FTM & FTW: Oh, Make Me Over

by Lenny Burnham

Once I came out as transgender, it was time to make a few physical changes — which was great, because I love a good makeover montage.

I made a haircut appointment at a place called Crops for Girls. Yes, I appreciate the irony that one of my biggest steps in transitioning into identifying as a man involved a business with “For Girls” right in the name. But in my experience, most hair stylists will aggressively try to stop you from getting short hair. It’s a complex. Since Crops for Girls specializes in giving women short haircuts, I knew they’d be willing to cut all my hair off without me having to desperately explain that yes, I do actually want this.

I used to have very long hair. To be honest, for years I was scared away from getting a haircut because I didn’t like the idea of all the attention that comes with getting a new haircut. But now I was having it all cut off. And what I didn’t think about beforehand was that it’s not gradual.

I imagined my hair sort of slowly being trimmed away to nothing, but of course that’s not how they do it. I had it in a ponytail and in a few quick cuts, that ponytail was on the floor. In that moment, I understood why some people drastically change their appearance constantly: seeing that hair just gone in a few seconds was a rush. Because I got this haircut before I was out at work, I got to see how women react to another woman getting a short haircut, and I heard this sentiment repeated over and over. Women were so happy for me for daring to do it; the word “freeing” was used a lot.

After I got the haircut, it immediately sunk in that I was about to start worrying about my hair way, way more than I ever did when I identified as a woman. I used to make fun of guys who worry about their hair because it’s like, c’mon, you barely have hair. It just does whatever and looks fine. But now that it’s my hair, yes, I get so caught up in how if it’s combed one way I look like a total loser, but if I comb it just right I can live my dream of looking like a mean guy on a CW show. Hey, you have your dreams and I have mine, okay?

After the haircut, I picked up a few new clothes, although fortunately I could keep most of my wardrobe — I’d started dressing like every dude in Brooklyn years ago. The most important thing I bought was a chest compressor, even though I’d honestly convinced myself that I barely needed one. I guess the crazy standards for women’s bodies had me sure that I essentially don’t have boobs. (Also, the dude I hooked up with recently said he liked my body because he “actually like[s] small breasts.” Man, fuck that guy). I was weirdly flattered to realize that I’d definitely have to put in effort if I wanted to be flat.

Actually, that’s how I’m feeling about my physical transition in general at the moment: weirdly flattered. Because the thing is, even with my short hair and slightly manlier clothes and chest compressor, everyone that sees me still assumes I’m a woman. It’s always “miss” — well, one guy called me “man”, but he was super drunk, and when he heard me speak, he looked apologetic. It’s annoying that people don’t see me as a man right away, because I get sick of always having to explain it, but it feels good to actually be too pretty and curvaceous for something. Plus, it’s nice to have an easy gauge for who in my life is actually cool about things. If someone is worth having around, they’ll think of me as a man and refer to me that way, even if I’m not passing visually yet. Because maybe people will never look at me and immediately think “that’s a man.” I’m fine with that.

I just want them to think my hair is cool.

Lenny watches an amount of TV that has been described as “impressive” and “a problem.” You can talk to him about TV and cute boys on Twitter @lennyburnham.

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