Cutting Loose: a Journey of Appearances and Coming Out
My heart pounded in my throat as clumps of yellow hair fell into my lap. The snipping scissors echoed in my ears as I watched my face come more into view, and my curtain peeled back. It was as if I could see all of my features in totality for the first time. There was nothing to hide behind anymore, no more backdrop that I could slip away to. Only me, in my rawest form.
I severed some sort of tether when I chopped my hair off— something connecting me to the scared young woman that once was me. She was dismantled, never to be seen again. Every cell in my body felt lighter as my guard came down for good. For years, I shied away behind that golden wall of normal. Nobody suspected anything different about me, but the pain of not acknowledging my true self was a burden that I could not carry for the rest of my life. Parting ways with my previous aesthetics was the start of being free, of building my own standards of beauty, and being comfortable in the body I’ve been blessed with.
That pivotal moment often seems lost on many onlookers. It’s all too apparent in this seemingly harmless phrase:
“Aw, but I liked your hair so much when it was long!”
I’ll pause for emphasis and let you imagine my eyes rolling so hard that they almost disappear into my head.
For context, my hair used to be like a waterfall. It fell in a straight cascade down my back, all the way to my waist. It was my calling card. It was a golden sheath that I could conveniently close if I decided that the show could no longer go on, or that I could not bear the world’s access to my face.
In the years after I graduated high school, I steadily chipped away at my hair, timidly snipping off pieces each time I went home. Each miniscule cut felt like using an eyedropper to put out a fire. Something was raging inside of me— rooted to my extremely conventional exterior, out of fear that a bold haircut would reveal my true self. Beneath layers of doubt and self-loathing was a girl begging to fill a my life and my hair with color and excitement. An inner urge pleaded with me to hack away the long-haired, sundress-wearing young lady and reveal what hid underneath: a fiery woman with a tenacity that could not be tamed.
I should know better than to shove my emotions as far away as possible when they start to emerge, but that’s exactly what I did. It’s a habit that is well-ingrained in my behaviors. Someday I will learn, but until then I will be in the same cycle of denying, denying, denying… then finally exploding with dismissed feelings. I have a long history of battling an eating disorder, literally shoving my feelings down my throat in the form of food, stuffing them as deep down as they can go until I can’t bear the pain and discomfort and I purge my whole system. Bulimia ruled my life for almost a decade. Even after I entered full recovery and stopped purging, I never quite did away with the habit of repressing my emotions to the boiling point.
Such was the way with my sexuality. In reality, I knew I was not straight for a long time. It dated back to staring at girls in elementary school, being turned on by lesbian sex scenes in movies, and recognizing that I found myself drawn physically and emotionally to women around me. I wrestled with it and fought it because I was not ready to make the declaration that heterosexuality was not for me. But when it came to being the authentic version of myself, I knew I was fighting a losing battle by bottling up my identity.
I started small. I told my sister. Then my brother. Then my roommate. Then the floodgates opened. I couldn’t stop telling people. I told a room of one hundred complete strangers in a community talk on mental health awareness. Nothing could stop me.
But something was missing, and something still gnawed at me. I looked at myself in the mirror: a very conventional woman with golden hair down to her shoulders. It felt false. It felt like a lie. It felt like a costume that I wore to appease people who believed in conventional beauty, and it chiseled away at me as I continued to navigate the world out of the closet. While I begged for acceptance in every space I entered, I had barely given myself the time to accept myself. Far beneath the surface, there was a person that was bold, brave, daring and had the looks to match. She longed to bust out and make herself. She ached to see daylight and to begin reclaiming the space she had never taken. She wouldn’t wait a second longer. Fighting fear the whole way, I took the first step to accept who I truly was as I walked to a hair salon, my good friend squeezing my shoulder for support.
It sounds superficial to say that cutting my hair was a moment of immense realization for me. But it was a part of the process of finally parting ways with the bashful girl I used to be and allowing me to embrace the proud, bisexual woman that I knew I was.
For many people, the short hair is a shock compared to my former flowing locks. In many ways, I don’t blame people for reacting in a wistful way when they see my choppy new doo. But I also don’t regret choosing to let go of a person that I no longer am. I don’t regret opening myself to a side of my mind, body, and spirit that I never embraced. I don’t regret diving head first into my journey of personal growth.
So when people tell me they miss my long hair, I simply respond with, “I don’t.”
A graduate of Occidental College, Rosalind Jones is an intersectional feminist, grassroots organizer, and poet based in Los Angeles. She currently writes for Ms. Magazine in the beat of global feminism and dreams of creating her own publication dedicated to writing and art for healing. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @rosalind_hj.
Graphic by Lizzie Zhang.