I keep an open mind and an open heart in general, and I hope you all know — readers of all ethnicities, hair textures, beliefs, and genders are welcomed warmly here at Afrobella. I think we can all learn from and support each other. I certainly learned alot in trying to answer this Ask Afrobella question, which truly came as a surprise. Here goes.
Firstly, I really like your site. Secondly, I have a question. Although I was born physically male, I feel that I am actually a girl, and next year in school I am going to be presenting in role as a girl. As part of this, I think that it would be a good idea for me to change my hairstyle; although it is currently androgynous, I feel that a new hairstyle would emphasize the fact that “this is who I am now”. My hair is very thick and curly, and I find it very difficult to take care of, so I normally just tie it back into an afropuff.
I want to know what my options are for a more obviously feminine hairstyle that wouldn’t break the bank. I’ve attached a picture so that you can see how it looks at the moment. Finally, can I request that you don’t publish this message on your site. At least, not my name and picture, as I’m sure you can understand that this is a sensitive issue and I’m not entirely out yet.
And C sent a photo which is absolutely so adorable. I wish I could share — but I can’t, so I’ll describe. C has a glorious, big head of hair that he wears pulled back in a puff, and the texture looks to be around a 3c/4a.
Let me just state off the bat, I immediately contacted C to let him know that I was down to answer his Ask Afrobella question, and I was happy to hear from him as a reader. And he wrote back the sweetest thing — “I really appreciate that you’re so enthusiastic; after all, I could have sent an email to a closet bigot – unlikely, based on the content of your website, but you never know. So, thankyou for being so lovely in your answer – it really makes me feel good that a complete stranger can be so understanding.”
It is my pleasure and privilege, C. Growing up in the Caribbean and having more than a few gay relatives and friends — most notably, Bruno, who I sincerely miss — made me realize in no uncertain terms how big and important a decision coming out can be. It certainly isn’t an easy road — on either side of the path you’re going to find people who are judging you and criticizing you, and often making life harder for you than it should be. Sometimes these people will be your relatives, or your friends, schoolmates, or co-workers. As the beauty blogger you’ve contacted with such a big question — it is my responsibility to find the best possible answer for you, and I’m gonna do just that.
If you happen to be a homophobic reader, you might as well stop reading right now — this post is all love.
C’s question was too big for me to answer alone. I turned to two friends of mine, with opinions I trust.
First of all, there’s Larramy, master of the DevaCurl curl cut. Larramy’s initial response was “Oh, I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Not because he doesn’t understand what you’re feeling, C — he does. He just wants to make sure you’ve really thought out this decision, the pros, the cons, the potential effects and ramifications. Larramy wanted to make sure that you are planning to express your burgeoning femininity for the right reasons. Not for shock value, or to make a statement you aren’t fully ready to make. Now, let’s talk hair.
I actually filmed a little clip for your viewing pleasure, but let’s just say… I’m having technical difficulties. This will be my first of hopefully many little YouTube interviews, so… arrgh. Oh wait, here goes!
Why is my voice so bass-heavy in the beginning there? I have no idea. Le sigh. But hooray for my first YouTube clip ever!
That’s Larramy’s two cents strictly from the hair perspective — embrace your curls, and through trial and error, try to find out which products work best for you. I had asked C what products he currently used, and he said this: “I’m currently a bit sporadic in hair product use, as, as I said, I find my hair very difficult to take care of, and often don’t have the energy to do anything special with it. I currently have a bottle of “Sta-Sof-Fro Curl Activator Cream” which I will use to try and increase manageability, but I’m not sure whether it actually does anything. When washing my hair, I’ll just use whatever shampoo is in the shower – at the moment, that’s “head and shoulders classic clean” and something by TresemmÃ©.”
