Day 11: Smooth
I. am. tired. of. shaving. my. body.
The hetronormative, patriarchal standards of beauty imposed on women are just ridiculous. We know this. And in deepening that narrative, I’m going to offer another perspective, specifically on shaving, as a transgender woman.
Of all things about my transition, shaving is by far the most annoying activity. I’m not going to lie, running your hand over your silky smooth, freshly shaved, gorgeous pair of legs is a feeling like no other. But the amount of effort to maintain all that smoove is time consuming and painful, to say the least.
In order to understand and appreciate my frustration, we need to talk a little bit about genetics and biology…
Males and females have different types of hair that grow in different places. There are mainly two types of body hair I’m going to focus on: vellus hair and terminal hair.
Vellus hairs are those short, thin, almost transparent/invisible hairs that grow all over a person’s body. We all have it, it’s that light fuzzy layer on our skin and serves to help regulate your body temperature. These hairs are more commonly found on children and women.
Now, to a large degree, males and females share many similar physical characteristics when they’re young and it can sometimes be really difficult to distinguish between the two. During puberty however, thing start changing. Males grow taller, develop broad shoulders, gain muscle mass. Females develop breasts, their hips widen, their menstrual cycle begins. These are just a few of the very obvious changes that occur. These changes happen at different ages for different people. And that’s normal.
Now, to talk more specifically about body hair…
The increase of androgenic hormones (hormones involved in the development of males characteristics) during puberty causes the vellus hairs (light, thin, soft) to be replaced by terminal hairs in certain parts of the body. These hairs are long, thick, and dark. They are found, specifically in men, on the face, chest, legs, arms, abdomen, and feet. Genetics also plays a role in this; people can experience greater or lesser growth of these hairs depending on their particular genetic makeup.
And this is why males are, generally, more hairy than females. Science.
(Of course, this is a very compact and simplified explanation of things so please do your googles if you need a more detailed or nuanced explanation.)
For me, because I’ve had male hormones circulating through my body for most of my life, and because I’ve been blessed with the grow-hair-super-fast gene, I have thick, dark hair all over my legs, arms, chest, and face.
I’m not going to go into the facial hair bit. I wrote a piece about my dysphoria and anxiety around my beard and shaving so you can read about it here: DAY 6: FACIAL
Another function of hormones is that they affect the texture and feel of your skin. This is why females, generally, have softer, smoother skin compared to males. And this is where there the issues are for me as a transgender woman. My sense of what is masculine and what is feminine is closely tied to my sense of touch. So when I used to touch my skin and feel this rough surface, it was extremely triggering and made me feel so uncomfortable in my own body.
So I shave everything everyday. Everything. Everyday. And you can imagine the time and effort involved. It does get a bit difficult shaving legs daily (the skin just gets irritated and burns) so I need to give it a day or two in between. On those days, I wear long pants, duh.
It’s really frustrating because it takes me more than double the amount of time to get done in the morning, and getting up extra early to run a blade across your skin isn’t the funnest way to spend your time.
So the next time a woman takes her time to get done, think twice before you complain.
My skin is A LOT SOFTER than it used to be and the hair’s slightly thinner thanks to being on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for the last few months. It’s really helped me feel comfortable in my body. Thank god for estrogen! (I’ll do a post on this specifically as its something people ask me about all the time).
As a final thought, there is still a lot of thinking and feeling I need to do around concepts of cis- and transgender beauty standards and what they mean to me. I think it’s important to recognize that what I’ve just explained is MY experience and doesn’t necessarily speak to the experiences of all trans women. Having body hair in no way invalidates your femininity or trans identity.
I hope that adds another element to the understanding around these concepts of body-image. We’re so often given a surface level, single-dimensional view on how to be body-positive and self-accepting, but sometimes forget that our experiences of ourselves are complicated and nuanced.