This is what my hair used to look like two years ago. It used to fall past my breasts, but I spontaneously decided to chop it all off after taking a gender course, which was life changing for me — especially because it was during a time when I was discovering a new sexual identity.
When I posted this picture on Instagram (a social media platform that is dedicated to photos), I got a lot of positive feedback. People told me I had the confidence to pull of a haircut that not many women my age had. People told me I looked “edgy” and “fierce,” which made me feel very empowered because I had always been attached to my long locks.
Growing up (especially as a Latina in South Texas), my hair could never be “long enough.” I knew that long hair was a marker of femininity and I wanted to adhere to the standards of femininity because I believed I needed to in order to fit in my community. Hispanic culture has very distinct types of masculinity and femininity that everyone (whether they liked it or not) is expected to adopt as “normal,” so at a very young age, my mother instilled Latina standards of femininity in me and my sister.
I was expected to perform exaggerated forms of femininity (which is evident in the amount of make-up I wear) but never really felt completely confident and comfortable. However, the first gender course I was enrolled in made me realize that I did not have to confrom to gender scripts and norms. As a matter of fact, I could challenge dominant discourse. Believe it or not, this was mind blowing to me because this was not the way I was socialized to think.
After breaking up with my boyfriend at the time, I decided to cut my hair. I thought of it as a new beginning to a new life. I was still not too sure of my sexual orientation, but I did know that women with very short hair were stereotyped as lesbians. I wanted to challenge this notion and prove to others (mostly the people from my hometown) that you could be quite feminine, “somewhat straight” and have very short hair. Little did I know, instead of challenging this stereotype, in a way I was reproducing the association between gay women and short hair — whoops!
Anyway, I did the “boi short” hair thing for over two years and got what I needed out of it. I felt empowered in every sense of the word. I felt like I kind of used long hair as a shield of many sorts, and short hair forced me to confront my insecurities. I couldn’t hide my acne behind my long hair anymore, I couldn’t hide my pointy “elf” ear, I couldn’t hide my double chin, I had to be ready to answer the “why did you cut your hair?” questions, etc.
For those two plus years, I walked around feeling like I could conqure the world, and I believe I did. For example, I was the first of my siblings to gradutae from college (even though I am the youngest) and was the first to truly break the mold of expectations and conformity. I was a proud educated feminist that felt the need to show my visibility in the community.
I explored the more masculine parts if my identity and made sure people knew of my queer identity when I left my home in the mornings. I wanted to look as dyke as possible because I was so proud of who I was evolving into.
After living out a type of fantasy, I started wanting to grow my hair back to a longer length. I found myself yearning for my once embodied femininty. While I was not going to miss the amount of time it took to style long hair (especially because I had become so accustomed to styling my hair within five minutes), I missed the different styalistic looks I could achieve with longer hair. I no longer felt like I needed to prove my queer identity and felt like I had become a greater version of myself and had nothing to prove to anyone. I spent about 8 months growing my hair out, and experienced many awkward stages/lengths, which forced me to get creative with my hair, but eventually got my desired look.
I finally got my hair at a trendy length, and a length that I could manage, and was very excited about being able to style it in different ways. However, I have gotten a lot of mixed opinions about my hair lately. Those who knew me before I cut my hair generally tend to like the longer hair on me (it could be because that is the way they are used to seeing me AKA they unconsciously like that I am adhering to heteronormative standards) and for those who have gotten to know me with short hair first tend to prefer shorter hair on me.
While it shouldn’t matter what others think, I kind of care to hear their opinions. I would like to think that it would’t affect how I percieve myself too much, but I know it does. I just am mind blown at the socaial significance of hair. Hair something that is so irrelevant to our lives (in the sense that it doesn’t really add anything to our well-being) but possesses so much social significance and meaning.
I believe drastically changing my look is the inspiration for my thesis topic. I understand that changing your outward apperance alters the ways in which others see you. It is interesting to experience the differences in treatment when my hair is styled differently at different lengths.