identity politics

On Butches: Hair

I am a butch who shaves.

Not my legs, inner thighs, stomach, underarms (though I’ll get to those in a moment), but my face. Chin, mustache, sideburns. Every day.

It has taken me years to admit this, to celebrate this. I started shaving my chin about ten years ago, at eighteen, when my-ex-the-boy and I got into a fight and he used it as leverage against me. It was toward the end of our five-year high school relationship and he was increasingly paranoid that I would leave him to come out (which I did), so we used to fight about my perceived dykeness all the time. We were in his car in our driveway, just home from somewhere, yelling at each other. I have no idea what the context was, but I still remember the way he looked over at me and said: “I mean, you have more hair on your chin than me!”

I’m sure I’d noticed the hairs on my chin and upper lip, I’m sure they’d been there for years. I was at that time in denial about most of what my body did, how it looked. I spent as little time as I could with obligatory lipstick and mascara – the only makeup I could master without feeling like a clown, I never could figure out foundation or blush or eye shadow, despite the hundreds of beauty magazines that I studied, attempting to discover and reproduce the secrets of femininity.

It wasn’t until he said that, though, that I thought I should pluck, wax, shave, something, anything, so as not to give away my gender deviancy and gender defiance that seemed to be so certain that it would even come through in my biology. I’m a hippie after all – deep down I believe whatever the human body does is ‘natural’ and that all the hair policing was perpetuating unobtainable standards of beauty for women.

But this wasn’t about beauty, suddenly. It was about gender. It was about being revealed, when I didn’t even realize I was.

I promptly went upstairs, shut myself in the bathroom, took my razor from the shower, and shaved my chin smooth.

That was 1999.

It was only very recently that I let the hair on my face grow, even for a day or two. I’ve often seen dykes in the lesbian communities who sport peach fuzz mustaches, goatees, sideburns, but it never really occurred to me that it would happen if I didn’t run the razor along my face daily.

It was Callie who mentioned it first. It came up with Datedyke, too. I didn’t quite get the appeal at first. It felt gross, even shameful. No, they said. An indication of masculinity.

Oh yeah. Right.

I buy men’s razors now. Made for the contours of a face, not the smooth line of a shin bone or inner thigh. I enjoy buying products so masculine. I do it, head high, boldly; I challenge what the clerk thinks. I am not shy about it. It is a small act of gender celebration, gender defiance, gender activism.

Sometimes I even like my five o’clock shadow. I’ve developed the habit of scratching my chin like the boys do. Feeling when I need a shave. Letting it grow on weekends, on weeks when I don’t have work. When I was in Mexico I didn’t touch it once. Ten days without shaving, I am sure a personal record. I didn’t even know my hair would grow that long, that dark, that thick.

Sometimes, I even like it.

Okay, so, body hair.

Well, here’s the deal. I believe hair is a potential enhancer of sex. A sex toy. That it can be used to increase sensation, both tactile and visual. That the key decision about the hair on my head is for a sexual purpose. That running fingertips from ankle to cunt feels different on an unshaved leg – for both the person to whom the hand belongs and the person to whom the leg belongs. That it is different to fuck with a full bush as opposed to a brazillian.

Whether or not one is better than the other is a purely personal preference. Clearly there are some cultural preferences that correspond with gender role and expectation, but when all options have been examined and stripped of their social meaning and compulsory prescription, we can actually have an opinion about what we prefer, and make a choice.

I’ll get to femme body hair another time. I want to talk about butch hair, here, a bit more.

I know transmasculine folks who shave and who don’t. Who grow their hair long and who buzz it off nearly completely. I know a butch whose hair grows in so light she doesn’t have to shave – though she hates body hair, and would if her own wasn’t so light. I know a butch who had a contest with her friends to see who could grow their hair the longest.

Sure, I personally have preferences – I keep the hair on my head short, #2 on the sides, two fingers on top. I do this for sex, and for gender: I love the feel of buzzed hair under some girl’s fingers. Love how it makes me feel boyish. Love how there’s still enough for her to grab and pull on the top, in the back. Love the physical sensation of her desire as she pulls on it suddenly, when I do something and she responds, a physical communication between us.

I don’t shave my legs or underarms. I like the cultural masculinity of it. I like the surprise and occasional understanding of strangers. I do “manscape,” as the kids are calling it these days. Trim where it grows long, sculpt a little. I figure I sculpt and trim the hair on my head, I can do that for other places too. It is for sexual purposes really. And goodness knows there’s a lot I’d invest for sexual benefits.

So: I covered options, now let’s talk preferences. What kind of hair do you prefer on your butch? Butches & other transmasculine guys, how do you keep your hair? Au naturale? Waxed? Plucked? Is it leftover compulsory hair depletion from your gender-conformist days, or have you examined all your options and made the choice you prefer? Femmes, do you love it / hate it when a butch shaves? When she buzzes her hair or grows it out? When she keeps a mustache?

