(Hair)

5 Queer People Share How Their Hair Is Part Of Their Identity

Self-expression is at the root of it.

Simedar Jackson

After years of stressing over the length and curl pattern of my hair in an effort to achieve a socially acceptable form of femininity, I finally found the courage to cut it all off when I came out.

Before then, hair always held power over me rather than for me. I struggled to accept my natural curls, leading me to damage my hair with heat, chemicals or experimental styles if it meant a better chance at fitting in. No matter if I was hearing it bone straight, with extensions or, eventually, in a large Afro — my hair very rarely felt like my own. It was only the source of many shed tears and insecurities about failing to “girl” correctly. I nearly accepted this would always be my burden to wrestle with. I never anticipated how coming to terms with my sexuality would grant me permission to divest from beauty ideals (i.e. the male gaze) and look however I wanted to.

For many queer folks, hair is a similar beacon of self-expression and, sometimes, resistance. The freedom to change or not to change gives agency when it’s often denied elsewhere. As we celebrate PRIDE this month and in the months to follow, queer folks share how their hair connects to their identity.

Crystal Anderson (She/Her), Co-Founder + Head Of Creative Of A Very Good Job

Courtesy of Crystal Anderson

What Role Does Hair Play In Your gender Identity & Sexuality, If Any?

My hair is neon green, so inadvertently, I'm taking up space, which is so incredibly important as a queer Black woman. So often, we can be made to feel invisible, so [my hair] is my direct answer to that. Very much giving, "Aht, aht! You can't not see me. I'm here and I've been here!"

What Hairstyle Makes You Feel Most Like Yourself & Why?

Any style, as long as it's neon green. I've been using this color for almost 10 years and got pregnant last year, so I had to stop dying it during my first trimester and go all black. It sucked. I didn't realize how much of who I am is tied to this color. I was harassing my OB to find out when I could start dying it again. It's my calling card. It's how my friends find me in a crowd. I'm deeply connected to it and think I'll still be green even when I'm 80.

Why Do You Think Hair Is Often An Important Part Of Self-Expression For The Queer Community?

For those of us who can't come out for whatever reason, dyeing our hair or cutting it into a style is usually a small little beacon that we can give to other queer folks. I find all baby gays usually do something wild with their hair as soon as they come out. It's really sweet, honestly.

Chris Pond (He/They), Creative Services

Courtesy of Ciara Bridges

What Role Does Hair Play In Your Gender Identity & Sexuality, If Any?

All my life, I've known that my identity existed beyond the gender binary, even before I had the vocabulary to express myself. My hair has always been a source of joy and fulfillment as I figured things out. I had a variety of short hairstyles throughout middle and high school, but it wasn’t until I started growing it out during and after college that I truly felt like myself.

What Hairstyle Makes You Feel Most Like Yourself & Why?

Besides the occasional tangle with a blow-dry brush, I love to let my hair air dry and do its own thing. I’ve always loved and admired curly hair. When I wore my hair short, it was straight, but the longer I let it grow, the wavier and curlier it got — and the happier I became.

Why Is Hair Often An Important Part Of Self-Expression For The Queer Community?

I think hair is a key component of self-expression for the queer community because it’s a way for us to find respite. When things feel uncertain — for anyone — we often seek to control our immediate surroundings. For queer people, when our everyday existence can feel uncertain, our hair is something that we can not only control but wear as a form of pride and resistance. Also, we set hair trends in the process.

Ciara Bridges (Any Pronouns, Primarily They/She), Research Analyst

Courtesy of Ciara Bridges

What Role Does hair Play In Your Gender Identity & Sexuality, If Any?

My gender identity is tied up primarily in my hair, which definitely affects how I perceive myself and express my gender, and in turn, can impact who engages with me. I'm genderqueer/genderfluid and nonbinary. If my hair is more masculine, feminine, or androgynous, that changes how I dress and carry myself.

What Hairstyle Makes You Feel Most Like Yourself & Why?

This is hard because I'm myself in all my hairstyles. However, my natural hair will always be the most me. Right now, I have a natural fro/mullet with the sides shaved down. This hairstyle is supremely me because it's my most natural state. It's me down to my bones.

Why Do You Think Hair Is Often An Important Part Of Self-Expression For The Queer Community?

Practically, hair is so changeable in a way very few other body parts are. With tattoos and piercings, there's a level of permanency. Hair and nails are some of the only things we can change that regenerate and can go back to how they used to be, so it's fun to play with. How our hair looks is integral to how other people see us. So, if I have a blonde buzz cut, long knotless braids, cornrows, a fro, or whatever it is, I get to change others' perception of me on my own terms and do something else the next day if I choose to.

Tyler English-Beckwith (She/Her), Writer

Courtesy of Tyler English-Beckwith

What Role Does Hair Play In Your Gender Identity & Sexuality, If Any?

Even before I knew I was queer, my hairstyles have always been queer-coded. From hot pink Bantu Knots, to green box braids, to a kinky blonde pixie, I have always preferred to express myself left of center. Now, as a bleach blonde, my hairstyles are hyper-feminine in a way that de-centers the male gaze. I'm less concerned with looking like an effortless beauty and more excited about looking like a fascinating amalgamation of my own tastes. Fitting in is my own personal nightmare.

What Hairstyle Makes You Feel Most Like Yourself & Why?

Braids, in all forms, are my comfort hairstyles. When I was a toddler, my mom kept me in mini braids and twists. As I grew up, every summer my aunt braided my hair in the latest styles. Wearing zigzag cornrows, boho knotless, or Senegalese twists always makes me feel the most like myself.

Why Do You Think Hair Is Often An Important Part Of Self-Expression For The Queer Community?

Hair is a noncommittal method of self-expression that allows for a person to try on different presentations. It allows queer folks to discover how they want to show themselves to the world. Sometimes, it works and sometimes, you cancel a week's worth of plans after an ill-advised decision to get bangs. But as someone who has big chopped at least four times, I can confidently say it always grows back.