Hmm. So first things first, try out some new hair products and figure out what works with your mixed texture. Obviously, the Sta Sof Fro isn’t cutting it. Right? I must say, the products that Larramy loves the best, DevaCurl, could be great for your texture. The first time I tried One Condition, I was blown away by how soft and manageable my hair was. But C, since you might not be able to afford pricey hair products from overseas, I encourage you to just visit your local drugstore, beauty supply store, or healthy grocery, and look carefully at the ingredients of the products. Don’t shampoo your hair too often, try to do conditioner washes instead. Educate yourself about what your hair texture needs. Become familiar with Anita Grant’s products, and check out Motown Girl, she’s an incredible resource for natural hair recipes and tips. Find some cool headbands that help you show off your features more — you’ve got gorgeous skin and amazing eyebrows, C!
And my advice at the end of that clip that got cut off is, is make some phone calls, be proactive, and find the right hairdresser for you. Larramy gets me, we have fun while he’s doing my hair, and he made me realize how pretty natural, curly hair can really be. BUT — and this is a big but — finding THE hairdresser takes time, and it takes trial and error. I definitely don’t think walking in to any strip mall salon off the street with such an important question is the way to go. Look online for neighborhood salons that specialize in black or mixed race hair textures, and call them up to ask questions. Larramy expressed particular concern that not every salon is going to be welcoming to your needs as a client, C. But eventually, you’ll find the perfect person who will help you to shape your fro to its most fabulous effect.
I wanted to make sure I answered C’s question right both in terms of hair, and in terms of the crossover gender issues. Obviously I can’t fully relate to his experience, so I sought out advice from friends of mine who have more insight. One older gentleman friend of mine urged me to tell C to visit the school counselor to talk about his plans before making a drastic image change. I also think this is a good idea — I can’t tell you how much my school counselor helped me when I was a teenager.
I got a really open response from my homie Dan Renzi, who some of you may remember from back in the day on The Real World, Miami (and quite a few subsequent reality forays). Nowadays Dan has an amazing blog, and he’s editor of the Express Gay News! Dan’s an outspoken, smart, tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. His advice for you is honest and real:
“Let me just say one thing: if you’re not “entirely out,” and you don’t want your photo to be published on a BEAUTY BLOG, which is probably the most supportive audience you could ask for, then you are not ready to pull a full turnabout and go to school as a girl. You think they won’t notice you, when you are suddenly walking around with breasts?
I empathize with how uncomfortable you may be in your own skin; but your skin needs to get a little thicker before you can cope with the malicious taunts of your high school student body. They probably make your life tough now as it is, but things can always get worse. I don’t have any statistics handy, but I have read lots of articles on students filing suit against their school boards because they were physically abused, and the schools felt they were “asking for it” by being out. Some kids have a much easier time, of course, but if you’re nervous about coming out now, that says a lot. Kids operate in a pack mentality, and if they sense even the slightest lack of confidence, they will eat you alive and lick the blood off their lips.
You are lovely in the photo, so you just keep doing what you’re doing, and wait until you are able to protect yourself better. You can stick it out just for a little while longer. And when you are ready…you’re going to get attention no matter what you do. Do you really want to be one of those sad trannies with bad wig, ugly shoes, and a face full of Maybelline? No. I say, go for big afro twists, so your hair is off the face, to show yourself off.”
Thanks, Dan! I agree — twists would look great on you, C. And when you’ve found the hairdresser for you, that’s a brilliant idea.
I hope that we all together somehow helped to answer your question C, and I hope that the advice given here will be taken in the spirit in which it’s meant — warm, honest, and real. Like Larramy said, you’ve got your own path to go on and figure out, and you’ll probably encounter confusion and prejudice along the way. I wish you good luck, and I definitely think talking to a school counselor or trusted teacher is a good idea.
I realize not all of you bellas might agree with the answer that I’ve offered to this reader. I definitely don’t always have answers, and I try the best that I can to respond to each question I get. If you’ve got additional advice that might be helpful to C, please leave it in the comments. If you think I should have answered this question differently, please let me know what I could have done better. I love to hear from you, and I love an open dialogue.