[ I know there’s a ton to say about femme identity and body hair too – let’s keep this to butches, for now. Start thinking, though, the femme equivalent discussion is forthcoming. ]

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

36 thoughts on “On Butches: Hair”

  1. Amy says:

    I for one would like to encourage the standards and expectations to be equally open for femmes and butches. Double standards do exist in our little world, and like it or not it is generally less acceptable to see for a femme who doesn't shave her underarms to appear so in public than it would be for a butch in a tank. These heterosexist traditional genderlined standards need to be broken.

    [Definitely; femme can be just as compulsory feminine as "traditional" femininity. It's really quite rare to see a femme who doesn't shave, especially on the east coast, in New York, where I now am. Seems it was more common when I lived in the Pacific Northwest previously. Still, yes, lots of double standards. – ss]

  2. Mab says:

    I like hair on both butches and femmes although for some reason I prefer the men that I date shaved (if I have an option – I think it's important everyone has that free choice). Lots of hair can be incredibly feminine as well as masculine and one reason I like vintage pornography.

    It annoys me to be expected to shave. I do shave – I like the ritual of it and I have worked out that I like most of my cunt but not my mons shaved because of how vulnerable it feels to for me to touch that way. It annoys me though that particularly when I date men, there is a "shaving assumption" in place for me and I would be less as less attractive for not shaving, that the women's sexual/health communities I frequent are frequently about the importance of shaving and the nightmares of ingrown hair.

    A worse thing – sometimes I get to the stage where I feel ashamed of my hair, particularly chin hairs and nipple hairs that have to be plucked because they bother me so. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why something about a butch shaving, the way you describe, is hot. It's empowerment and pride and what could be more sexy than that?

  3. leo says:

    i don't shave anything. i remember the first time i saw a woman with unshaven armpits. i was twelve, on a school field trip. she was of the sundress, long-hair, hippy variety. my mind just about exploded. the next year, though, i saw a friend had started shaving. she was also starting to get male attention. hey presto, that's what i'm doing wrong, i thought, and started shaving. but i hated it and was very inconsistent, letting it grow out for weeks and months at a time. (my mom suggested this would cause me to have strange odors. i don't think it did, though.)

    in college i stopped altogether for a long time. postcollege, in my genderconformist semi-closeted mindfuckery phase, i sort of started again, but just quick panicked lower-leg shaving right before i had to put a swimsuit on. this summer, for the first time, i've gone swimming in front of my family with full-on hairy legs & pits (and swimming trunks, but that wasn't the question, was it?). but i'm still a bit shy wearing shorts in public, partly because my body issues center on my legs, but partly because of the hair.

    i like my body hair. i like the feeling of the wind in my leg hair when i'm on the beach and the color contrast, the shock of dark under my arms and at my crotch. my head hair is a whole different kettle of fish, briefly short in college causing all sorts of gender identity issues, and short again for good now.

    i really like your point about having the hair that feels sexy. you're dead on about the feel of a girl's hand on the buzzed little hairs by the neck. god, that's nice.

    and sinclair. i'm really sorry your ex-boyfriend shamed you about your face hair. no matter what your past, present, or future gender identity, that just sucks, a whole lot.

  4. Julz says:

    I majorly obsessed on body hair for years starting when I was 13. I was a long-time trichotillomaniac (look it up) because shaving/waxing made my hairs ingrown, and I would have to dig down sometimes as far as 1/8 of an inch below my skin with tweezers to free the hairs again so they wouldn't get infected. I shaved legs, pussy, armpits, tummy, eyebrows . . . and all became welt-ridden messes.

    About six months ago, I just quit shaving . . . and the hairs all grew out, and now I'm hairy. Well, better hairy than covered in infected red spots!

    Ever since, I can't believe I didn't stop shaving a million years ago, but I was worried about the whole unfeminine thing (though the hair on my head has been hella short for I don't know how long, so I guess I was psyching myself out). Now, like leo says, I enjoy the feeling of wind through my leg hair. I even went to the beach in a bikini with total thigh-burns (like sideburns on your inner thigh), and I just said, "Fuck it. If you don't like it, screw off." When worlds didn't collide and nobody cared, I was pretty stoked.

    I still shave underarms, and I still have to pluck the ingrown hairs free. I also do eyebrow maintenance, but the rest of me is so much happier. I figure if it bothers anybody else that much, they can go to hell, because I'm not that shallow (anymore). ;)

  5. Renee says:

    Being a femmeboi (I recently coined that term for the inability to place myself in a defined category in the lesbian community) my girlfriend is very much femme. I shave my legs, pits and pubic region (god, that sounds so gynecological…ha). My girlfriend does the same. Our big thing lately is what I like to call “pubic art”. Usually we are very clean shaven ‘down there’ but lately we’ve been sculpting fun little designs out of the stubble that grows. A lightening bolt? Sure. An arrow pointing down? Hell yeah! It’s a far-cry from your typical “landing strip” but we’ve been having fun each month seeing what we can cultivate next.

    This might be more appropriate for your femme identity section, but I figured I’d chime in anyway.

