Facial hair: the construction of female bodies
I have facial hair. I haven’t been injecting testosterone: it’s just been there for years. I remember being embarrassed about it when I was 13 or 14. I hadn’t seen any media images of women or females with moustaches, so there surely was something wrong with having facial hair (I use “women” and “females” interchangeably because, at that point, I thought they were the same thing). The same went for leg hair, and for a while I was really paranoid about the hair on the back of my hands. I had heard that shaving made things worse –since you can see the thick base of the hair instead of the thin tip– so I tried depilating creams, plucking and wax. Ouch!
Eventually, I realized that there were women with body hair — lots of them. Who would have guessed that media representations of women were far from accurate?! I had been so busy feeling ashamed of myself that I hadn’t realized that some of my female friends had even fuller moustaches than I did. If I hadn’t noticed, maybe no one could notice my hair, either. I relaxed a little, although tried to I keep my facial hair at a minimum until I started identifying as male. That’s when I started shaving.
I thought that shaving didn’t truly stimulate growth, but in the past year I started noticing that my facial hair was more visible. My moustache and sideburns probably look darker due to shaving, but my chin is definitely developing more and more thick hairs — not a full-blown beard, but past the “allowed” female amount. It might be the shaving, it might be hormonal; I only know that it’s there. My body is typically female and it grows facial hair. So why are beards construed as male? No wonder Leslie Feinberg includes (cissexual) women with beards under the gender-variant umbrella: they’re defying the very rules of what female bodies are allowed to do.
I’m trying to tie in my critique of male/female body construction with the fact that I want my body to look more male-typical: I want the narrow hips, the beard, the low voice. Those seem like opposite notions — my desire to transition physically appears to reinforce the construction of a male, masculine, man’s body.
I think the connection lies within the idea of freedom: people should be allowed to do whatever they want with their bodies, no matter if they don’t fit into traditional notions of what a “normal” body looks like. And I should do whatever I want with my body, even if that brings my body closer to the standards of what men’s bodies look like — after all, if I withheld my deep desire of transition in order to “free the gender/sex system”, how could I be freeing myself? I’d just be creating a new set of standards that limit my liberty.
PS: your might be interested in Female Faces: How facial hair influences women’s everyday experiences, a site created by a woman who sports a goatee. It includes a thesis on the subject, resources and a message board. “Prepare to enter a world where women’s beauty is not defined, it’s simply embraced.“