I Thought I Shaved My Body Hair By Choice, Until I Came Out As Queer

By Kim Wong-Shing
Courtesy of Kim Wong-Shing

Last winter, I went on a walk from my house in New Orleans to a nearby restaurant to buy some French fries for lunch. It was unseasonably warm at the time, so I decided to go out with my legs bare. As I walked down the road, with the sticky, humid breeze blowing towards me, my body started to feel a new sensation — one that came by surprise. “This is what having leg hair feels like?!” I said, incredulously, to my partner. They laughed and nodded yes. For them, as a queer non-binary person, leg hair was old news.

Believe it or not, before that moment, in all my 27 years of life, I had never even seen fully grown hair on my legs, let alone felt the wind blow through it. The sensation left me feeling fascinated, like a scientist discovering a new species. I’d been shaving my leg hair — by choice, I thought — since I started growing leg hair in the first place. However, it wasn’t until I became openly queer that I realized that I’d done so only to conform to the societal expectations of cis male desire, and not simply by my own choice. Coming out not only helped me to feel more comfortable with who I am, but it also led me on a journey to accepting my fully-grown leg hair for the first time in my life.

Courtesy of Kim Wong-Shing

For 15 years prior, removing my body hair used to be a self-care ritual for me. It was deeply soothing, and the end result of gaining baby-smooth skin appealed to my senses. I relished in that feeling, even though it only lasted for around seven hours before the stubble began to set in. Once I felt the hair coming in again, I started to feel pangs of disappointment and unwomanliness. Plus, my boyfriends at the time all refused to touch my legs after the seven hours were up, which only helped to intensify those feelings.

Then at age 26, I came out of the closet. And after a decade of exclusively dating straight, cis men, I did a complete 180 — both when it came to my romantic life, as well as my beauty standards. I no longer dated, lived with, or even worked alongside straight cis men, and eventually the pressure to remove my body hair started to lift.

My new, queer partner didn’t care one bit about my body hair being on full display. They had hairy legs themselves, and loved me and touched me affectionately, whether or not I was shaved. But while I finally felt free to let my body be in its fully natural state, in all honesty, it was still somewhat personally disorienting to see all the hair on my legs for the first time. Shaving was something I had gotten used to, it was my normal. So unsurprisingly, the feelings I had before — and that society and previous boyfriends had drilled into my brain — started to resurface. Despite knowing better, and having a supportive partner, the hair started to bother me, and the fact that it bothered me, bothered me.

Right before I went to Mexico on vacation last year, those old feelings of wanting to be appealing based on society's standards started bubbling up. I decided to shave before I left; I didn't want to be the only hairy girl on the beach. But once I was there, the seven hours quickly came and went, then turned into days of not shaving. I was having too much fun on my trip to think about the new growth on my body. Plus, no else seemed to be bothered by it, either. Not a single person ever ogled at me, even in public. And as expected, when I returned from my trip, my queer partner never said a thing; they just continued to rub my hairy legs with love.

Courtesy of Kim Wong-Shing

My second attempt at growing out my leg hair made me realize that the only person who was truly bothered by it was me — which was never the case when I was in a hetero relationship. Being with my queer partner helped me to explore a whole new range of choices to make about my body hair, I never imagined possible before. For the first time in my life, I felt like I could be hairy with almost no consequences from anyone, my partner included.

While I've long enjoyed smooth skin, I love being lazy much more. I prefer standing in the shower and staring at the wall, daydreaming about my existential dread, rather than glancing in my razor’s direction. So that’s what I usually do, now.

When I identified as straight, my lovers would visibly recoil and chuckle nervously at my stubble. They would ogle at other areas, like the hairs around my nipples, and make jokes about how hairy I was that implied they found it unattractive. They would go on to tell me that, in their opinion, shaving my armpits was just cleaner. I've now come to realize that I only chose to shave in the past because I wanted to feel and look beautiful in the eyes of the cis men I encountered. And in turn, their eyes had become my own eyes. Smooth skin is what beauty meant to me, at the time. But now that I no longer date cis men, and a whole new perspective that's made me feel a lot more comfortable in my body.

Courtesy of Kim Wong-Shing

It’s summer in New Orleans now, and I wear my hairy legs out all the time. Still a bit hesitantly, because of my past, but with the satisfying relief of knowing that it’s OK, and that I deserved to be loved wholly, whether or not I choose to shave.