Feminism | Posted by Janani B on 08/17/2010
Queer Hair and Musings on Activism
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 I was just about to put on my “No on Prop 8” (repealed!)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.
Read other posts about: activism, campus activism, college feminism, equality, Feminism, feminist activism, LGBTQ and feminism, locks of love, National Marriage Boycott, pixie cut, Prop 8, teenage feminism
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