    All in all, I like a little hair on my partner but not too much. I do have to say, though, ever since I switch to men’s razors, I’ve been a much happier person.

  6. Kate says:

    I, too, shave my beard, mustache and sideburns daily. Well my beard daily the mustache and sideburns often go every other day. I don't shave my pits, cuz it's too annoying to keep up. I shave my legs off and on, mostly for work (teacher and allowed to wear shorts, leg hair discouraged). I wouldn't dream of a bikini wax. Ow. Masochist I am, but there is a line. I identify as a dyke as far as sexuality and as a queerwoman as far as gender. I get called sir as often as miss or ma'am. But bitch more often than asshole.

    As far as hair on my lover dykewomen – I like my women to love themselve and their hair, or hairlessness. As long as they think themselves sexy I am along for the ride. Nothing is sexier than someone who knows it.

  7. I'm torn on the issue- my partner has hers buzzed short on her head- I love how it feels when I rub her head and the back of her neck, but I get so sad when we're uh, bein' sexy and there's nothing to grab! She's never brought up shaving her face- I don't know how I'd feel about it. I'd like to think I wouldn't have a problem with it. As for the rest, she usually lets her legs and underarms grow out and nobody cares (including me); I think she shaves 'em when she feels like it. As for the 'manscaping' (it made me giggle that you used that term, btw)…uh, I do it for her. I don't know if that's weird or not, but it's practical- she's a klutz and when she tries it on her own, it can be um problematic. I don't really mind, though, since when I'm finished it generally leads right into some highly enjoyable activities!


    Interesting question, Sin. ^_^

  8. Your hair sounds sexy! I can't speak on behalf of butches (even my own, who has her own rather complex relationship to these issues), but I can say one thing unequivocally: I'm in favor of butchscaping pubic hair. Just a little, for ease of access :)

    And by the way, Sinclair, this is just a guess, but I don't think you're old enough to say "as the kids are calling it these days!"

    [You're right – I tend to use that phrase in my speech when I mean "in reference to the popular culture" rather than anything about youth or age. – ss]

  9. !spark! says:

    Body hair! Oh Oh, OH! pet peeve!

    I think you said it all, when you said, "deep down I believe whatever the human body does is ‘natural’"

    Reading your post, I was transported back to GirlScout camp, where nobody shaved, arms or legs…it was so wonderful to be free of the worlds' expectations! But once school started there was the decision, to resume shaving or not?

    One fall, with a full butterflies-in-the-stomach lust on a guy at my college, I decided to put him to the test. I decided, that I was done with shaving. I'd always hated it. I quit right then and have never gone back. At that moment, it was really just a test, specifically designed for him. I wanted to know, whether he would accept me with hairy legs and armpits? I knew that the girl that I'd a crush on back at camp accepted me with hair…

    It wasn't about "what are you attracted to?" or "what turns you/me on… ?" but rather, "Hey, so, here we are (horny teenagers) now tell me, are you gonna draw a line in the sand and choose sides with the rigid social/cultural rules and identities? OR do you want to get to know ME, as a person, hair and all, or not….?"

    Oh I was pure rebellion. God what a bitch! "Wanna fuck me? Well, here are my legs, spread wide, hair and all. Wanna suck my tits? Well, you know, when you do that, my arms are probably gonna go up in the air, and so, if you don't like armpit hair, tough shit!" Oh Poor guy! I really really believed that if he could not accept me with hair, then he wasn't worth my time. (Oooo and uhmm, I'd probably have to agree with that statement today too….) (But the relevant point here and now, is, that – ) The concept of an actual discourse (about preferences and turn-ons) back then, never entered my mind. It was just an experiment. Set up the test, and see if he passed.

    In addition to these thoughts, you reminded me that, I have these couple a chin hairs, dark and stiff… hate 'em…. gotta pluck 'em … they drive me crazy…. but they are few and far between…

    And then there are the wimpy boob hairs, they're not as persistent or coarse as the chinnies, but they just gotta be plucked too, every now and then… whenever I look close and notice them.

    When I was in high school I knew guys on the swim team who shaved their whole bodies, I thought that was weird… but oh, they were really really soft, if you got close and touched them… skin on skin….

    A couple years ago, my dtr came to me, "Mommy I know you're gonna think this is weird and sick, but I want to tell you, and be honest with you – I've decided to shave my arms." Several years before this, she'd told me that she had deciced to "embrace her girly side", an obvious reference to her independent and opposite-stance to my overall rejection of the standard female beauty routines of my generataion. I'm still shaking my head, "WTF?!" Well apparently, she believes her arm-hair is too prolific and way too dark in color, and that it looks manly against her pale skin (as do her eye brows which she plucks). My body and mind is screaming, "Leave it alone! You're beautiful as you are! You look just like your father! and What's wrong with that?"

    I should apologize, I don't think I answered the question, re: butch? femme? hair preferences? etc. I is such a broad and triggering subject! grrr….

    Hmm, but let me try,

    I've petted that velvet-like shaved short hair, it's SO soft….

    oh but then again, I do like something to grab hold of…


    what was the question again?

