A Little Off the Top

Barber-Shop-Friendly-to-Butch-and-Transgender-PeopleGetting a haircut always lifts my mood. I like getting shampooed and having my scalp rubbed. I like the “gotcha” sound of the scissors; the buzz of the razor on my neck. I like the moment when the loose hair is brushed from my shoulders, the cape is whisked off, and I put my glasses on to see how I look. Haircuts make me feel butch. Haircuts make me feel like a boy.

I am still getting used to seeing gray. For years, I only noticed the gray when my hair grew out; now it remains gray after the cut. I don’t want to color it. Boys don’t color their hair. I’ll live with the salt and pepper.

I get a haircut cut every four weeks. Alan knows how I like it; he has tamed my cowlick. Alan is an “old school” gay.  He started cutting hair in the 1960’s, when becoming a hairdresser was one of the few viable career routes for a sissy boy. As a teenager he collected the signatures of actors and actresses in Shubert Alley. Last year the New York Times published a short article about him.

Alan is always trying to get me to try “product.” He tells me not to worry, it is for guys with short hair. It gives your hair a sheen and keeps it in place. I don’t listen to him. I want to shower, towel dry my hair, run my hand over it, and be done. I don’t want to spend a lot of time in front of the mirror.

I have short hair in my childhood pictures, starting as a toddler. My mother claimed it was easier to take care of. I usually had some form of a pixie cut, or a bowl cut with short bangs. When I started school, she wanted me to wear either a page-boy or a bob.

My mother was determined to have me grow my hair out for first grade. I cut it myself. For a five year old, I did a pretty good job. A stylist needed to finish it up and even it out; in the end it was as short as I was aiming for. My mother cringed when people called me a boy, but I was allowed to keep my hair short.

forward-brush-cut-butch-haircutI grew my hair out on my own accord, when I was twelve. My brother wore his hair long; he looked like a rock star. I was a copycat. The problem was that he looked like a drummer and I looked like a teenage girl. When I cut my hair, I went to a barber shop instead of a hair salon. I pointed to a picture on the wall and said “I want my hair to look like that.”  I’ve kept it short and cropped ever since. According to the chart, I have a forward brush style (first haircut on the left, top row).

Before puberty, all I needed to do to “pass” for a boy was to have a good hair cut and the right clothes. I wish it was still that easy. Through my mid-twenties, I was frequently read as a teenage boy. Now I am often superficially read as male, but it is fleeting and awkward. Without taking testosterone, I am unable to sustain it. There are too many gender markers that I am missing; voice, facial hair, height, and muscle/fat distribution. That is alright. I know how I feel.

I experience the magic every time I get a haircut.

8 thoughts on “A Little Off the Top

  1. RonaFraser

    I have never enjoyed haircuts — I feel awkward through the entire thing (especially the tipping part), and it bugs me to pay so much for it (when all I generally want is to trim off the split ends and air dry). Plus I think I always believe deep down that I will exit the salon magically transformed into a hot chick, but I exit the same, but maybe more symmetrical and less frizzy. One day someone said to me that I could probably just cut it myself and no one would notice, because my hair is so curly/frizzy. I’ve been doing that ever since, unless I am in a wedding party. Unfortunately I now prefer it long and I don’t know how to thin it out… so I now have what I would term “Texas hair” – no offence Texas. It is BIG. But, not to be all deep, but after reading your post I was contemplating my hair choice and think that perhaps it is just another way I avoid failure. If I went to a stylist and still looked bla, then I look bla. But if I do my own hair, well I’m sure I would be pretty if only I went to a stylist. Wait – on the other hand, perhaps my problem is I think too much! 😉


    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Alan, who cuts my hair, is 70. I live in fear that he will get arthritis or decide to retire. I hate the thought of breaking in a new guy. A good haircut is powerful.


  2. urbanmythcafe

    A view from the other side: I remember being absolutely terrified by the barber shop as a child. That was where men went. As soon as I was old enough to assert any independence, I refused to go.


  3. Jamie Ray Post author

    Is there anything that you do or wear that you feel magically reaffirms your gender presentation (whether it is just for you or visible to others)?



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