There's this idea in the lesbian community about butches and femmes. Butches are the "men" of the gay community. They present masculine - they act with traditional masculine characteristics - toughness, anger, protectiveness... they're the ones who open the doors. Femmes present as traditionally feminine - they are less stereotypically gay, because they are closer to a binary idea of the female gender. They are the more sensitive, more caring, more "girly." Even within the queer community, we still binarise ourselves - there are still ideals to live up to.
I remember being 12, it was long before I had any idea what butch meant. I remember begging my parents for short hair. I remember the craving to chop it all of.
I had just started secondary school... it was the beginning of a struggle with appearance and presentation. It took me weeks to convince my parents to let me chop my hair to my shoulders. They were worried about me, and worried about how other people would perceive me - how that would hurt me. Because even now, there are still people who mistake me for a boy, because of the length of my hair. But back then, when I was pre-pubescent, it was constant.
It's funny how much a hair cut can change things. How many people I had to start correcting... no it's she. It's confusing when no one understands your identity, not even you.
I went through the typical phases of gay haircuts (hehe)... it was shoulder length, then Justin Bieber-esque, then a bowl cut, then a mohawk. I loved it. I became obsessed with making it shorter.
I have always appeared butch, but my personality is so much more femme. I'm pretty fluffy, all about sharing love hearts and kitten pictures. I'm not an angry person - I literally cannot get angry. Upset, yes. Frustrated, yes. But I have an inability to be angry, so much so that I had a conversation with my counsellor about how this is actually damaging for my mental health. Negative emotions manifest themselves in many ways, and neglecting one has made the others more dominant - fear, self-loathing, and particularly anxiety. Most of all, there's a numbness in a space that keeps filling itself with other things. I can't be angry.
When I realised last year that I wanted to date women, I bought a copy of Diva magazine. It was all very sentimental - I'd watched Ellen Page's coming out speech, and I was feeling slightly more comfortable about who I was as a human being, and I bought a copy of Diva. I love Diva - I still buy it now, and I refuse to subscribe, because I like to see the facial expression of the cashier every time I pick up a copy. But it did introduce me to something dangerous - the world of butches and femmes, lesbian language, and ideas within the community I was never aware of before.
I thought - I just like women, why does this have to be so complicated?!
But it was complicated. And I knew I felt more butch then femme, because I just didn't identify with "girlyness." So I started presenting as more butch. I started thinking about my posture, I stopped wearing any clothes that weren't baggy, I shaved the sides of my head. I shaved them again. I shaved them again.
I went to gay bars alone. I got harassed by an older gay man who thought I was a young boy. I felt unsafe in gay bars. I started going to women's only bars. I don't drink alcohol for mental health reasons... but suddenly I was drinking. And I don't smoke for many reasons... but I was smoking too. I would wear my rainbow laces with pride, marvel at the people, go home late, have baths at 3am in the morning.
I started to shave my own head. Just the sides. Each time it got shorter. Each time I promised myself it wouldn't get any shorter. The day I shaved my entire head for the first time, my sister found me lying on the kitchen floor. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw the angry part of myself. The part that wanted to present as angry. The part that was invisible to everyone, but I had to talk to. We had internal conversations. I hated looking at her, and not looking at myself.
It has always been just a haircut. It hasn't always been just a haircut.