Feminism | Posted by Janani B on 08/17/2010

Queer Hair and Musings on Activism

the pixie cut

the pixie cut

I recently donated my hair for the 4th time. Locks of love requires that donations measure at least 10 inches, tip to tip. But while in the past my donations had left me with bobs at least chin-length or a bit longer, this time 10 inches meant lopping off the do up to the very roots. I am left now with a pixie cut. Truth be told, I love it. It’s comfortable, practical, and fun. But then, just two days after getting the cut I found myself in an uncomfortable predicament. I was just about to put on my “No on Prop 8” (repealed!) t-shirt when I caught myself in the mirror. Unsurprisingly, I look more queer than ever. Rather I look queer where before I passed as either straight or a middle-schooler (or both).

But now that’s not the case. Accordingly, I found myself questioning then whether to wear the shirt, out of concern for my safety. Then I snapped out of it. I’m in the middle of Cambridge, dammit, I thought, and if I can’t look queer here then the world’s a pretty bleak place. It’s a new phenomenon for me. I have always been used to practically shouting to claim my queerness in spaces where this is useful–political organizing, for isntance. I am of course grateful that this is no longer necessary, of course, but the hesitation I felt before wearing something explicitly queer gave me pause, and stirred something in me.

I can’t claim to even imagine the scale of homophobia others in the queer community have faced and continue to face. While I haven’t always been in totally accepting or enlightened spaces, I have truly never felt physically threatened as a result of my sexuality. I am blessed blessed blessed in this regard.

But why the hesitation with the t-shirt?

This incident has inspired a new wave of passion for the work my friends and I engage in at the National Marriage Boycott. We’re a grassroots organization that seeks full federal marriage equality as well as safer spaces for queer youth through the boycott of marriage. Our supporters wear rings bearing the word “equality” as symbols of their solidarity. As a young college feminist, I find such symbolism not just hip, but powerful. To me, wearing an equality ring is the sartorial equivalent of putting a “safe space” sign on your door. And just like the sign, i think the rings are even more effective without a “but I’m actually a straight ally” disclaimer. Of course, I welcome supporters who wish to identify as allies for reasons of safety or effectiveness, but I really do love the ambiguity of showing support with identifying.

This kind of support diminishes the inhibiting and hegemonic power of labels on sexual orientation. It creates a new category: “equal.” Sure, I might not have the choice to identify as an ally, but I do have the choice, because of my appearance, to pass or not. And for now, on my campus, where I feel safe, I will wear my short hair, t-shirts, and equality ring with pride, and continue to organize so all my peers can do the same.

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  • Freddy-May @ at 12:05 pm, August 17th, 2010

    I just got “queer hair” too. But I’ve decided to embrace it. It is a little tough, having something that marks you as queer in many people’s eyes automatically.

  • Kyle M @ at 2:13 pm, August 17th, 2010

    I really really liked this article and what really perked my attention was the equality ring. Is there anywhere you can get one? I’d really like to wear one because its such a great message to have. I go to a Catholic school, so it’d be really nice to have my own little reminder that others believe in equality as much as I do.

  • The Raisin Girl @ at 2:31 pm, August 17th, 2010

    I had the pixie cut for most of my college career. I got it because I thought it was cute. I didn’t know that for many people I was broadcasting a sexual orientation that I don’t even ascribe to. I’m straight. But professors, fellow students, and many others assumed I was queer because of my hair. I think there’s something intrinsically silly about the idea of a “queer look,” or “passing.” I know I’m just wishing for an idealized world where people aren’t stereotyped, but wouldn’t it be nice if people didn’t expect all aspects of your life and personality to fit a certain description based on one of those aspects?

  • blakerivers @ at 7:37 am, August 18th, 2010

    Sadly, among the general public, when meeting someone new, most of the important judgments and “appraisals” about anyone are done within the first 60 seconds. The fact that so many of these judgments are based in such superficial and medieval stereotyping only worsens the injustice. Some assessments of character happen within 10 seconds, others take longer, but the point is that for primitive tribal/economic reasons of “us versus them,” significant evaluation of character is done prematurely and unfairly.

    On the bright side, people are flexible and can change their decisions if given a reason to early in the process. Also, everyone can learn to be more accepting and non-judgmental on a permanent basis, which is encouraging.

  • Steph @ at 9:29 am, August 18th, 2010

    I’ve had “queer hair” for years. And internalized homophobia can be super-shitty. I’ve found that the sheer amount of difference in the way people react to / treat me with so-called “queer hair” versus not is absolutely gigantic.

    I found myself, the first few days after I shaved my head, subconsciously wearing hats and toques everywhere, so as to cover it up in public. Once I realized that, I felt kinda disgusted – this was MY HAIR, dammit, and I was the one who did this. Why should I be scared of people seeing it?

    I think one of the more malicious things our society has done is given us all a little seed of internalized homophobia that’s constantly checking what we do and don’t do. Don’t be afraid to be out and proud – if we won’t, how can we expect others to either? And then there’d be, like, nobody to date and it’d SUCK. So yeah.

  • Dinah A @ at 10:28 am, August 18th, 2010

    I’ve had a pixie cut for about a year now, and I love it. However, it annoys me to think that my sexual orientation can be ‘determined’ by something as arbitrary as my hairstyle.

  • Sasa @ at 11:53 am, August 18th, 2010

    Very good post. Reminds me of the rather recent hair cut of Emma Watson, who looks amazing, and how Twitter was full of people saying she looks like a nine year old boy, or a lesbian and asking questions about cancer (I mean, seriously?). It’s 2010 and yet this type of behaviour is still around… it is shocking.

  • stephanie @ at 4:31 am, August 19th, 2010

    I shaved my head last year to take control of trichotillomania. It was the most liberated I’ve ever felt. However, I initially found myself trying to be more feminine than I am normally. I wore more dresses, makeup, & jewelry to prove I was still a girl. It’s so messed up! I was feeling so wonderful but I still felt like Id shaved off my polite society ticket, my femininity, my attractiveness and replaced them with a bulls eye. Even people who knew my struggle with trich thought I should start growing it back! I was still rather closeted which added an ever heavier layer to my look. Wow I could go on for ages…long story short though, I’m so glad I stumbled on this post! Someone else gets it! HOORAY!

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