  10. Ally says:

    i have alopecia universalis, which essentially means i don't grow hair on my body. its something i've had since my preteen years, and i infinitely prefer my body this way. aside from ease of grooming, it definitely becomes a form of sexual enhancement. there's nothing like someone's hand sliding over my effortlessly smooth legs and arms and… ahem.

    i wear a wig often, particularly for socializing, bars, first dates, etc; i feel like it helps enhance my femininity. but there's something incredibly intimate for me when my partner can appreciate me bald. and damn does it make me feel loved and protected to have someone lightly touching my head, especially when i'm curled up in bed with her, or leaning on her shoulder. (maybe too much about femme hair…)

    anyway, all of this is leading up to the fact that i love the contrast of my smoothness against someone else's hair – stubble, leg hairs, buzz cuts, you name it. i can't keep my hands off of it. anything she leaves me to play with, i'm going to have my hands there. and that, in my experience, is definitely a sexual enhancer as well.

  11. I have to say, when I saw your chin for the first time, it took a lot of effort not to melt! No lie! And as far as butch hair goes, I don’t care either way, I’ll take a butch however she comes ;)

  12. Jero says:

    Wow, Sin. I could have written this post myself. From the ex boyfriend incident, to the way that you describe how your butch body hair makes you feel all the way to the way it feels for your femme to feel your buzzed hair and pull on it.

    I've got so much to comment here that I think it makes for it's own entry.

    Thank you for posting this.

  13. blackandblue says:

    A butch who is interested in how her hair expresses masculinity and talking/writing about it is so sexy that what she actually does with it doesn't matter. I value her expression, that is my preference.

    A friend of mine is a kind of skatepunk/andro boi dyke, she wears lipstick sometimes but with tailored boyish clothes. She has kind of a 80's short-in-back-long-in-front hairdo. She could get away with a black shirtdress or something.

    Like this maybe:
    (Stockard Channing-so hot!)

    Recently I noticed her legs were unshaven, it surprised me- in a nice, sexy way. I liked how her dark hairy legs contrasted with femme-ish elements of her gender expression.

  14. Jade says:

    I just adore the term 'manscaping'.

    I work in a salon, so I hear it quite often and it never gets old.

    One of my butch exes had issues with her body hair. She wanted so desperately to avoid shaving her legs, but she hated the fact that she got questions and stares whenever she'd wear shorts with her unshaven legs. Even though they were the boy shorts, hanging below her knee. So, she shaved. It damn near broke my heart to know she was doing something she hated, just to avoid being ridiculed in public.

    I adore butches with hair on their head. Something tangible enough to grab hold of, to run my fingers through or absent mindedly rub my fingertips over while reading a book or watching a movie together. Body hair on butches, however doesn't particularly strike me one way or another. Although manscaping is definitely appreciated.

    As for myself, I come from a line of feisty latinas. Which, for those folks who aren't aware of it, means hair. Everywhere. Lots of it. It's a lot of work to remove all that hair. It's a ritual. Wax, shave, pluck, wax, shave, pluck. I enjoy it really. I love the feeling of my skin when it's just been shaved or waxed, the absolutely silken feel of it. The way sensations are heightened on my completely bare skin.

    Aside from the obviously delightful feeling of having butch hands or lips skimming over my skin, I lust the feel of stockings [particularly fishnets] against my naked skin. It is pure decadence.

  15. Ellis says:

    I had a broadly similar experience when I was 15 and teased a male friend about the amount of facial hair he had grown. He went bright red, glared at me and snorted "Well so do you!" I was completely mortified and, taking the insult far too seriously, spent the next year or so hyper-paranoid about body hair, to the extent where I'd cringe if it was too sunny because that'd make "it" (which wasn't very much at all) more obvious. I calmed down eventually, but still loathed having body hair, anywhere. Ever since I gave up makeup, discomforting fashion, long hair and a lot more, including obsessive hair removal, I'm far more comfortable. I still enjoy having smooth skin but am too lazy to wax, shave or slather on hair removal cream every few days just to cover up with long-sleeved shirts and jeans afterwards. I find it more pleasant when I do it occasionally rather then as part of a regimen.

    But hair on the upper lip is gone, always.

  16. god i love head hair! i don’t care so very much about other hair either way.

    my ex shaved her face. it never occurred to me as sexy or not, just practical – too much hair to be feminine, not enough to be masculine, so shaving was just part of her hygiene. her mom hated it – not the hair (’cause whatcha gonna do about biology), but the fact that she shaved it instead of using some product (masculine vs. feminine).

    i’ve noticed leg-shaving to be a major point of collision between butch masculinity and societally expected femininity. like, my girl (same was true of my ex for years, though she’s pretty much a non-shaver now) is fine and dandy with short hair, polos, all the butch guy-things, but she gets all worried if she forgot to shave.
    personally, i’m partial to hairy legs… shaved ones get too spiky too soon. i might feel differently if i had more experience with these femmey, silky-smooth legs i hear about. i think it’s another aspect of that butch leg-shaving dilemma that it isn’t a regular “keep my legs smooth” thing, but an occasional going in public, “what will people think” thing.

    my view from the outside (kind of). i think body hair is actually one of the biggest (or at least most ingrained) indicators of masculinity and femininity in our society.

