I have a special guest on the blog today.If you’re a regular here, you’ll probably know that I posted an update earlier this week on my Hair Removal Hiatus that began last year. Basically, I’ve spent a bit of time experimenting with body hair and seeing what I like as opposed to what society expects of me or the media dictates to me. In the same vein, my cousin (by marriage, but I’m claiming him) Joe Wilson, wrote this great piece on his experiences around body hair, which are much more diverse than most.

Joe:

I’ve been struggling with the whole body hair issue since I was a teenager. As a person who has lived as a straight woman, a gay woman, a straight man and now as a gay man. I’ve come up against just about all the prejudices around body hair that you can think of.

When I was a teenager and presenting as a straight woman (alas, I didn’t know that other options existed), I was faced with all the usual nonsense about body hair and what is considered ‘feminine’ or ‘appropriate’. Thanks to the mainstream media, peer pressure and the sealed section of Cosmopolitan, I did what was expected and shaved my legs and armpits. Honestly, it hadn’t really occurred to me to object. I was already one of the weird kids, the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself by being the HAIRY weird kid. There were a couple of girls at my school who had PCOS and the teasing and bullying they were subjected to due to their increased body hair was horrendous. There was no way I was going to endure that sort of torment if I could do something about it.

As I approached my early 20s and was starting to realise that hey, girls are kind of interesting to look at, I started to present as more masculine. By my mid 20s I was pretty recognisable as a butch woman. At this point I had given up on dating men for the time being. The idea of dating men as a butch woman with body hair quickly got put in the too hard basket. Perhaps naively, I had assumed that I wouldn’t need to worry about shaving anymore, because only men really care about women shaving, and I didn’t care what they thought anyway. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. I found that nothing had changed at all. Shaved head or not, I was still a woman, and women shave their legs and armpits. It was interesting that some women were attracted to the fact that I was so masculine, and yet balked at the idea that I didn’t want to shave my legs anymore, and couldn’t be arsed shaving my pits most of the time.

joe2

By the time I was 27 and figured out that I was actually a guy (that explains everything), I was pretty fed up with the whole body hair issue. It was a blessed relief to be able to let it all go. Well, that was the theory. I didn’t start taking male hormones until I was 29, and in those two years I was still constantly perceived as a hairy woman. It didn’t matter that I was a struggling transgender guy desperately trying to grow pit hair and a straggly moustache so that people would know what I was. People judge on what they see, and what they saw was a butch woman with no concern for other people’s discomfort around her body hair.

It took over a year on hormones before I started to have anything even vaguely recognisable as male body hair. The genetic lack of body hair that had been a blessing 10 years ago was now a curse. By the time I turned 30 I could just about pass as a 16 year old boy. This presented another struggle when trying to date queer women. My 10-hair moustache and 5 chin hairs just didn’t cut it. Despite my hairy legs and 6 chest hairs, women were surprisingly binary when it came to body hair on transgender guys. I realise this is not every trans guy’s experience, but I found that it tended to go one of two ways.

1. I was expected to shave everything so that my presentation matched my partner’s ideas about the relationship between acceptable body hair and downstairs anatomy.

or

2. I was expected to somehow magically sprout far more body hair than I was physically capable of, because a ton of body hair negates the presence of aforementioned downstairs anatomy/lack of dangly bits.

It was a totally bizarre situation to find myself in, and not one I could ever have anticipated.

Now, about to celebrate my 5th Manniversary, things have gotten easier. I’m hairy enough to be acceptable now. My legs are beastly. My facial hair is tragic but hey, genes- what are you gonna do?

joe apron

Real men wear aprons.

 

You don’t get to choose what you get. If I could, I’d happily take a lumberjack beard and give up my hairy arse. Living as a gay man has been extremely liberating. Yes, we all have preferences about what we like on ourselves and what we’re attracted to. Often they’re different. My partner is also a gay trans man, and he shaves everything. His body, his preference. He likes that I’m hairy. Honestly? The real reason I don’t shave is because I’m really lazy. I love that that’s all it comes down to now. The only times I’ve been given a hard time over the last few years are when I’ve shaved my legs for better grip in my pole fitness training. I really think that was more about the pole fitness than the leg shaving. Otherwise, no one cares about my body hair. At all.

joe

Image Credit: Stonesthrow Photography

It’s good to be a guy.

