Over five years ago, in a dopamine-filled moment of gender expression euphoria, I threw away my razor. I was in my early 20s and at the beginning of discovering how my queerness would manifest in my appearance. At the time, it felt rebellious and powerful, it felt like taking a stance. It also felt like a necessity, both physically and mentally. I was struggling with matching my outward gender expression with my inner androgyny and growing out my leg hair felt like a surefire way to plaster some masculinity on my feminine-shaped body. My body hair grew, long and scraggly, most prominently across my legs. It survived bathing suit season and snide comments, it even persisted through trichotillomania (hair pulling) flares that tore through my eyebrows. As my body hair thrived, my queer self felt uplifted; until one day, everything changed.
It was a day just like any other, and I was running errands in the city. I stopped by Abercrombie & Fitch to pick up a bridesmaid dress for a wedding. I hadn’t worn a dress in years, but I felt good in this one. When I went to try it on, something felt off. It wasn’t the fit or the color — maybe because I wasn’t wearing a heel? I chalked it up to the harsh lighting of the dressing room. When I got home, I put the dress on again, this time with a heeled sandal, and stared in the mirror for a long time. The hem of the dress brushed my mid-calf and as I swung the skirt back and forth, I realized that what felt wrong was something that for half a decade had felt perfectly right — my hairy legs.
After years of fighting femininity and longing for some prescribed version of androgyny I could never perfect, I was at first, shocked. But as a seasoned queer, I tried to be gentle with myself — I know gender is fluid, so it only makes sense that gender expression is as well. I decided all I could do was try, and so I set a date to shave my legs.
When the day came, I roamed the aisles of CVS, collecting all the necessary shaving accouterments. I was sticker shocked by the price of my old razor ($25 for some plastic and blades!) and ended up buying the Flamingo razor because it was aesthetically pleasing, cheaper, and came with backup blades. I also bought the Raspberry Rain Skintimate shaving cream — the same one I bought when I was 13 and shaved for the first time. I took my goodies home, popped on some shorts, set up my tripod in the bathroom to film what I could only imagine would be a life-changing experience, and got to work.
As the blade ran across my calf, I expected some monumental, maybe even damaging, feeling to wash over me. Instead, to my absolute surprise, I felt…nothing. As the hair fell from my legs, I felt just as I would doing a task like washing the dishes or drying my hair — serene, if not a little bored. I was once again shocked. What I thought would be this big life-altering moment that would send tears streaming down my face, turned out to be completely mundane. I giggled to myself, thrilled to have saved some tears, and continued shaving. When I finished, I rinsed and dried my legs and then giddily got into bed — remembering the sweet dolphin-like smoothness that comes with freshly shaved legs.
As I rubbed my now smooth legs together, I racked my brain for answers to why my reaction had been so different from my expectation. If I was honest with myself, I had been leaning into more traditionally feminine things lately. During the depths of lockdown I got really into bold makeup and graphic liner and had started wearing a colorful makeup look almost every day. I had also recently started getting my nails done again, a practice I had dropped in my early 20s. Hell, I had just bought a dress and felt excited about it. And that’s when it hit me, I was easing back into femininity because I felt more comfortable in my queerness than ever before. I didn’t need to fit into some idealistic androgynous box to feel like a gay genderqueer woman, I just was one. I was, perhaps, on the other side of my gender expression exploration — deeply comfortable in myself both covered in body hair and completely shaven.
Later that week, was the wedding. I walked down the aisle holding my wife’s hand, decked out in a pleated blue dress, pearl face gems, and smooth shaven legs. I felt confident and beautiful as I glided toward the altar. More importantly, my most present feeling was excitement about celebrating my friends, not self-consciousness about my appearance. I was able to step outside of needing to prove anything about my gender expression and just be present. And for me, after a decade of queer exploration, questioning, and confusion, that was a win of a lifetime.