  17. Kitcat says:

    Spark's comment brought me back… In high school at band camp (yes, at band camp) there was this popular girl who would organize 'shaving parties' – where all the girls would get out their razers and shave gel and shave their legs outside around a bunch of kiddie pools full of water. Lord, I hated that. I really, really hated that.

    As far as butch haircuts, I really like faux-hawks. I don't know why. Probably because of what everyone has mentioned – there is just enough to grab on to. :o)

  18. Colleen says:

    My most recent ex had PCOS (Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome), and one of the symptoms of that is an abundance of body hair. Honestly? I loved it. I loved the way her chin felt when she'd just shaved, but I ESPECIALLY loved how it felt in the evening, or when she hadn't shaved for a day. I find face stubble extremely sexy, particularly on butch women. I think it's because it's such a genderfuck; it's obvious masculinity on a female body. YUM. It's by no means a requirement of mine in a partner, but I definitely (ahem) appreciate it when I find it.

    When it comes to leg hair, I find that my preference varies wildly from person to person. The same ex who shaved her face also shaved her legs, and I thought that was wicked sexy because she had insanely defined calf muscles and it really showed them off. On the other hand, when I'm in bed with a butch who DOESN'T shave, that can really drive me wild as well. I guess this one really just depends.

    I've never really cared one way or the other about pits or pubes, though I don't really care for clean-shaven pubic areas all that much. There's something about it that feels very…I don't know…youthful. And if I'm not careful, that can go to the icky place really quick.

    The one body hair area that I am highly attuned to, though, and awfully picky about, are eyebrows. I totally swoon over well-groomed, well-maintained, nicely-shaped eyebrows. And, honestly? If someone lets their eyebrows grow wild and free…I won't be able to date them for very long. Part of it is that I also have trichotillomania (like one of your above posters), and it will really drive me nuts to see unkempt hair on someone's face day after day because I will just want to go after it with my tweezers.

    Looking forward to the post on femme body hair. I have lots to say about that, too. :)

  19. Zoe says:

    Oh man, this is such a weirdly emotional subject. I stopped shaving everything but my head in college as a f-you to the man or whatever, which, incidentally, let me go back to it on my own terms. Plus, shaving was pretty much mandatory at the pool where I worked.

    As to my butch-ish lover, I don't really have a preference. I help her butchscape her pubes – major turn on. She doesn't shave her legs, which is fine with me. She is conflicted about her face, which I think she mainly trims with scissors. Her mom gives her a lot of grief, and I try to encourage her to just do whatever makes her feel confident and sexy. I hate that it's something that she forces herself to ignore and then every once in a while notices and hates about herself. I hope she believes me that it really doesn't bother me, and I wish she would let me touch it more – it fascinates me because it is different.

    Whatever you choose, rock it.

  20. rascalgrrl says:

    My butch lover shaves her legs below the knee, and she shaves her pits. She hardly grows body hair at all, so this is a once-a-week ritual at most. Once, she had hand surgery, and I had to do all her washing and shaving stuff. OMG! HOTT! I do like her to keep her butchscape in check for ease of access, but that only means a little trim once a month or so. She'll occasionally grow one wild chin hair from the center of her mole. That one gets plucked because it can go from zero-to-crazy in two days. She wears her hair longer than the "average" butch, but it looks so Rock Star! I also like the way it sticks out from under a bandana when she's on her bike, in leathers. Swoon!

    I was with a woman once who shaved her face, and that was just lovely. The smoothness in the morning, the slight rasp at night was all great.

  21. I, too, have my own story to share when we get to the femme hair discussion. This is a great topic, Sinclair. It's making me consider all sorts of things I'd never thought of before — about gender identity as well as about what turns me on.

    I'll say this for now — I've had girlfriends who have shaved their bodies and those who haven't. Whatever whoever I was with at the time did re their body hair was exactly what turned me on at the moment. That is, it was the woman not the hair or lack of hair.

    That said, I did have a girlfriend who was completely bare "down below." It was the mid-90s, and more extreme 'scaping (beyond cleaning up the edges) wasn't the mainstream practice that it is now. (That said, we were at an all women's seven sister's school so keeping one's body hair for feminist reasons was probably more en vogue than in the general population.) It caught me off guard that she had no hair, and I never liked it. I think it was mainly because she shaved all of her hair and the inevitable stubble was, well, painful.

    As for leg hair, my partner's is just how I like it. Girlfriends past were always in one of two camps — shavers or non-shavers. My partner now shaves somewhat inconsistently, and it's great. Surprisingly slippered and lovely when she's shaved, for sure. But I like it even more when she hasn't. She has soft leg hair, even when it has just grown out a little bit, and I love running my hands up and down her legs. I turn-on that I had never anticipated, but one for sure.

  22. I have been thinking abt this post since you made it and I think I am finally ready to reply.

    When I was 13 my friends called me out on having gross/visible/too much/too dark leg hair. I was mortified, and shaved my legs immediately. I shaved my legs pretty consistently since then – I danced in college and needed to do what I could to have a conforming body and, under stage lights, it looked good. I also shaved my legs, and armpits, and crotch, and everything else I could get my hands on.

    I was also way more femme-identified.

    My shitty ex looked at me once and was all "I don't want to kiss you; your chin hair scares me." I did not break up with him; I panicked and bought depilatories and waxes and spent the next 4 or 5 years shaving daily and panicking and buying safety razors in the grocery store before a date if I noticed any roughness at all.

    And now here I am in NYC, where you have to make choices about how much energy you have. And somewhere along the way I just got tired of shaving. I got tired of caring about every spare hair on my face and body. I don't even remember what provoked it; I just stopped.

    And honestly I feel that was the moment where I made a commitment to presenting more – masculine or male or fagulously or whatever. I wasn't honestly comfortable with the internal inconsistently of being a girly girl with a moustache and hairy legs in a dress. I would rather dress for my body and what it was doing — and if that means looking good in a suit and tie, in a button-down, in a old man hat and aviator sunglasses, then awesome. I got tired of a bunch of games for what it meant to do a certain kind of feminine in NYC – and so I tried this other thing.

    And it is working. It feels good. I am trying not to give in to other people's ideas of masculinity – not give in to the need to be a certain kind of person just bc I am a female bodied person who dresses like a very particular kind of dandy. I am still vain and fashion-obsessed but in a different way and a way I probably would not have had the nerve to look at had it been for just giving up on all of this hair maintenance and letting my soft animal do what it does.

  23. sinclair says:

    Wow, thank you everyone for leaving such wonderful comments and thoughtful stories. Hair is so personal and private, but so much gendering happens around it, it's obviously a really rich topic to talk about and discuss.

    One thing I want to add that I didn't mention in my intial post is the hair that grows on my chest – basically between my breasts. There's a little patch of hair there that I've had for many years. I used to shave it with a razor, but it would always come back ingrown and have these ugly and painful red bumps until the hair broke the skin again. I tried plucking it for a while, and then resolved to snipping it short with scissors. It's only quite recently – in the last year, really – that I've been letting it grow, and even being a little proud of it.

    It's still taboo, though, and a bit embarassing even. Hard to really own and feel good about, despite my years of feminist body-loving training and my gender awareness and my "everybody's choice is valid, yay" and "everybody's body is valid, yay" attitudes. It's something I'm still working on accepting for myself, I guess. This stuff takes so much time sometimes.

  24. AB says:

    Oh hair. I've had a hair pulling disorder (technical term: trichotillomania) for most of my life and it has seriously messed with my self perception around gender. As a teenager with bald spots, shaving my head allowed my hair to grow back in, and it outed me as queer, early and constantly.

    Now I live my life as a no-ho, non-op guy & I grow my hair when I can. I pass better with a good haircut than with a shaved head. With a buzz cut I am usually read as a dyke.

    If I had a choice and could keep my hair when I grow it, I would have as much hair as I could while still passing 50% or, preferably, more of the time. It's a strange combination of being hair-centric since I was 11 years old and how I attempt to embody my particular brand of transmasculinity.

    I happen to have very light hair. I've not shaved my legs or armpits in years but you couldn't tell unless the light hits at the right angle.

    I shave my face about every other week. I love the feel of stubble, my lovers feeling my stubble and if the person I'm kissing has facial hair in anyway as well, that feel as well.

  25. Oh my hair… now THERE’s a story. The first time I ever shaved my legs was directly following the moment I credit as my loss of childhood innocence and the beginning of my decent into awkward self-awareness. I know where I was standing when two of the “popular girls” came over to me, giggling to each other, and asked with disdain if it was true I didn’t shave my legs. Thinking back on it my heart breaks for that kid, standing there in her knee length shorts, t-shirt and high-top Nike basketball shoes, caught completely off guard by the judgment in the question, and (until that moment) unaware that there was anything she should feel ashamed about.

    I went home and told my mom I wanted to start shaving. At first I was obsessed with the smoothness of my legs, and it led to the consequent shaving of arms and whole body to feel that sensation. Just the once though; the hair on my arms grew back prickly and darker, and it kinda freaked me out. No thank you! In reality, all my hair grew back darker, which meant that I felt I now had no choice now but to keep shaving it. And once I finished growing, tapping out at 6’ even, that’s a lot of time and many razors.

    After college, I spend a few years where I was single in the winter, so I didn’t shave my legs because I didn’t see the point. In the summer though, I’d grow it out just long enough and then wax them. Needless to say… ouch!

    Last year I met Cole, who didn’t shave legs or armpits, and in her self-confidence and body-positivity, I found the courage to stop shaving my legs; I’m much happier now. On top of looking more like a boy, it’s just a whole level of hassle I no longer have to worry about. At first I was concerned that my partners might be disgusted by it, but I’ve found that if I’m content with my body and don’t make a big deal of it, my partners don’t either.

