I’m Being Followed by a Noon Shadow: a T-Girl’s Battle against Facial Hair

My first session of facial electrolysis went well. It hurt like a motherfucker though.

Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen
5 min readSep 10, 2023


I lay down and closed my eyes against the blinding halo of light.

It was all seeing, like a minor God. I could feel the warmth of its gaze on my skin. With a clenched gut, I waited for the pain to start, my hands joined tightly across my stomach. Come hell or high water, no matter how uncomfortable it gets, I’m staying on this here exam table. No pain no gain, as they say.

My first session of facial electrolysis went well. It hurt like a motherfucker though. I felt every hair being nuked in its follicle; a tweezing sensation that seared as the hairs were unceremoniously plucked from their homes. I could only wince and occasionally whimper. The lady who was performing the procedure wittered away benignly as she waged her war against nature. I appreciated her warmth and almost motherly devotion to the job in hand. The hair on the left side of my face was more stubborn to remove than that on the right. They railed against their eviction, clinging to their sacs, refusing to budge before being yanked out. Then the white sting of pain like a yell of outrage.

I was relieved when the session ended, let me tell you. I felt like I’d been pulled through a ditch backwards. I’d wept a bit on the table. The war on the surface had its own corresponding tumult inside me and I got the sense of the tragedy of my situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I made the right choice by accepting the fact I am trans.

I made the right choice in cutting my family out of my life. But things aren’t as cut and dry as all that are they? There is a space that will always grieve how it all turned out. Not the howling, chest beating torrents of anguish like before, thank Goddess, just the lonesome tears of a wound still healing. In the heat and light of the session came a silent scream that filled my head. THEY NEVER LOVED ME. Its still a tough pill to swallow after all this time. They had a son and now they’ll never have a daughter. They don’t know the person they blamed for everything no longer exists. It’s a form of death, a suicide of sorts. Life can be poetic at times.

Maybe it’s the Catholic in me but it feels good for my transition to include some physical pain.

It gives my mutinous psyche some evidence that some major changes are afoot. Overall, my metamorphosis has been gentle and understated. Other than breast growth I sometimes struggle to see what’s really going on as if breast growth wasn’t indicator enough. The old me stares from the shadows and is concerned that we are losing the war against testosterone. There is no pause to reflect that changes are happening. The ego still in thrall to the feelings I had as a child and teenager, the feelings that drove me to drink as an adult.

I always found shaving absurd at any rate.

Me, pretty as a girl and having to lather up my jaw with soap. And having to stare in the mirror to do it. I was the dupe to a bog-man God’s perverse sense of humor. A noon shadow stretched across my lower face within minutes of shaving, especially as I got older. During my university years I grew a beard, then a goatee and again when I was a folksinger. If you can’t beat it, nurture it. I was only too delighted to retire the look. I would have looked ridiculous when titillating the Chinese punks in Beijing with facial hair. It hid my prettiness. Talk about hiding your light beneath a bushel.

When I do an eight-hour shift at work, I must bring a bag of shaving gear with me. One quick and forensic glance at a mirror before lunchbreak and I’m appalled to see the minor forest on my jaw. I go to a local café whose bathrooms I trust, and I lock myself in. I’m as intense as a sniper preparing for a hit. Every second counts. Razor, foam, towel. My hands trembling. Fright or flight senses listening for a knock or a noise. It’s stressful. Nine times out of ten I wonder if its worth the effort. An hour later and a curious glimpse in the mirror and the fucking shadow’s there again, proud as punch. It’s a bristly shadow that refuses to be concealed. I’m like Penney’s answer to the Bearded Lady. It makes a mockery of my effort to pass as female.

But as a friend and colleague pointed out, we zoom in on flaws others don’t even notice. It was good to be reminded of that. I was never very comfortable with my face. I’m the dead spit of my father which didn’t help either. I sometimes get flashes of him when I’m standing in front of the mirror and brushing my teeth. It ain’t flashes of pride I have. We even have the same fangs. Sometimes, in a bitchy moment, I’ll smirk just like he did. Not a good look. When Lana calls attention to it, I twist my lips out of it and reconsider my position on whatever we are arguing about.

Two treatments in and results are beginning to show.

The treated areas are smooth and new. Problem is the rest of my jaw isn’t and the shadow looks more conspicuous because of it. Another girl I know pointed it out to me and I could feel that dragging feeling in my solar plexus. Disappointment and frustration yet again. I launched a “fuck” that had a tinny resonance as I went in the elevator up to the second floor storeroom at work. But like everything else, it will get better. All going well, a month from now my jaw will be gleaming as I walk through University on my way to class.

Get some perspective Mary.

You’ve been through hell of a lot worse, that’s for sure.



Fiona Evangeline Leigh
Prism & Pen

An Irish writer, transgender woman and singer currently living in the Republic. Has just completed a memoir Marabou Barbie.