How My Buzzcut Has Reaffirmed My True Gender Identity

I've never been shy about expressing the belief that there exists power to be garnered through getting a haircut, a new tattoo, or putting on a bold swipe of lipstick; and I continue to stand behind the notion that a fresh beauty routine can possess cathartic qualities. But before I got a buzzcut, no change in style or fresh ink ever impacted my life so intensely, leaning me further in the direction of fulfilled body positivity.

New tattoos, piercings, and dyes have certainly helped me take my body back, allowing me to exercise control over particular areas I previously found uncontrollable or undefinable. This drastic haircut, however, has done more than give me control over my body and narrative. It's stripped away the old, damaging parts of myself and my psyche that I've been holding onto in order to make way for a more authentic and liberating life as the trans person that I am.

These old facets of myself — the pain, the insecurity, the forced femininity — were all clinging to my color-treated, askew, and oddly-textured mane. But when I finally shaved it all off on a whim and with the encouragement of my loving partner, I felt the hurt melt away, and saw the real me staring back from the mirror for the first time in my life.

Picking up those scissors on the bathroom sink and haphazardly hacking away at my black bob felt wild. Despite how much I wanted this change, I was scared. Starting slowly, I realized that with each snip of the scissors, I felt like I could breathe a little deeper; could smile a little wider. Eventually, I was hacking off huge chunks as they fell all over my feet and atop my tiny pup, and as my partner blasted some One Direction for motivation.

Finally, most of my hair was gone. I had reached the point of being able to cut off as much as I could without a buzzer. I felt alive, and close to tears. Soon after, I asked my partner to buzz the rest of it as we fed off of each other's excitement and adrenaline.

I got up, looked in the mirror, and did my best to hold back any sobbing. This is who I am. This is who I've wanted to be for so long, I thought. I was finally letting myself be the boy or the genderqueer unicorn or the genderless alien that I am deep inside. After years of subconsciously suppressing my masculinity, there was nothing but relief.

When I was a kid, I kept my hair so long that it brushed the top of my ass. I'd often throw my head back, shaking it to and fro just to show everyone how long I was able to grow it. But most of the time, I felt burdened by my mane, just like I felt burdened by dresses, by my growing breasts, and by those who called me "pretty."

I knew that girls had long hair and boys had short hair, though. And since I was a girl (or so I was told), I had to keep my hair the length that it was. In addition to gender norms, so many people envied how long and luscious my locks were that I thought it'd be a crime to hack them off.

I loathe assigning gender to hairstyles and lengths. I loathe the ideology so many queer communities have about what being queer "looks like." At the end of the day, a hairstyle, length, or color cannot be gendered. Yet there is no denying how burdensome my hair felt when it came to my gender identity: An identity that I didn't fully understand at the time.

Once I went to college, I became friends with other queer people like me. They made me feel comfortable about my desire to cut my strands, as the norm at my college was the opposite of the beauty standards put forth in my elementary and high schools. But I still held back, fearing I wasn't "masculine enough" to rock a short 'do or to be entitled to embracing a more gender fluid identity. So I slowly started cutting my hair in bits and pieces, going from long, flowing locks to a bob to an undercut to, finally, shaved sides complemented by a short crop.

But as much as I felt better with each shorter length, my deeply-held belief that masculinity somehow wasn't for me (even if I felt like a boy) won over for a while, as I set out to grow out my hair once again.

Until recently, I had been growing it out for eight months. In all that time, I never once felt empowered over my appearance, despite my big plans to aspire to an Amelie-style bob and blunt bangs. To be honest, stereotypical ideas of gender held me back. As much as I don't believe that we should gender haircuts or clothing or makeup, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd feel more authentically me if rocking less hair.

Since I'm a small-framed and very anxious human, I often feel like those qualities make me inherently female. My disappointment in myself over "never being masculine enough," or "never being handsome enough," haunted me until the moment I impulsively started cutting all my hair off once and for all. With this new cut, I have a completely different point of view. The disapproving voices were silenced, and for the first time ever, I saw that the person I always wanted to be was always under that long crop of strands.

With all the excess hair and unwanted femininity out of the way, my buzzcut helped me see that I can be — that I am — masculine. It helped me see that masculinity, for many, is a feeling: Not a game with dozens of strict rules.

My new hair is bringing out the man I think I might be more and more each day. Now I get to introduce them to everyone. I'm done denying myself of my masculinity, and I look forward to flaunting exactly who I am without apology.

Images: Meg Zulch