Keep It Queer: Haircuts

keep it queer

Keep It Queer is an original feature on my blog where I talk about being queer and all the various things this has meant to me over the years. Sometimes this will also involve me babbling about LGBTQ books. It’s also a chance for others to share their stories.

So, I got a haircut a couple weeks ago, and getting a haircut always feels like a huge deal to me, partly because one time, while I was getting a haircut, I honestly felt like I was being interrogated by my hairdresser about whether I was a lesbian, and it felt so uncomfortable that I wanted to crawl under the chair and disappear forever.

So, understandably, this has made me nervous about getting haircuts since. And honestly, I've had so many comments over the years from hairdressers about how I shouldn't get my hair cut too short because then I "will look like a boy" or something similar. I'm sick of it.

Haircuts are so complicated because for lots of queer people, I imagine, haircuts don't hold much significance. But for many other queer people, haircuts can be a big deal. Check out allll the posts that Autostraddle has under their "alternative lifestyle haircut" tag, for example! Certain haircuts can be a great way for queer people to express their queerness and to recognise other queer people.

I like getting my hair cut short. And yes, for me personally this has something to do with me being queer: I feel like it's part of my queer aesthetic, just like the plaid shirts I like to wear a lot. But I also just plain like having short hair. It's a lot easier to deal with, and I feel like I look a lot better with short hair than with long hair. I had long hair when I was younger and I didn't like it. I just feel much more comfortable, much more myself with short hair. And honestly, I just get a short pixie cut. It's not even that queer, and yet!

Back in November last year, Open Barbers came and did a pop-up in Oxford for Queer Week. Open Barbers describe themselves as "queer friendly hairdressing for all lengths, genders, and sexualities" (websiteTumblr | Facebook | Twitter). They're based in London, and if you're in or around London and you're queer and/or have had some bad experiences getting your hair cut elsewhere, I would really suggest giving them a try! They're super affordable as well. I'm really glad I managed to get my hair cut with them; they were so supportive and tried my best to make me feel at ease even though I was super nervous (especially getting my hair cut in England for the first time).

So anyway, this time, I just went and got a haircut in the cheapest place I could find in Oxford, and it was actually a fairly good experience – my hair was cut the way I wanted it to, without much judgement or the person telling me: "isn't that a bit short?" In fact, the woman who cut my hair was like, "I used to love getting short haircuts when I was younger!" Buuuuut she also said, during one part of the haircut, "Don't worry, it won't be like a boy's!" Which made me wince.

Honestly, the process of getting a haircut is still such a gendered thing, and I absolutely hate it. I don't want to hear about how something is for boys rather than girls. When I complain about how women's haircuts are more expensive than men's, I sometimes hear people saying to me, jokingly perhaps, that I should just try going to a barber's. But I've definitely heard stories of people who have been rejected from barber shops for "not being men". And it sucks, because there are obviously a lot of people with non-binary, fluid, complicated gender identities, with gender identities that might not match how they present themselves, and the strict binary gender divine that most hairdressers/barbers seem to operate on is outdated and doesn't work for a lot of people. It leaves a lot of people feeling uncomfortable and excluded.

All these assumptions that straight, cis people make about haircuts need to go. I, as a queer girl, may feel like having a short haircut enhances my queer aesthetic, and I, as a queer girl, may look at other girls and hope that they're queer based on the length and/or style of their hair, but that doesn't mean that people who aren't queer and who are cutting my hair have a right to assume anything about me and further, to go as far as to make comments about it and to question me and my choices.

I don't feel like I see queer girls (or queer characters in general) in YA talk about haircuts all that much, and I'd like to. I'd like to see characters in YA challenge traditional thinking about haircuts!

Have you had any interesting/terrible experiences with getting your hair cut? Is the way your hair looks important to your queer identity? Have you ever read a queer character in YA who actually cared about their hair a lot?

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2 thoughts on “Keep It Queer: Haircuts

  1. Really interesting post, Cynthia. It's never occurred to me that queer people might choose certain hair lengths/styles to match their identity. I've just always thought people, generally, would have their hair cut/styled the way they like it, and that's it. But, of course, how we wear out hair is, for some, a form of self-expression, so why wouldn't queer people express their identity through their hair? I guess it's just never occurred to me simply because I'm not the type of person who expresses themselves through how they look, so I don't think like that.

    However, I think it's so wrong for hairdressers to comment like that! Some women, queer or not, like having short hair, and they shouldn't be questioned about their sexuality for it! My Mum, for example, has always wanted to try going to-the-skin bald. She even had her hair shaved quite short for charity once. (Though, when complaining to a driver who didn't abide by road safety rules when she was trying to cross the road, had homophobic abuse shouted at her because of her hair. Ridiculous, stereotypical, and SO wrong!)

    I can understand, in part, a hairdresser want to give a warning if they don't think a style will suit their customer. They're trained, and giving such advice helps them; "If I cut your hair like this, and you don't like it, you can't complain to me because I warned you." However, there's no need to bring in whether a woman will or not look like a boy! That's just so completely wrong! There should be no judgement, and they're judging if they say you'll look like a boy. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if they like the hairstyle or not, as long as the customer is happy.

    The only book I've read where hair has ever been even slightly important, that I remember, is Luna by Julie Anne Peters. If I remember rightly, her Dad wouldn't let her grow her hair because a she'd "look like a girl", so she took great enjoyment in long wigs.

    Thanks for the post, Cynthia!
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  2. I attend an all girls' school, which provides a lot of interesting experiences; one of them is the more-than-usual percentage of short-haired girls. I said "more-than-usual" because when I was in middle school, which is a mixed gender school, about one in ten girls has short hair. But now in high school where everyone my age is a girl, about one third, or even half of them have short hair. And i don't mean like a bob cut or shoulder length, I mean spiky short hair or above-the-ears short hair, but nobody looks at anybody funny and say "you look like a boy." Even if somebody does, she meant it as a joke and to be honest,both sides enjoy it. (A lot of them, actually, have been mistaken as boys and nearly get kicked out of a girls' bathroom, and we'd laugh about it together.) I guess it's not a big deal to us because we know each other well and wouldn't have assumptions that easily. So yeah, i think people need to assume less and respect more.
    This is definitely an interesting topic to think about, so thanks! :)
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