In her essay for PopSugar, “I’m Asian, I Came Out of the Closet, and I Finally Cut My Hair Short,” Jo Chiang writes about the difficulties of fitting into a white-dominated US queer subculture within the dominant gender-binary-heavy US heteronormative culture as an Asian, given the differences between Asian and Euro-Caucasian hair. She says, in part:
“Androgyny has always been about that hard-edged balance between masculinity and femininity. But when Asian masculinity is desexualised and Asian femininity is infantilised, twists on gender presentation don’t quite make the same impact.[…] It’s an ongoing journey to feel positive about my queerness, my race, and my hair on top of that. Even out of the closet, I would often feel awkward and ill-fitted. I tried new haircuts. My hair wasn’t fine enough to pull off the pixie cut or flexible enough for a pompadour, and my cowlicks were too tenacious for anything asymmetrical. It took trial and error and error and error, until I figured out a solution. I found a Japanese hair salon. They knew my texture, the quirks of my part, and the shape of my skull. While they did not share my Taiwanese heritage, they understood the very specific struggles I had with my hair.
“Instead of going wild with a clipper, my stylist brought shape to the back of my head with careful trimming. She left the sides and top long to let my cowlicks bear down with their own weight, but added a choppy texture to keep it from flattening. When I stopped bringing in photographs of models I wanted my hair to resemble and instead worked with my stylist to understand the ways my hair grew out, I finally settled into cuts that suited me and my queerness.
“I walk the streets happy to confuse strangers with my gender presentation.
“There is no one way to look queer. A haircut isn’t a requirement for coming out. But the decision to resist against assumptions of gender and femininity and race can be a healing and invigorating aspect of loving and accepting yourself in a world that continues to police beauty.
“These days, I walk the streets happy to confuse strangers with my gender presentation. When I feel especially frisky, I style my hair up with some grooming cream, and when frisky is too much work, I wear a hat. Either way, long or short, my hair will always be as queer as me.”
I like the way this essay targets the intersectionality of identity–the flipside of the intersectionality of oppressions, since, after all, we get oppressed because of our identities. Having lived in Japan and been a martial artist for more than half my life, I have had a lot of East Asian/Asian-American friends, and it is good to learn a bit about their realities. One of the things I will consider this week is where hair texture is not the only problem a person could be facing in the Queer Hair Dilemma. But Chiang’s meditation is a great place to start.
I say this because I think we all look for quick fixes, believe that quick fixes are in fact possible: “Now that I know who I am, I need to declare it. Declaring it will be easy. Declaring it nonverbally may even be easier than doing it verbally.”
Ah, fond hope, so soon dashed for most of us. I am putting this out here as a hypothesis, which I intend to test this week by talking to my queer/lesbian friends.
H1: Most people struggle to find a haircut that represents them as they want after they come out.
Wish me luck, children. I’m goin’ in!
Jo Chiang, “I’m Asian, I Came Out of the Closet, and I Finally Cut My Hair Short,” PopSugar.com.au. 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 16 Aug. 2016.