5 min read


Honouring all parts of me in a compassionate, tangible and resourced way

I got a gender-affirming haircut. When it is down, it looks the same, no change. But when I have it pulled up into a bun, you can see that the sides and back are shaved into an edgy undercut. This hairstyle is called a long hair hidden undercut. To me, this is the perfect balance of my child and adult selves. Let me explain.

I was born with a vulva, and they called me girl. Since I was a child, I have been told how much like a boy I was. I was called a tomboy by well-meaning adults, and some choice names by those close to me, which are now considered to be slurs for trans people. Bhaydo, giggled my mom often, literally translates to masc or husband. I did not ever feel hurt, but it confused me because my mom was the most un-womanly woman I know. Her hair was in a boycut and she was boisterous and had no interest in traditionally feminine things like cooking. She would whistle and make crass jokes. She was friendly with guys, whom she called dostaar affectionately in Gujarati.

My father insisted that my sister and I keep our hair long. My mother would painstakingly soak aamla and areetha and condition our hair every Sunday. I did not mind it when I was younger, but as I grew older, I used to cut my hair in rebellion. Okay, it was not only rebellion of being told what to do, it was the part of me that felt unmothered when mummy got sick with Young Onset Alzheimer’s. She was no longer washing my hair on Sundays, and she did not soak the herbs. She was no longer fighting with me to comb my mane, which she called resham naa taar, strands of exquisite silk. It was rage, anger and abandonment that made me cut my hair in the ninth grade.

Often in my teens, my hair was in a chic bob, or an edgy but feminine mushroom cut, like Kajol’s in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. In the 2000s, I would go to men’s barbers and have them cut into a crew cut, shorn almost to my scalp. In the 2010s, it was similar, but with a feathery fringe in the front.

I have always played with my hair. I would grow it to my hips and then cut it to my ears every few years. Looking back, I realize I was trying to let my girly and masc parts come out and play in turn. My hair has been fairly short since 2015, and I grew it out in 2022. I got my other nostril pierced, and in 2023, my hair to my mid back with Indian-ish nose pins gave me gender euphoria. I added pink, blue and green hair colour, and I felt quite affirmed in how I presented.

In recent times, as I deconstructed gender norms for myself, I felt ready again to wear frilly frocks and put my hair up in messy buns. I spent a month in India. I guess it’s my first time back home after I grew up hair cut with these cheeky colours. My clothes, hair and overall way of presenting got a lot of compliments.

A part of me was pleased, and a part of me felt deeply uncomfortable. I reflected on these parts and what their needs were. The uncomfortable part was outright sad and frustrated. This was the child part of me that I identified as being around 5 years of age. I do not remember when this part was born inside me, but I know this part has been with me the longest. It is the part of me that has no gender affiliation. This is the playful child that became the edgy and flamboyant adult. But this is the part that was at the receiving end of all tomboy jokes and gender dissing. This is the part that was told it was not girly enough to be a girl. The part that felt like Huckleberry Finn. The part that was Henri on the first blog I ever created. This was the part that had taught me the importance of accepting oneself and loving one’s body, mind and spirit through patience and compassion. This is the part that became the therapist. The trusted friend that everyone comes to confess their sins and share their secret poetry.

Me, basking in all the compliments on my womanhood, led to this part looking at me like, “Are you going to abandon me for this fleeting affirmation? You put on a bit of weight or switch back to a short crop and dad jeans, and you know this will all disappear.” While this may or may not be true, I understood in essence what this part was saying to me was more about external validation that comes at a personal cost of silencing my wild side. And bear in mind, what’s wild to the vanilla people is my minimum.

And so, I began to research haircuts that would make me feel seen. All parts of me. Where my parts wouldn’t have to go in hiding. And that’s how I found the perfect hair for me.

It was not easy to get the haircut. My girly part kept throwing in a wrench. What if the hair is not thick enough for the hidden aspect? What if it looks more boyish than you intend it to? But I was determined. I had a couple of videos and photos that I wanted to show the hairdresser, but to be honest, those were undercut hairstyles that would be more acceptable to Sid. (he did like those.) When I sat down in the salon chair, I took a deep breath and let my wild child hit the accelerator. I did not show the videos or photos I had saved, and instead discussed my vision which the stylist executed perfectly.

I even chose a new salon and stylist because I felt my regular hairdresser might try to talk me out of doing this more “butch” style. I chose a salon that does gender-affirming hair and called them and asked for a stylist who could do the cut I wanted. They assigned me to Kat, who was friendly, had cute hair, and listened to me patiently. I could not have asked for a better experience.

I asked myself why I chose the hairstyle instead of doing a badass short haircut like I have chosen to in the past and the answer made me beam. In the past, I was trying to get a rise out of people because I felt I could not gain their approval. I was angry with people and I was acting out. I did not need to any longer. I do like being ultra-feminine and I want to honour her as much as I have honoured my wild side over the years.

My child self is sacred. It is the part that has been resolute in taking me to liberation. I will always honour this wise, powerful and audacious part. My feminine self is the essence of all the women in my lineage on both sides who did not get the recognition they deserved and now, thanks to my ascended child part are willing to be seen, and they are being appreciated for who they are.

Gender, to me, is expansive. I do not think of the shaved parts as masculine or the long parts as feminine. I think of them as Kali and Shakti. Divine. My own expression, and my mother’s devotion. Both are part of this body that is composed of four thousand of my ancestors of all genders. It honours all their journeys and their liberation.

So this, for me, is a liberation-affirming haircut.