    Since dating V, who finds my hair sexy, I’ve come to terms with and grown to appreciate it on other parts of my body. I no longer shave my armpits, and I stopped attempting to bleach my happy trail. I do a little “butchscaping,” as Sin put it, but generally I’m happy to let my hair grow as it will. My best friend and I have a game we jokingly play called “# Months, No Months,” where we compare my body hair to his on x number of months on T.

    The one place this doesn’t apply is to my face. I admire you, Sin, for shaving. I’ve thought about it a fair deal, but I admit, I’m still frightened of what might happen. Given the way the rest of my hair grew back when I shaved, I’m a little fearful that I could be opening to door to a shade and texture of facial hair I’m not ready for, and a whole new level of masculine presentation. For the time being, I’m just plucking my chin hair as it appears, and trying to learn to love that part of my body as it is.

    As for the hair on my head, that evolution mirrored more my coming out process. When I was younger, the hair on my head was long, flowing almost to my waist, and even when it got shorter (mid back to shoulder length), it was either in a ponytail, plastered to my head, or in French braids.

    I wanted to be an actress, so I always thought I couldn’t have short hair. I took advantage of a semester in London to finally chop it all off, and I’ve never gone back. The top stays a little long and messy, but my sideburns are painstakingly manicured, and the sides, so long as they’re clean around my ears, stay pretty short as well.

    I actually go to a barber to get it done, which is occasionally a terrifying experience in and of itself. I’ve found it’s a new level of addressing my (dis)comfort with presenting in a masculine manner. For me, it’s negotiating the space of asking for a men’s haircut and being firm in that choice. Too many barbers have tried to make it a little more “girly.” I’ve had a number of run-ins with “that guy” who had one girlfriend with short hair back in the 80’s and now thinks her knows exactly what it is I want. And I’d be lying if I said I always stand up for myself in those situations. I don’t identify as male, and so sometimes I’ve sat back and watched a haircut happen that I wasn’t happy with, just because I didn’t feel I had the right to ask for a men’s haircut when I wasn’t a guy. I didn’t want to have that fight, and it seemed somehow disrespectful to my friends who are transitioning and had/have to go through the process of negotiating their sometimes less than traditional maleness every day.

  26. debbie holmes says:

    thas so funny, make me feel a little better,

    i am a MtF post TS, and by god, that is fun………….

    you go through all that painful crap to be you, and then you find out, the little secret.

    yep, from 30 everyones body falls apart, the facial hair returns, have a b/f is a nightmare,

    as they want to caress your face, ect,

    but the great feminists i have met have taught me it is ok to let things be a little more natrual,

    yep, then you start to notice others,

    and are not ashamed to grow a little fur.

    its a shame, but you talk of fighting to just being yourself.

    i get the same trouble, people who have known me for a long time do not treat me as a full person,

    i am gentle, placid, and need a little attention sometimes,

    but everyone expects me to run around them, to make them feel good, even some special days that were supposed to be a little something for ME were turned into a pantomime and ruined by my freinds.

    my parner is lovely, but never talks to me about personal things, he expects me to be the one making all the moves.

    its just not in me.

    it really is upsetting me.

    deb xx

  27. j says:

    sinclair & commenters —

    thanks for sharing. hearing others' perspectives helps me think through my own body hair issues. i'm cisgendered, i guess, in that i feel relatively comfortable with having a vagina, uterus, and breasts (or at least a penis doesn't sound much better :-) ), but I don't like to present as terribly feminine. (oh, and i'm attracted to men.)

    so, introductions aside, sinclair's story about having a hard time being proud of her chest hair resonated with me. i started shaving my legs and armpits in middle school because everyone else was doing it, but in college i decided to stop, partly for convenience reasons and partly because i wanted to know what my body looked like in its natural adult-woman state. and i like it! … except for the fact that i'm scared to go out in public showing my hair. for the last three years, i've gone without shaving except for a few instances where the societal pressure was too much, and for all that time i've avoided shorts and tank tops where anyone but my close family is likely to see me. i even have occasional nightmares (though they've decreased in frequency somewhat) about being caught out in public in shorts or a bathing suit. it's not actually that much of an inconvenience to wear long pants, since i don't like to show a ton of skin, but on principle i want to get to the point where i feel comfortable going out in public in knee length shorts like a man would.

    what seems strange to me about this is that i feel comfortable bucking certain other gender norms. i gladly gave up my teenaged flirtations with makeup and nail polish when i realized they were unnecessary, and never looked back. i don't have any inclination to wear skirts, jewelry, or high-heeled shoes. i've also been told i sit like a man. :-D

    i love the feel of hair on my legs and actually get a comforting sense of naturalness (i.e. this is how things should be) when I feel it. and heck, my one sexual partner didn't say boo to it (although he didn't actively praise it either…)

    in theory, it seems like my leg hair should be easier to accept than sinclair's chest hair, since chest hair between breasts is probably seen as more shocking than leg hair on a woman. but here i am, covering up my legs (not to mention selectively thinning my treasure trail). this turned into a post about me, but i really just wanted to agree that it's really hard to lose internalized notions of beauty, and that the hairless ideal of feminine beauty is *really* deeply entrenched in society — strangely so, considering how recently it became the status quo.

    btw, !spark!, can i sign up for your girl scout camp? i wish i'd known about a place like that when i was younger!

