callers are physically aggressive makes me worried for your safety. If you have not done so already, I urge you to think about taking a self-defense class or learning how to use pepper spray.

  14. A friend of mine got a compromise cut. Their hair was thick enough that this worked, so I don’t know if it’ll work for the writer. Basically it involved an undershave with the top half convertible into either a fauxhawk or a respectable looking bob depending on whether they were at home or in Texas that week.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.