On hair and gender…

“Can you cut my hair when we’re at Nana and Grandad’s?” Jeremy asked.

“Umm… yes,” I replied. I was a bit startled seeing as I’d cut their hair just over a week earlier. “How short?”

I was hoping they didn’t want too fancy a cut. I have no hair dressing skills. I can barely manage a simple braid and bang trimming. Well, hair dressers don’t seem to think I can manage bangs but my kids have never complained.

“Buzz cut,” Jeremy said happily. “You can use Grandad’s clippers.”

This was obviously going to be harder for me than them. I’d spent years fighting against so many people for their right to wear their hair the way they wanted, which was long (and usually dyed). Now suddenly they wanted it short (and undyed). But part of their right to bodily autonomy meant short hair as well as long.

“Okay,” I replied, hoping my reluctance didn’t show. If it did, Jeremy didn’t seem to notice.

I put on the #7 clipper first and soon the lawn was covered in clumps of hair. The cut looked good on them. Long enough to be feminine while short enough to be masculine.

“It looks good,” Jeremy agreed, looking at my camera phone (seriously, who needs a mirror anymore). “I’d like it shorter though.”

Shorter? Sigh. I pulled out the #5 clipper and began cutting again. Their hair became decidedly shorter. Soon I was done. The ears weren’t perfect but, if they wanted professional, they’d have taken my parents’ offer of a real hair stylist instead of me.

“Do you think he’s are feeling more like a boy again?” my Mom asked hopefully as soon as Jeremy hopped into the shower.

I thought back to the evening before. We’d been watching an anime Jeremy wanted me to see (Gurren Lagann if anyone out there’s interested) and they were excited about an upcoming character.

“Look,” they’d said, pointing at a bluish character. “They’re both a boy and a girl. They’re non-binary, just like me!”

leeron_littner

“No,” I replied honestly but as gently as I could. “I think they just wanted short hair.”

I wandered into the family room a short time later, where Jeremy was sitting with their cousins… all playing on separate devices.

“Mom, this hair cut makes me feel more feminine,” Jeremy said happily.

And why shouldn’t it. Hair is just that. It’s not gender. It’s not even a secondary sex characteristic. It’s simply a head covering (and in my case a ‘blowing across my face’ covering).

The next night Jeremy informed me, once again, that they don’t think gender exists… that it’s just something society made up.

“Are you sure you’re pangender?” I asked. “Do you think you might be agender instead?”

Jeremy thought for a moment. “I think you’re right,” they replied.

colin-and-lara

Jeremy and their cat Lara. They’re not male or female… just perfectly themself.

Better left unsaid…

“So? Did you dye Jeremy’s hair again this weekend?” my customer asked as a huge grin spread across her face.

I smiled back. This is the same customer who said the aqua hair dye looked awesome, or at least what she could see of it on my arm. I chat with her regularly, often about Jeremy.

“Not this weekend,” I replied. “The last dye job wasn’t that long ago and it still looks good.” I finished up her order and handed her back the change.

“I wonder what colour he’ll pick next,” she mused. “I know, lime green.”

That’s one colour I couldn’t picture Jeremy choosing and I told her that.

“It’s too close to yellow,” I explained. “Jeremy hates the colour yellow.”

The customer smiled and leaned in toward the cash register. I automatically did the same.

“Yeah,” she whispered conspiratorially. “He probably wouldn’t want to be considered one of those.”

I froze. “What?” I blurted, although I knew exactly what she was getting at.

“You know,” she continued, drooping one wrist. “A fag.”

I blinked, not knowing what on earth to say and she repeated herself, presumably thinking I hadn’t heard her.

“Considering he dyed his hair pink before, I don’t think that’s a big concern of his,” I replied. I was aiming for dry although I admit my voice was probably closer to cold.

Jeremy hadn’t meant to dye his hair pink, he’d been trying for purple, but it ended up cotton candy pink and he kept it for a month, so I figured that was close enough. There was no way I was explaining this to her, not after that comment.

“Oh,” she sounded startled. “I guess not then.”

She  went and sat down, then came back about ten minutes later.

“About earlier,” she said awkwardly. “I’m sorry if I offended you.”

I nodded. “Thanks,” I replied, feeling pretty awkward myself. “I find that word offensive.”

With that, she went back to her seat. One of my coworkers wandered over.

“What was that all about?” she asked in confusion. “You look mad at her.” I shrugged.

“She told me earlier that Jeremy wouldn’t want to dye his hair lime green in case people thought he was a fag.”

My coworker glared over the counter. “You know, I don’t think I like her either,” she mused.

I thought back to Jeremy’s comment a few weeks ago, when he told me he’s never coming out of the closet ~ that he’d taken away the door, welded it shut, then hid it behind a wide screen TV ~ and I wondered if he’d had any similar conversations with people he thought were more trustworthy and less judgmental. And I felt a lot more empathy.