The whole reason I created Hair Growth was that I had my own issues with my hair that hit many assets of my identity. I created this project because I figured if I had all these feelings about my hair-I’m sure there are many others out there that feel the same way. I learned so many things about this project for over three years and it’s bittersweet to end Hair Growth but I am very happy with the journey Hair Growth has taken me on.
I grew up hating my hair for a plethora of reasons. Neither of my parents had the same hair texture as me because I’m biracial. I had to learn how to do my hair on my own and in many different points in my life, my hair texture changed on its own. Because of this difficulty, I began to resent my hair. I thought I got the ugliest physical traits of my two ethnicities. I was pale with frizzy hair but it was awkwardly textured with frizzy waves that I didn’t know what to do with bc neither of my parents had the same hair texture as me. my hair in middle school was wildly different than it is now and I hated it for the longest time. I remember family members who were also black telling me that I had “good hair” which made me feel guilty and angry. Why was my hair considered good hair? What does that really mean? Why do people treat black hair so poorly? Am I even really black if I don’t look like it? Are there others like me?
I was a dancer for 13 years and a huge part of the dance world is hair. I almost always wore my hair in a bun. I was one of the very few black students at my ballet academy and I was also at a predominantly white school during most of my dance career. This greatly affected my self-perception who I really am. I never met anyone besides my brother and cousins who were white passing and black. Whenever I asked questions about it, I was shut down.
I had a burning desire to just shave off my hair. I didn’t like how I looked and I dismissed it as just being a teenager who hated themselves. It’s amazing the things you lie to yourself about when you’re trans and a person of color.
As much as I loved being a dancer, it was a fiercely toxic part of my life because it kept me in the closet. Strict gender roles, especially with hair, took a toll on me. It turns out I was not the only one who felt this way because Emily Tan and Jessica Lawrence who both danced at the same dance studio I did, created a blog called Queer Ballerinas. I remember looking at the male dancers and wishing I could look like them and then being mad at myself that I felt that way in the first place. I couldn’t even cut my hair the way I wanted without it being labeled as a freak or a bad dancer. I noticed all of the good dancers did not have a thing that was ambiguous about them. Their hair was easy to put into a ballet bun and most importantly, they were girls good at being girls.
I kept with dance through high school and took a break once in college. Taking a chance to step back from that environment was hard because there are many things that I miss about it. It was hard to let go but ultimately this was a good step for me because I finally had the courage to cut my hair and discover different ways to express my gender.
I finally realized what I have been hiding from myself and been too scared to express. I am a trans person of color and that I was tired of playing along with what people thought I was.
I wanted to cut my hair so I did. I wanted to wear boys clothes so I did. I wanted to actually talk about my race so I did.
shout out to Katherine Manely for shaving my head and for helping me capture these images!
After four years of this incredible journey, I am so glad I decided to make this series and talk with you all.
Nathan speaks on gender fluidity and expectations with gender and hair:
“I shaved the side of the head the first time I felt freedom with my hair. i dyed it different colors, i cut it all off myself, i got fades routinely.
Now I feel like I’m fully owning what I do with my hair.
hair has always been tied to my gender expression. when I wore it more masculinely, it was when I was running from the presumptions of my “womanhood” that was tied to feminine, long hair. I was running from the idea that if I was femme that I was assumed to be a woman.
now that I have a partner that sees me for exactly who I am, it helps me feel fearless in doing that, too. I don’t care if people will (and they do) misgender me based on my aesthetic. I am femme as heck. I now have bleach blonde hair that’s turning into a bob with an undercut. it’s exactly what I want, and I’m not afraid of long hair anymore.
a butch trans woman is a woman, a femme trans man is a man, a DFAB femme nonbinary person is still nonbinary and yes hello it is me. :) some people get cispicious a bout all the different terms and words folks use to define themselves, when it’s like…… it’s not a big deal. just let people tell you who they are cause you just cant assume. its nice to look back at all the different hair stages ive had and think ‘i was a lost nonbinary baby just trying to find myself within the binary.. and now i’m here… not giving a frick’ goodbye binary! Ur boring and hurtful! xo now i know however i do my hair, its not defined by other peoples opinions or thoughts on it. it doesnt matter if they think i’m nonbinary enough or not. my hair is gender neutral because i am, and that’s that. peace and love. anyone out there wanting to talk about hair i’m always open. i love hair…i love ryans project. what an amazing binch :) I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Earsy Speaks on her hair journey
Thank you to OMG Who Did Your Hair Salon in Oakland, CA for providing the space to take these portraits
“I think a major problem in the African American Community is hair. Something that happens a lot is people strive to have the best hair texture, which is any thing but type 4 hair. Being mixed, and having hair that is not the straightest or always the softest I grew up with what my tita considered ‘pelo malo’ or bad hair. Growing up hair was the last thing I cared about so long as my ma didn’t try to perm it. I had gotten gum stuck in it more than once and had to get it cut. ‘Nana, for Christ sakes no matter what don’t cut your hair into a short hairstyle. It’ll just grow back too slow.’ Something my step dad told me growing up but I still didn’t care about my hair. It was not until I get in middle school that I started to care about my hair. My ma would have it braided at the shop and make me leave the braids in for MONTHS and I would beg her to let me take it down but no matter what she refused. “I don’t know how to deal with your hair” “It’s too high maintenance for me to deal with it” and I was forced to deal with it. I finally got it flat ironed and trimmed and it was so long. I was not aware of what it meant to take care of my hair. I used to style it but never braid it up at night and it broke off. My hairstylist asked if I wanted her to trim my ends (because I didn’t like her to cut it without my permission) I agreed and it was cut into a bob. I was furious because she blamed it on me not coming in for a trim but I knew the real reason. It was because of not protecting it. I went natural and stopped straightening it unless it was for a special occasion. I kept it in protective styles and it grew but there were some parts that I struggled with. Since I have gone natural I now make my own hair decisions and I have decided that I will not longer trim my hair myself and I am promoting healthy natural hair habits and a vegan (almost) diet to keep it growing. It’s not as long as it used to be and my natural curls are not all the way there but I have grown to like it. Whenever I choose to wear it curly I don’t get as many compliments as when it’s straight but I love my hair more when it’s curly. Hair has been something that has then grown as an essential part in my life because I now realize everyone pays attention to hair. If I don’t style it I feel like no matter how cute my outfit is I don’t feel cute.”
-Earsy Crockett, Oakland CA