Military Haircuts

My first post about what it’s like to live, and grow as a human being: transitioning in a military prison.

The last few weeks have been particularly challenging for me. For the first time in years, I felt like giving up… then, I found my “second wind” to be human.

I wasn’t sure I was ever going to write this article. Recently, on the evening of September 18, I finally decided that maybe I should quit, to give up on everything and everyone: my family, my friends, my supporters, my court-martial appeal, and my other legal battles — even my articles for the Guardian and my Medium debut. Basically, I nearly surrendered.

You see, that evening I found out that the military was going to force me to keep my hair cut very short, to the “male” hair standard.

These are the latest photographs of me — from February 2015 —the week I began HRT.

I didn’t take the news well. I felt sick. I felt sad. I felt gross — like Frankenstein’s monster wandering around the countryside avoiding angry mobs with torches and pitch forks.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to close the door to my cell, turn out the lights, and shun the world outside. I did exactly that. And then I cried, and cried, sniffled a little bit, and then cried some more. This went on until around midnight.

I wanted to cry myself to sleep on the concrete floor, but a guard came by twice and started asking me if I was okay. “Yes, I’m fine,” I said. I was not okay, though. It wasn’t his fault; he was just a young guy, maybe 20 years old, I thought to myself.

Then I started to think really dark thoughts. You know, “emo”-goth stuff, like “black isn’t dark enough of a color for me.”

After five years — and more — of fighting for survival, I had to fight even more. I was out of energy.

I called Chase Strangio, my ACLU lawyer, and I cried. As my legal counsel, he represents me in this lawsuit to challenge the hair policy that makes and treats me like a monster or a problem. But I just wanted love and support, and someone to cry to when I was feeling alone. He did such a wonderful job just listening to me.

After feeling devastated, humiliated, hurt, and rejected — and after wanting to give up on the world — I found my “second wind” of sorts.

I can make it just a little longer. I just hope it’s not too much longer.

I hope to use this platform as a place to document my experience and share my story and, maybe even begin a conversation. Going through such a seismic, existential shift in my life — transitioning in a military prison —presents real, meaningful, and daily challenges. I want to hear your thoughts and questions so we can continue to have a dialogue. I also look forward to reading the stories you are brave enough to share with the world so we can understand each other and define ourselves on our own terms.