Wednesday, March 16, 2016

body hair, mainly leg hair

I'm afab non-binary and my pronouns are he/him/his/etc.  When I was a kid, I didn't know the word trans/transgender/transsexual.  I believed my parents that I was a girl because I had a vagina.  I believed it was literally impossible for me to have short hair, despite knowing two girls I can recall who had short hair, one of them *my sister*.  I believed it was impossible for a girl to think another girl was cute.  I was once telling my sister who I liked on Barney, and I said "I would like tina, but she's a girl" and my sister was like "yeah" like that made perfect sense.  When I was 10, the band teacher said boys had to wear pants for the concert and girls could wear either pants or a skirt.  I was mad that there was even a separate option for girls and then I told my mom that skirts were required.  But on the other hand, when McDonald's had the barbies and hotwheels, I expected to get a hotwheels and was confused and indignant when I pulled a barbie out of the box, and I traded it for a car.  When blobs started growing on my chest, I weirdly expected them to shrink back down some time soon.  When punctuation happened, I forgot about it and was surprised again every time for 5 years.

Despite all that obvious confusion about my gender (caused by a cisnormative culture) and how puberty worked, I had believed that when I "grew up" I would wear make-up and shoulder-pads and shave my legs and take birth-control pills just like my mom.  I also assumed I would be a teacher like her.  But when I was in 6th grade, I realized one of my classmates wore make-up.  And I thought, "why is she doing that?  she's not a grown-up.  we are not grown-ups.  we are eleven.  we are little kids.  does she feel like a grown-up?"  Then I found out by asking other people, that, yes, they did feel like grown-ups, more of them in 7th grade, and basically everyone in 8th grade.  Except me.  And I'm only talking about the girls, and only going by the fact that they wear make-up now.  The boys seem to follow a different schedule.  Anyway, knowing that other people my age felt grown-up when I still practically felt like a baby made me think maybe I'd never feel like a grown-up.

When I was in 7th grade, I had a crush or whatever on this boy named Tyrell.  A couple of my classmates told me that no boy would be interested in me because I didn't wear dresses or make-up.  Also, unrelatedly, someone shouted at me about my legs being ugly.  So, I guess because I had always thought it was inevitable, I shaved my legs.  And then one day I wore a small amount of make-up and a dress.  I knew within five minutes of arriving at school that it was a mistake.  I don't think anyone said anything mean.  I don't know, it was so long ago it's hard to remember all the details.  I think I just realized that this wasn't myself, wasn't something I wanted to do every day, wasn't worth it to attract shallow (sexist) boys.  So I didn't wear make-up or dresses anymore.  But I still occasionally shaved my legs, because I was afraid.  I was afraid of other people hating me, thinking I was gross, and shunning me.  I was attempting, I am horrified in retrospect to think about, to balance the potential hatred from other people if I didn't shave my legs, against my own hatred of yes shaving my legs.  It tapered off until I didn't do it at all anymore by the time I was 17.  Not that I didn't have other issues still.  When I was 16 I realized the periods were going to keep happening, and then that the blobs were not going away, and I said something to myself like "if i'm stuck with them [the blobs], i might as well use them" which I didn't end up actually acting on.

I used to always wear shorts.  When I was 6, I was too tall and skinny for pants from the store, so I only wore shorts.  I stuck with that habit, also because shorts were more comfortable.  After that person yelled at me about my legs, I was afraid to go to school with my natural legs showing.  In tennis class I had to wear shorts though, as part of the uniform, and because it makes playing easier.  Once at a tournament I said "i have my hairy legs to keep me warm" in an attempt to ward off any comments.  Like, yes I know my legs are hairy, yes I know it's weird/gross/whatever, and somehow that makes it OK right now.  I went back to wearing shorts sometimes in 8th grade.  Once in 9th or 10th grade, two people were walking down the hall talking about how one of them shaved his legs for swimming, and one of them pointed at me passing and said "look, there's a girl who *doesn't* shave her legs!"  I was already past them and in robot going-to-class mode, so I didn't have time to say anything, if I had even wanted to say anything.  I don't even know if I wanted to say anything, as I was programmed against talking to people randomly by that point, as that was considered childish and/or boyish (not allowed for girls) and had been harshly criticized out of me.  The default was by that point to just keep walking and staring straight ahead, and it required a massive effort to interact with people.

Once, in college, when I was 18, I wore a short skirt to class.  When I walked in, someone said "ew".  I don't know if they were talking about me.  If they were talking about me, I don't know if it was because of my natural legs, or because they thought I was fat or something.  But what I had been afraid of was people hating me for my leg hair.  I was afraid people would yell at me and tell me I was gross.  No one else said anything the whole day though.

When I was 23, I started talking on the phone with a new teacher at my school, and then he asked if I wanted to come to his house and have sex with him.  There's a whole shit fuck ton of other issues there, but that's straying too far from the point of this essay.  He called to tell me that hygiene was important, as if I fucking didn't know (and btw red flag), and he listed some stuff, including shaved legs.  I knew that leg hair was not unhygienic.  I knew he was not going to shave his legs.  I knew he was being sexist.  But I guess I thought I liked him anyway and I wanted to have some kind of relationship with him anyway, so I went along with it.  (Mistaaaake!)  He continued to make a big deal about leg hair and enjoyed coercing me into shaving that and my pubic hair and my underarm hair.  Like it was explicitly a sadistic thrill for him, to make me do something I didn't want to do.

These days, I don't shave anything, I don't wear make-up.  I'm not completely over all the ways of being coerced by the threat of shunning, I know there are things I still do like that, things that really don't matter, but I fear people will care about them anyway (like I sometimes feel coerced into wearing a bra), but I definitely never shave or wear make-up and I feel zero fear about either of those.

I wrote this because I read about a teacher giving extra credit to people in her class if they shaved if they were male and stopped shaving if they were female and wrote about their experiences.  When I have to pick male or female, I pick male, but there's no way I would shave my legs again for a class.  I already have experience with shaving legs, underarms and pubic hair.  And if I went with the female categorie, there wouldn't be anything for me to do, because I already currently *don't* shave anything.  I've removed body hair when it wasn't typical for *me* to do so, and I've kept body hair in defiance of other people's expectations/demands, and I've written about both here.  So would this count for the extra credit?

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