 

#FYBF @ With Some Grace

#WWU@Melting Moments

 

 

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  • LydiaCLee

    I found this interesting, not on the hair, but on the fact that it sometimes takes a while to work out where you’re meant to be (if you get what I mean)

    • LydiaCLee

      Find your groove, I guess is a better turn of phrase.

      • It’s not always obvious, is it- but we hopefully get there in the end!

  • This is fascinating! Society really is a little nuts. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  • Thanks for sharing your story. I’d really never thought about body hair from a trans perspective – amazing how with all the major internal and external changes that go along with transition, goddamn body hair is still such a big factor!

  • Kaz @ MeltingMoments

    Joe sounds like he’s in such a happy place and yay for not having to shave!! haha. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

    • Joe Wilson

      Laziness triumphs!

  • Wow! What a journey. But I wouldn’t worry about the lack of facial hair Joe… so few men can pull it off anyway without looking like Tom Selleck circa 1980!

    • Joe Wilson

      I tried that look but my boyfriend threatened to break up with me 😛

  • Dianne Childs

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, this has given me great insight into an issue I normally wouldn’t think twice about.

    Di from Max The Unicorn

  • Amy, thanks for giving Joe this forum, to share his story with us.
    Joe, you’ve had a journey all right, but sound like you’ve pretty much got it together. And hair, whether it’s a lack of, or abundance, can be a massive pain!

  • Thanks so much for this post. Really insightful look into gender identification and that body hair doesn’t discriminate in its annoyingness!

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    What an amazing story … Hair I can cope with except under arm hair … A big no from me. I do my legs extra but not that fussy ( maybe that’s what 20 yrs marriage does)

  • Grace

    This was a fascinating, insightful read, Amy. And thanks Joe for sharing your story. I’m very much at a “you do what works for you” mentality. Having said that, exposed to Asian culture, body hair (even on men) is such a big no no, so I kind of grew up with that around me. Makes me even prouder that we came to Australia where I was able to see and accept differences.

    • Isn’t it funny how some cultures completely reject the natural state to varying degrees!

  • Thanks for sharing Joe. I’m sure this post will be hugely useful to other young people going through these stages in life.

  • Such an interesting journey and a fascinating read. I shave and yet I have never thought about why really. Honestly, I get irritated by my own body hair in my armpits and I shave just to stop it! Otherwise, I personally find hair and fashion for women can be awkward as a fit. I love this post. Now you’ve got me thinking how much of a mo I’d manage if I were taking hormones! I wonder…!

  • What an awesome read! Thanks for sharing Joe. Glad you’ve found your groove. Nice one Amy 🙂

  • Wow such an interesting read! Thanks so much to Joe for sharing his experience and perspective. Who would have thought body hair was such an issue? I must admit that I do like the feeling of freshly shaved legs 🙂

  • Fabulous post, how interesting! Not really a topic I have given much thought to, but I’m so glad I have now. Genetics suck some times huh? I know my husband barely grows facial hair and he often gets teased for it when November comes along and he can’t participate!

  • So interesting! And something I’d never really thought about! Thanks for expanding our minds Joe and to Amy for sharing this!

  • Great post – I love that he has experienced all perspectives of it. Evidently hairy issues suck no matter what way you look at it.

    • Yup, all facets of society have an expectation on it!

  • Great post. As a Mum I know that body hair is still a big thing, for males and females – and complete strangers think they have the right to comment on it. And make adolescents and young adults feel inadequate and wrong as a result. I think it’s great when you reach a stage in your life when you are comfortable with whatever feels right for you.

  • Oooh, thanks for the article!

  • Interesting read Joe. I have never really thought about the whole hair debate I guess because I am not an overly hairy person so can go a month without shaving my legs. Pits I do more often. If you are quiet you can hear my husbands facial hair growing and you could nearly say the same about his sister. Like you said, genetics…what are you going to do.

  • Alicia-OneMotherHen

    Thanks for sharing this, so interesting to read it from a transgender point of view. All I know it’s winter and I am time poor, the other day I shaved my ankles so I could wear leggings and flats, and it didn’t look like a sesame character wasn’t trying to escape out the legs of my pants 😉

  • Kat Abianac

    love this 🙂