Avoiding the PTA Haircut and Pressure to Be Femme as a Butch Trans Woman
By Guest Blogger Viv Taylor
When I first moved to Boston, I could not find anyone who cut my hair how I liked it. I’m a trans woman. I’m pretty darn queer and identify as a lesbian, given a fairly fluid definition of the term. Before I moved away from Chapel Hill I got my hair cut at a place called Syd’s. It was everything. I’d been depending on my stylist there for a while to navigate that fun place where I was growing my hair out and being open with many folks in my life about being trans, but was not yet living full time in a femme presentation. My stylist was amazing. She did a great job of helping me through a series of looks that were both deeply androgynious, but ultimately queer looking.
When I arrived in Boston I thought I was doing everything right. I got suggestions from my friends, described what I wanted, went where I thought I felt a good energy, but again and again the same thing happened: a hair cut that reminded me more than anything else of a middle aged lady with Right Wing politics on the way to a PTA meeting to complain because she found a swear word in book assigned to her son in his AP English class. It was rough. It wasn’t just that the cuts were unadventurous; it was that they just weren’t me.
It took me a while, but I think I eventually figured out what was going on. The folks who were cutting my hair were doing their best to look out for me. As a butch trans woman, I don’t always get gendered correctly. What I suspect was going on was that I was, consciously or unconsciously, being given the most recognizable “woman” haircut these folks could think of.
There’s often pressure on trans women to present in a very conservative, femme manner, especially if folks are worried about you not being recognizable as a woman. Thing is, you don’t have to present that way. You can play with your look any way you want. If it works, cool, and if not, hey, maybe you learned something.
With getting you hair cut, it might take some work. You need to find someone who you can share a vision with. Even if you don’t know exactly what kind of cut you want, you probably have some clues about what you’re hoping to achieve. Find a person you can talk to about what you are trying to do with your look, a person you feel comfortable asking questions about what they imagine and what they’re planning, and a person who you feel comfortable being totally honest with. A friend of mine had the problem where she could never get her stylist to cut her hair as short as she wanted until she finally had to come out to him.
I actually met my current stylist Nadene Hughs of Shop1 at a bar in Cambridge. I was immidiately impressed by her style, friendliness, and intelligence. I made an appointment to get a cut. We talked about what I was going for (a long but obviously dykey cut) and what I was afraid of (Middle aged Ring Wing Politics hair). The results were awesome. The cut is heavily layered so that it has some length but is also a little spikey and choppy. I can wear softer or tougher depending on whether I straightened it or let it dry on its own. That versatility is key exploring any number of styles.
Looking for a trans friendly hair stylist in your city? The forum can help!