Written by: Caesar (@saysahr)
Beauty. A concept we are all fairly familiar with as people. But allow me to share the definition anyway.
So, beauty. It lives inside of and touches all of us but affects us very and vastly differently. What does this have to do with what I’m about to talk about?
Identity sometimes feels like a very lonely and impossible thing to navigate, especially when the Eyes of Scrutiny seem to be so nearby. Self-expression is one of the absolute most important and freeing things as queer person will ever go through. Physically matching who you are inside. Now you add being Black on top of that and you’ve got yourself a real clusterfuck. Navigating Black queerness is it’s own beast. Because some of the things you may want to express are seen as white, weird, fast, unattractive, not lady-like or whatever. Plus your relation to your hair is already so special, so specific because of your Blackness.
For a long time, I hated my natural hair. I didn’t think there was beauty to it. It was nappy and ugly. As I aged, as I got older, I realised - that’s bullshit. My hair is a statement and I have something to say. Navigating my Blackness and my queerness intertwined brought a new perspective in the ways I interacted with my hair. Braids, twists, my fro, colored, color-blocked etc - I did it all. I am doing it all. My relationship to my hair helped me find comfort in my gender identity, it helped me navigate a space I felt alone in. I saw myself through how my hair was done and when it wasn’t to my liking, it also weighed on me.
This narrative is true for MANY Black queer people.
Personal liberation. Personal expression. Autonomy. Agency. This is what our hair gives us, this is what our hair is. When we can’t wear the outfits, the jewelry. When we can’t get the tattoos or the piercings. We have our hair. Our hair is what sets us free when the rest of it has to remain confined. THAT is Black queerness and hair.
Following up this essay are personal accounts from Black queer people. Women, transmasc, non-binary, gay, lesbian, pan etc. These are the stories of their relationships to their hair, I hope you can see yourself in them:
"I am Logan Evans I prefer the pronouns she/her and I am a lesbian! I feel like I am androgynous in my presentation of myself. For a very long time I had absolutely no control over my hair. From the style to the color (1B) it was completely up to my mom on what I could/could not do to my hair. I feel like that strained how I viewed myself because it wasn’t authentic to who I was to myself. Believe it or not it kind of aided in me losing myself even more. I looked in the mirror and seen what my mom wanted not who I was. She was even against natural hair but I was able to take a stand at 15 to not get relaxers anymore I hated them so much! When I got to college (age 18) I remember taking my braids out and looked at my natural hair. I had been natural for 3 years at the time. I still didn’t know exactly who I was. It was so much negativity surrounded by how my hair grew out of my head. So many nights where I sweated out my relaxer from crying and hating the hot comb. I looked in the mirror and with no hesitation I cut all of my hair off! From that day forward I have loved every inch of my hair and how being in complete control of it helps me remain authentic. Now I’m about 1 year and 2 months into having locs and I ultimately feel like this style is it. I haven’t considered any part of it “the ugly phase” because I just love it so much how my hair grows and flourishes. I colored my hair for the first time ever this year and I have never felt more comfortable in my skin. I know who I am with and without my hair but I’m a Black Woman. Our hair is important to us. If having ginger locs means I’m always being real with myself or having a temp fade means I’m being authentic to my wants and needs I’m doing whatever. My hair is me."
"I’m Clay, they/them, math major & WEB DuBois Honors student at Huston Tillotson University.
When observing the societal intersectionality of trans black queerness, my hair is my ultimate form of expression. Changing my hair helps with my gender dysphoria because it allows me to float between the binary. It wasn’t always like this & I used to feel more feminine when styling my hair, but with time and more education, I have been able to recognize that hair has no binary."
my hair connects me to my gender. i actually feel more balanced when my hair is longer, and having it in different colors also helps with the dysphoria i tend to feel. i learned how to do my hair the summer before college. i looked a little busted at first, but since then, constantly doing it, ive realized how meditative of a process it is for me. only family members and people in my community have touched my hair, so i often think about them, about the random stories my mom would tell me while she would do my braids, and although i don’t want kids, i think about how i would make sure to allow for their own forms of expression.
ultimately my hair is a personal playground, much like all of my creative endeavors are. kind of like antenna, the way i keep my hair at any given time speaks to how im relating to the world around me. in world that attempts to deny my autonomy and pushes demands on my body for the sake of capital gain, all the decisions i make about my hair ultimately lead back to me either seeking safety or pushing back, whichever i have the energy for, but 100% pushing back with my hair is the most satisfying."