I used to fantasize that I was a werewolf like in True Blood, Alan Ball-style, all mysterious and sexy and, well, with a thick coat of hair. Turns out I kinda, sorta got my wish.
As a trans man I’m one of the hairier men out there. Compared to my late father, a man who was assigned male at birth, I’m a regular sasquatch. He barely had enough hair to cover the warts on his head, and when he tried to grow a beard, it grew in patchy and thin.
My beard, on the other hand, is thick, my moustache long and carefully groomed thanks to my partner M–‘s attentiveness (she cuts my hair).
As a closeted trans man, you have this whole other side of you that you keep trying to push down, out of sight, but it keeps coming out at the most awkward moments. And when it does, people scurry every which way just to get away from you. It’s the monster inside you can’t suppress. In my case, this monster has come out to play. And he’s hairier than ever before.
I used to have a lot of hair even as a girl. In my teens, my mother sent me to the hairdresser to get my eyebrows plucked and my upper lip zapped. Man, how I hated lying there and feeling the electric current shoot from my upper lip into my tear-ducts. For a day or two after, pus would ooze out of every cleared hair follicle.
The hair didn’t bother me, even back then. But I understood the need to try to fit in, for society’s sake. Like a good girl, I shaved my legs, and rubbed oil into the skin so they were silky soft and smooth. I even shaved my underarm hair. But I did these activities half-heartedly, ruminating on the stupidity of removing hair that would only grow back a day or two later. The whole task of being a woman just felt impossibly hard.
Gender is a kind of a dance, the steps to which you are introduced at a very young age. Some of us are natural dancers; others not so much. I fell in the not so much camp. I didn’t really even understand why it felt so awkward. When my mother tried to show me how to follow a recipe or sew or braid my hair, I tried to listen and watch, but my brain kept wandering. I wanted to play outside, with the boys, and help the men light the barbecue on the back porch. I felt like a failure. I was a failure.
In South Africa, where a white girl like me was expected to find herself a nice white man to marry, I simply wilted. And the unruly hair my body sprouted was just one more indication of my failure.
My hairiness pre-transition paled in comparison to what exploded all over my body once hormone therapy kicked in. Now settled in Canada and no longer needing to prove myself feminine, I watched as hair spread like grass all over my legs, my upper lip, my chin, in my armpits. Hair appeared just about everywhere, growing in on my chest, my back, even in my butt-crack. I started to worry that it wouldn’t ever stop. Then the male-pattern baldness happened. Not complete baldness, but a thinning of the patch on the crown of my head. I watch it with eagle eyes, terrified.
The hair, my height (I’m over 6 foot tall), my deepening voice, made it easy for me to blur the gender divide and eventually climb right over it. People called me sir long before I ever injected testosterone. The difference was that now, I wasn’t correcting them by telling them I was a woman. I was letting them see a side of me I could no longer suppress; the werewolf side of me, the side that is trans and more man than woman.
Today, I don’t hide my transman status. But I recognize my trans-ness is simply one slice of who I am; I am a pie with many slices. If I feel the urge to tell my story now, it’s because I, too, am trying to understand how I got here.