When I presented as a boy, it was cool having that light layer of stubble on my chin or growing the occasional hipster beard. Now, my facial hair is the number one cause of my anxiety and dysphoria. And it’s difficult to talk about.
I think back to those years when I would grow that manly well-groomed Ryan-Gosling-ain’t-got-nothing-on-me beard. Something felt so “cool” about it. It’s a popular look for men and so people would compliment me. Compliments make you feel good. So I continued to do that, as well as other things that brought about the same result. And somehow I got stuck into dressing and presenting myself for the approval of my friends, family, and colleagues.
It’s funny how these things work. We say we should wear things we feel comfortable in, do things that make us happy, but so much of how we construct our sense of happiness and ways of being is largely influenced by social opinion. If a hundred people tell you those jeans look amazing, those opinions may impact how you feel about those jeans, and you’d probably wear them again, or perhaps more often; even though they may be squishing your tummy a little too tightly and you have to suck it in for half the day.
Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I’m just pointing out something that I’m hyper aware of all the time. I’m constantly performing a balancing act between presenting myself in a way that feels comfortable vs. presenting myself in a way that society finds acceptable. On occasions where these two concepts align, it’s wonderful. But when they don’t, it makes everything difficult, and I have to deal.
It’s hard having this overly masculine feature color my entire presentation. And there’s practically very little I can do about it.
Needless to say, I shave every day, sometimes twice a day if I’m going out in the evening (which sets my face on fire for at least 2 hours). There was a time at the start of my transition when I tried to hide my facial hair with layers and layers of makeup. But shaving my face and then plastering concealer on it irritated my skin to say the least. It was awful. So I stopped doing that altogether.
I’ve been going for laser therapy for almost a year now. It’s a really, really slooooooow process, particularly if you have really dense, thick hair like I do. Now, the hair is a lot thinner and far sparser than it used to be, so I’m really happy about that. But it hurts. Like really hurts! Like I-would-rather-get-another-tattoo hurts. But until those torture sessions completely pay off, I’m stuck with this 5 o’clock shadow.
It doesn’t bother me as much. I’m a woman with a beard. That’s okay. And even though it’s still my biggest source of discomfort, it’s something that I’ve learned to accept as part of who I am. At least for the time being anyway.