I wasn’t even out of elementary school yet, and I was already analyzing the soft baby hairs that lined my thighs and calves.
My first shaving memory is deeply rooted in my mind. I remember the color and the shape of the Venus razor, watching the commercials of those long smooth legs — mine short, stocky and furry from my European heritage. I groomed my legs in secret, worried my mother would find out. Who was I shaving for? Why did I feel the need to shave? My secret was silly, but I felt grown up. Plus, all of my friends were doing it.
I have always considered myself queer in some sense, although my definition has slightly evolved over the years. My queer community rejects heteronormative beauty standards and embraces body positivity, and that can be something entirely unique to each individual; however, my queer community can also be hierarchical, something that we do not often discuss.
Am I too femme? How do I remain attractive to all sexes? Why am I seen as a straight female at every social event?
These questions loom over my queer state of mind with the incessant worry: Am I queer enough?
Body positive campaigns like #BodyHairDay and the history of shaving routines, which began in the 1920s, give me a feeling of queer guilt. My current routine involves shaving whenever I choose to shave. Some days I do, some weeks I do not. Yet, I still feel inferior if I am spotted with shaven legs or underarms. Will they think I am a victim to the patriarchy?
This queerer-than-thou mentality can be exhausting. While hair might only be a small portion of what it means to be body positive, the subject of hair, and body hair specifically, will always be on the fringes of queer discourse. The “positive” in the phrase “body positivity” is a celebration of our vessel, a reinforcement for our community to be who they desire to be.
In a 2015 Slate article entitled, “The Femme Renaissance,” Evan Urquhart said that “…being femme is about embracing and expressing femininity without apology, and without compromise.”
“While it’s primarily a term used by, for, and about queer women, a femme aesthetic and political consciousness could theoretically be adopted by anyone who wishes to both express the aesthetic and challenge the ideals of traditional femininity,” Urquhart wrote. “Even straight people. Even men. For too long, the masculine ideal has been raised above the feminine, denying feminine people the dignity of being thought strong, independent, serious, or competent. Queer femmes exist in opposition to this, and for that they should be celebrated.”
My identity as a sometimes hairy, sometimes hairless queer female may be misleading about my sexuality. But it represents my truest and most authentic self. I feel strong as I celebrate my descriptor as a feminine queer. My body feels safe when I lift my arms and I do not have a dark bush. My body feels like my own when I rub my fuzzy legs together and they keep me warm.
A year ago, I slipped into a slim-fitting black dress with fishnet stockings. My lipstick was dark and my heels were high. I tossed my short hair as I glanced at myself in the mirror. My partner (at the time) smiled and said, “I don’t think your arm hair goes well with your ‘look.’”
I swiveled on my heel to grab my purse — a leopard-print clutch — lifted up my arms in a dancing position and shimmied out the door. Hairy, femme and choosing the right to be so.