Follical Oppression

This was a post I made long ago back when I had a Facebook account, and then a Tumblr account.  I don’t have the original text anymore, so I rewrote it, but it’s among my better pieces of writing and thought.  I just felt like writing and getting this off my chest, but chew on this for a bit, if you like.

Imagine that you’re a brunette.  You were born that way, but it’s natural and it looks good on you.  The thing is, though, that you’re the only brunette you know: everyone else around you, everyone you’ve ever seen, is blonde.  Growing up, all your family members were blonde, as were your friends and teachers.  It’s all you ever saw, and once you developed a sense of self-awareness, you began to feel self-conscious about it; when your schoolmates developed a sense of meanness, they started making fun of you, calling you “poophead” or “dirty hair”.  Sometimes, you’d feel so bad about yourself that you’d run home crying from school, or you’d develop a fear of hanging out with anyone, wary that they’d judge you for something as stupid as your hair color.

Your parents hoped it was just a phase that you’d grow out of and become blonde once you grew up a bit.  Your friends generally lost interest in hanging out with you, not wanting to be associated with someone so stand-out weird.  The more you look at the world, the more you see how pervasive blondeness is: all the movies, television shows, and music videos you’ve ever seen have blonde people; all the people in the government or positions of power have blonde hair (when they have hair left, that is); all the ads you see in magazines or on the roadsides all feature blonde people.  It gets to you, and makes you feel less and less accepted over time.  It’s like everything is geared towards blonde people, leaving you with a feeling of isolation.  It wasn’t your fault that you were born a brunette, though; that’s just how you are.  

You graduate high school, and now that you’re a little older and trying to be accepted in the world and get into a good job or college, you’ve tried making over your image.  You tried cutting off your hair to pull the bald look, but that only got frustrating with how much maintenance that required, and people would continue to look at you funny but for less-mean reasons.  You tried wearing a hat, which covered up your hair and what eventually became your shame.  That worked even less well than buzzing it all off, since people would still be able to see it peek through under the brim or when you’d take it off.

You once tried dying your hair blonde, and that worked well.  People who didn’t know you before took a liking to you without question, and those who did know you instantly became more friendly.  People started accepting you because of such an easy trick, but it bothered you.  Blonde hair didn’t really match you or your look, and it was hard to get used to.  Plus, you had to keep redying your hair to make sure nobody saw the roots.  It wasn’t a permanent fix, though, and you knew that as soon as you cut off the illusion, people would go back to turning their back on you.  Dying your hair was costly, both in terms of money and mental health: to have to keep up the illusion, set up in utter privacy, around everyone in public, without letting anybody know, for an extended period of time is no easy thing.

Eventually, you hear of some blonde-purist groups who insist that anyone who isn’t blonde is, well, unacceptable to put it mildly.  They claim that brunettes and redheads (another rare color that you’ve only ever seen about in mocking jokes) are despicable people, only barely better than those freaks who dread their hair, dye it crazy colors, or decorate it with beads or extensions.  They absolutely hate anyone who isn’t blonde like them; although most people don’t associate with those purist guys, they don’t necessarily disagree with them either, or at least keep silent about their own views.  Still, even if you kept dying your hair every day to be blonde, your blood would always run cold when you see shirts or logos of those kinds of groups.  The fear that some people would find out about your secret sometimes has you curled up in bed at night, crying or trembling out of terror, hoping that nobody saw your roots that you only just noticed when you got home.

You know that some of your friends support the existence of brunettes, so long as they don’t try to dye their or others’ children’s hair, and some of your friends just don’t care or even like to keep brunettes and the like among their friends.  However, you’re often too scared to let anybody know about your secret, which shouldn’t really matter since it’s just hair color, but you know that there are people potentially surrounding you that would gladly hurt you for being what you are: alive and different.  One of your friends revealed to you that he’s also a brunette, but he just keeps his head shaven; still, you kinda admire the guy for even admitting it to you, even though you’re still too scared to reveal it to anyone else.  Your parents know, but they don’t mention it to anybody, and your old friends from school, if any were actually friends after the bullying, are all moved away and far removed from your current life.  As far as anyone around you knows, you’re blonde, and it’s killing you to keep that up, but you’re too scared that it might kill you worse if you don’t.

Now, replace every reference to blonde hair with straight, and brunette with gay or queer, and now you know what it can be like for a queer person to live in the world.  There’s so much discrimination going on against people based on their sexuality, sexual orientation, and sexual identity when it’s all really bullshit.  It’s no more a choice than it is what color your hair is: you can feign asexuality, keep it all a secret, or stay in the closet and pretend to be straight, but if you’re queer, you’re queer.  That’s really all there is to it.  Thinking some people are worse for liking who they like or dressing how they feel proper is about as ridiculous as wanting to hurt someone for being a different hair color.  Two cases in point: Kick a Ginger Day, and Aryan Pride.  Neither are cool, kids.  Don’t participate in either.

Plus, with there being so much in the social sphere oriented towards the straight crowd, it really is easy to just pass over the queer crowd and ignore their existence, needs, and dreams.  They’re still human, and desire human things, true, and I’m not suggesting that we have a queer-content quota for the media, but making the assumption that someone’s straight or gay off the bat isn’t helpful; that’s heteronormativity, and should be consciously toned down whenever possible around strangers until you actually know about them.

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