Cut your hair!

I never hear the end of it - if it’s not my father it’s some random octogenarian screaming it out of his second story window. In case you haven’t guessed I have long hair, which apparently for male bodied individuals is not all too acceptable. Hell, there are still so many people out there who see long hair on a man as so uncouth that it can often factor into whether or not you’ll do well in interviews and get a job. Hell, even my dad has told me that he wouldn’t hire a guy with long hair at all.TI am past the stage of putting up pretenses of masculinity; I accept my gender identity as fluid and androgynous as my gender identity is an eclectic fusion of what is considered typically masculine and typically feminine (a.k.a. I am me). However - like many others I’m sure - I’ve found it quite difficultto balance my freedom of self expression while simultaneously trying to succeed in gender-cautious world. Why is this a problem in what should be a modern society?

The truth is that in our time gender expression is not considered a right; therefore there is little that can be done legally to defend our rights against discriminatory corporate practices. If you’re reading this blog, surely I do not have to delve into the details of gender discrimination; however if you’ll give me the time of day, I would like to share with some of what I’ve been dealing with since beginning my little foray into the work place.

I’m currently working on an internship down in Miami- yes I know! Great beaches, beautiful people, and sunny weather – what could one possibly not like? Well, due to gas prices and a limited stipend, I can only afford to live in low socio-economic region of historic Little Havana, a place with more than its fair share of both crime and traditional old world values. Living here is turning into quite an educational experience since, for the first time, I am living outside of my sheltered college environment; here, appearances can make the difference between employment and unemployment, and in some cases…even between getting home safely at night and being accosted for being “a queer.”

I would never say that the people here are bad; there is an abundance of good people if anything. It’s just that many of them adhere to hetero-normative guidelines as if there were some sort of biblical mandate to do so. Unfortunately, due to (I think) the crime rate in the area, there are a number of macho hoodlums who in their late night drunken stupor wouldn’t refrain from throwing more than just a few hurtful words in the direction of a “queer” passerby.

Since moving here I’ve been scared to wear anything that might arouse unwanted attention, ranging from skinny jeans, couture tops and a dash of eye makeup to add glamour to the night. When I do go out I feel compelled to put on a façade; being this way on a regular basis is really taking its toll on me. Many of you know that it’s not easy pretending to be a hetero-normative cookie cut-out just to make it through life safely and with a roof over your head. Such repression can slowly over time grate at your sanity.

If being scared to be myself on the streets weren’t enough, I have to contend with similar gender repressive attitudes at work. Considering the temperatures in Miami regularly hit the 90’s it’s a little less than desirable to wear long sleeved shirts, let alone a suit. Understandably, many of my female bodied co-workers opt to wear sandals (with heels of course), short skirts, and tube tops. etc,,,. So I, the only male bodied employee aside from my boss, decided I would wear some nice leather sandals to work – which seemed an acceptable addition to my business casual ensemble at the time. Clearly my boss didn’t think so; it was apparently enough to warrant an e-mail blast with a friendly reminder of the company’s dress code values, cleverly targeted to me. I just recently discovered that another supervisor actually defended me by pointing out that he has never addressed the breeches of dress code amongst the female staff. There’s no doubt in my mind that if it were purely up to him, the entire office would resemble an episode of “Sabado Gigante.”I would really like to see how he would address the dress code if I were to just show up in drag wearing the same sort of revealing clothing the women in the office are allowed to wear.

All problems aside, I am confident that just as society has changed in the past, things will change for the future; I just hope that it happens during my lifetime. All I really want is to be in a world where people accept and appreciate gender diversity, where everyone can be free to explore the full spectrum of human potential that is often fractionalized by societal pre-conceptions of what gender appropriate behaviour should be. I guess it’s just going to take the intrepid few who are willing to sacrifice their comfort and safety to pave the way for true change. Hopefully I can come to play a part in that change as well. Oh and by the way, I’m not cutting my hair- well aside from the occasional trim, that is.

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