For most of my life, I’ve looked young for my age. Like, uncomfortably young.
Even into my 30s I was unable to sprout more than a few sparse hairs on my face. So at age… well, somewhere between “able to run for president” and death, I’ve been proud that I can finally sport a full beard.
I don’t know why I’m proud, though: I didn’t do anything to earn it, other than not shave. I don’t even think it’s that becoming on me. But growing up feeling weak, pudgy and unmanly, I guess part of me still thinks being able to exhibit this most masculine of features is some kind of an accomplishment. Or at least a totem I can use to ward off the next guy who calls me a fag.
For other people, though, a beard is a tool of deception: We joke that the opposite-sex parter of a closeted celebrity is their “beard.”
For some trans women, a beard can be a form of camouflage before they accept their true gender identity: On Reddit a group of brave trans women shared pictures of their “denial beards,” the facial hair they grew before transitioning—a sort of last gasp at stereotypical masculine presentation.
“I started growing a denial beard after graduating college and ending my first long term relationship,” recalls NewNowNext contributor Dawn Ennis. “Through my 20s, I sought to subvert my feelings and appear to the world as masculine as possible. Although I was very hairy all over my body, I was also losing the hair atop my head. So, given my features, I thought the beard made me look more rugged. And it worked.”
Ennis shares that the only times she shaved her beard before transitioning was for a Halloween party and on her wedding day.
“The first face my three children saw was that of their bearded daddy,” she adds. “Next year marks a decade since I stopped hiding behind facial hair.”
One commenter related how electrolysis was “the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt… and it was so worth it.”
“To all the denial beard posts: THANK YOU,” one commenter wrote. “Not only are you all beautiful but you are showing how life can be. There are many who are unsure about who they are in life, and seeing your physical and emotional changes helps them tremendously. You are an inspiration to the entire community.”