For a long time, Belgian-born trans model Maxim Magnus associated long hair with beauty and femininity – until last weekend when she shaved her hair off completely. She writes for us about her reasons for doing so, and why, as women, our hair means so much.
It’s true that women hide behind their hair. I did it for so long, until about a year ago when I started wearing my hair up all the time. My ponytail made me feel so incredibly sexy and I was scared that I wasn’t going to feel that with a short haircut. Long hair shielded me because people wouldn’t focus on my face as much. And I needed people to see me as a woman.
Previously in my life, I was desperate for validation and my hair helped because people just assumed I was a woman because of it. This isn’t just a trans issue. A lot of women use their hair as a shield; it makes us less vulnerable.
But where does all this come from? We are told from a young age that we need and should find love and, therefore, we want people to find us attractive so we can find our mate. Having long hair has long represented femininity and beauty, and that’s why so many women are so attached to their hair. Not because they want to be attached to it, but because they are, unconsciously, conforming to the social norm because it makes them feel safe.
As girls we are told to behave in a certain way and play with certain toys in certain colours. As young women we are told to dress a certain way in school and not to be provocative towards boys through what we wear. As women we are shown time and time again that we are less than our male partners and peers. It’s these societal standards that are pushed on us from a young age, and that’s why shaving your head is such a rebellion. It’s not what society would describe as an acceptable look for a woman, but that’s changing. A lot of teenagers shave their hair or dye their hair because it’s the only way they can express themselves when they’re constantly being told how to behave and how to dress. Having no hair or cutting off a lot of hair opens you up; it makes you vulnerable.
My relationship with my hair has been more troubled than most. I always wanted long hair and I always kept it that way. People would make fun of me and call me gay because I was a ‘boy’ with longer hair. My mum let me keep it. I was bullied more and more and that’s when my mum and I decided to cut it short. I then went through my transition shortly after that and I was so ashamed that I would always wear a wig or extensions until my hair grew out a bit.
The reasons I decided to shave my hair are complex. I’ve always loved women with buzzcuts, but I thought about it for a long time. I felt scared about how people were going to treat me; the last thing I wanted was to be treated like a man. I know that might sound crazy, but it played in the back of my head. I did it because I wanted to show the world and show myself that I’m a woman regardless of my hair length, or my body. It’s important to show this to trans individuals going through these struggles with their bodies – and women in more general terms. We are forced by society to look a certain way, to behave a certain way, if we want to be accepted into society as the gender we identify with. If people realised that hair is just hair and that it doesn’t define you in any way whatsoever, then that’s one thing less to stress about. People will always find something to criticise – no one is perfect. So, it’s important for everyone to know that if you make a change, you should do it for yourself and not for anyone else.
We need to rethink the way we view short hair. Buzzcuts or shaven heads on women have long been associated with mental health or sexuality. A lot of people assume that a woman who shaves her head is gay or that she’s going through a difficult time, so she has to rebel against the system. People will always have preconceived notions, because they’re scared of the things they don’t understand – things that don’t explain themselves. That’s why we have gendered standards, like having long hair equates to womanhood. It’s the reason most Victoria’s Secret show models have long mermaid hair; it’s bound up in societal norms. Ed Razek said it himself. He wants the show to be a 42-minute special that’s all about “fantasy”.
Two weeks before I shaved my hair, Adwoa Aboah told me that while having a buzzcut didn’t necessarily feel empowering at first, it did feel like letting go of so much. It’s the same for me. Although I feel more empowered now, I don’t think I did at the time. I thought I would cry because I was letting go of so many memories and experiences, good and bad.
In a literal and figurative way, my hair was weighing me down, and it had too much negativity attached to it. I think a lot of women who shave their heads are women who have been through a lot, women who have a strong character who don’t need the hair to define them. All women are strong and all women can pull off this look.
I don’t think we necessarily live in an empowered era. I think we’re just fed up with a lot of stuff going on in the world, and we are forced to face the fact that you only live once and that life can end so quickly. So, if you want to do something, don’t wait around for the right moment – just do it.
As told to Ella Alexander
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK