Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Transsistah's Secret- Hair

It's no accident that Madame CJ Walker, the first African-American millionaire, made her money by creating a hair care system aimed at African-American women. It's no secret that we have multiple magazines such as Sophisticate's Black Hair that are dedicated to talking about it as well.

In the run up to transition it's one of the stress inducing parts of it for Black transwomen. One of our keys to blending in with our biosisters is making sure our air is hooked up and it's the bomb. It's important for us to not only find a beautician who will be open minded about taking on a transgender client, but who has skills as well to deal with some of the challenges she'll face caring for our hair.

Our hair, be it natural, loced, braided, curly, straight or wavy is not only a Black woman's crowning glory, it is her way to express her individuality and style.

It also at times takes on political connotations as well. The pride we take in our hair dates back to slavery. Slave masters not only forbade the braided styles we often wore that connected us to our various peoples back on the Mother Continent, but the wide tooth combs and shea butter to care for our hair wasn't available.

Toss in our ongoing battle with a beauty standard skewed toward white women, and you can see over time why blonde hair on Black women didn't become an acceptable hair color until the 90's.

Whether it's wearing the Afro in the 60's and 70's as an expression of Black pride, braids and locs in the 80's and the 2k's, our relationship with our hair is the first key decision that we make as Black transwomen that expresses who we are and the type of image we wish to project to the world.

And sometimes the fight to express our individuality and pride in our heritage leads to litigation when it clashes head on with white privilege, which deems certain styles in corporate settings as 'unprofessional'.

But at the same time our hair issues also remind us Black transwomen at times what we missed not growing up female. The bonding experience steeped in our people's history of the youngest child sitting in the chair near the kitchen stove on Saturday morning having her hair greased, parted and hot combed as she and two generations of women in the family talk about various issues while she prayed she didn't get burned.

It's why hair issues for a Black transwoman are a major concern and she's ecstatically happy when she finally does get to sit in that beauty shop chair. It's another important milepost on her journey to Black womanhood.


Camille Acey said...

Beautiful post, but that hotcomb picture is bringing up my PTSD! Scorched ears anyone? ooooo weeee!

T. R Xands said...

Oh my god what Camille said! That little girl looks so calm it makes me feel like a wuss.

That's actually a good point you bring up about finding a beautician/stylist willing to work with transgender clients AND being black to boot...I guess I just take for granted that when I'm denied hair care it's usually because of my "ethnic" hair.

Frederick said...

My Transgender wife is mixed race part African American and Irish. I have helped her relax her hair and watched her use all the hot irons on her hair. I even made a flat brick at work for her. My question is were in Louisville can a Transgender find a willing beautician

Monica Roberts said...

Good question Frederick.

Monica Roberts said...

I do know a beautician in town that will work on transwomen.

Frederick said...

Who is the beautician

Monica Roberts said...

She's at a shop in Shively. She specializes in doing locs, but is an award winning Paul Mitchell trained beautician who can do hair for all ethnic groups as well

I used to have Tori Summers number but have misplaced it, so i don't know where she's based or if she's still doing hair.