  28. genderkid says:

    I'm somewhere in between FTM and butch dyke, and I love my body hair. I'm lucky enough to have a fuzzy body without injecting T.

    Alas, I have to remove my leg and face hair because I'm not out (I'm still at school and living at home), and in Argentina -where I'm from- women *can't* have leg hair, apparently. Maybe it's because most people over here are dark-haired, so body fuzz is more visible.

    I do like to shave my underarms every day; otherwise I feel physically uncomfortable.

    I'm trying to come up with other body-hair differences between the U.S. and Argentina, since you asked in the femme shaving post.

  29. Michelle says:

    I’m glad that you started this conversation. Body hair as a whole seems to be this taboo subject especially on women, were expected not to have any. Its been interesting reading everyones responses and views. Thank you!

  30. aLex says:

    i have a mohawk. seems to be my best public haircut (in contrast to say a pubic haircut).

    i had long curly auburn body hair by the time i was a teen because i always have – i am french canadian and native american and i don't pretend to want to escape that.

    growing up in the US (in the southeast – yeah i know) this faced some weird issues. my mother would not abide someone shaving above the knee (since that is dirty and all) and the problem that would give me as a teenager is that no matter how high i did shave there was always an OBVIOUS hairline.

    i got enough crap for being the weird queer/intersexed/tranny/spacealien/wtf kid no matter how hard i tried to be obviously a girl (hated it the whole time). my nickname in middle school was 'elvis' because i had stylish blue suede shoes …and thick sideburns (long before the other little boys did).

    when i dressed like a girl i wore long sideburns (like an anime character…because what else can you do with them that's remotely femme?) but these days i just shave them so they're clean at the bottom of my ear lobes. if i had more facial hair i would probably have a mustache also but since it has been in the suspended state of 13 year oldness since i was a 13 year old myself i usually try to keep it shaved. don't have much for 'beard' hair which is just genetics so shaving that would be pointless.

    i DO shave my pits reasonably often because unlike one of the earlier posters i frankly smell terrible when i don't. but the rest of it – chest hair, bum fur and like all stays since it smells perfectly fine.

    so that's a lot about my hair, but then again i have a lot of it! proudly! i was iffy on how proud i really felt about it for years until i spoke to a man i had known since childhood/teenage years and fallen out of touch with. he is a cisgendered canadian (also grew up in the US) that i have had a crush on for about ten years and he said to me that he always liked the fact that i didn't shave because it was authentically the way i am. and also that i have sexy sideburns anyway – this helped me get over myself quite a lot; just because some people might not like me for being myself well other people might like me more!

  31. Kyle says:

    wow, so much great discussion. I come from a hairy family and if I were born a guy, I’d have it on my back more than I’d have it on my head at this point.

    As it stands, I’m a butch dyke with leg and armpit hairs that haven’t been threatened with a razor since my senior year in high school, more than 25 years ago. And believe me, in the early 80s, it was quite the statement in my small hometown to be sporting the leg hair in shorts (I was a jock).

    As I’ve gotten older, my father’s genetic legacy has begun to show itself on my face. For awhile, I had a single tuft of hair growing from my chin, off center unfortunately. I let that go for a few years and then got on a kick of waxing. I Waxed my chin and my upper lip. Left my eyebrows alone.

    Now I’m not waxing, my mustache gets a trim occasionally but it’s fairly light reddish brown with a few grey hairs. The waxing seems to have slowed down some of the growth. If my chin would do something other than grow in funky patches, I’d be tempted to let it grow for a bit… I think it’d be a very nice reddish-brown with salt kind of beard — if my brother’s is any evidence. As it is, I pluck the occasional wild hairs that show up.

    My girlfriend loves all my hairiness: mustache to hairy thighs and beyond, so if I want to do anything about body hair, it’s up to me and I try to be inner driven about it and not pressured by what I think others see and expect. This seems to be easier as I get older and have even more of an ‘F*ck off’ attitude than I had when I was younger.

    For head hair, I like it short, above my ears and collar, with bangs. Can’t stand it in my eyes. I sometimes talk about cutting it shorter, or shaving it, but I get such the look from the girlfriend… and she checks every haircut for ‘grab-ability’.

    It’s great to see so many people talking about this and examining their feelings and motivations about managing body hair. Like any body image subject, I think this acceptance is a process. Once you start on the path of self-acceptance and receive some positive feedback (internal and external), it’s easier to keep going. Maybe I’ll even come to accept the tummy pudge my girlfriend insists she loves.

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