Every trans person has a special relationship to body hair, but why is it so evocative of gender?


Thoughts from the waxing salon and experiences around the world.

For those of you have wondered why there are two words which appear to describe the same thing, “sex” and “gender” here is a perfect illustration how “sex” (biology which can be more than just male or female or intersex) and “gender” (which is a social construct and can range anywhere between male and female archetypes and for some, even beyond).  The significance of body hair is social.  Our male and female social archetypes are stereotypically hairy man and hairless woman.  This is how we are supposed to orient our beauty ideals.

As I get to know people travelling in both directions in the transgender community, a really beautiful thing, I have discovered that body hair plays an important symbolic role.  

Disclaimer: I am using the M2F and F2M handles for the sake of convenience and for clarity, even though I recognise that these terms are seen as increasingly problematic.  I find them helpful descriptors, however, for those of us who are AFAB or AMAB and have identified as trans.

For example, for the trans individual who may have been AFAB (assigned female at birth), the appearance of male pattern body hair might be the first important sign that the body is changing from something that was not congruent to something that is.  We both have our blessings and curses in the transition process, and body hair is one that comes quickly and easily to the AFAB who is F2M.  

For those who are male and headed in the other direction, or indeed for most women, body hair is an unwelcome adornment.  Perhaps this is purely social, but when I look at my hairless body, I see it as slimmer, more delicate, and more in line with how I like to feel.  And you know that is kind of delicious.  An easy way to feel delicious.  And clothes feel very sensual after depilation.  There is nothing like sliding into fresh and clean sheets after a waxing.

The problem with razors and cream

I don’t know about you, but depilatory creams scare the dickens out of me.  After using them, I almost always get ingrown hairs.  And the smell is something frightful.  The chemicals these creams contain are terrible for you.

The cream is melting the hair.  That means you can get a chemical burn.  Ouch.  This is more likely to happen in the more sensitive areas.  Double ouch.

These creams are poisonous.

Shaving is the other inexpensive option.  But there are major drawbacks to this approach too.  First, there is the risk of nicks.  And if you still have male skin, the risk of this is higher, as there is less subcutaneous fat to help the razor find a flat glide.  Ouch.  I have sliced the crap out of my legs before.  And it hurts for days.  And the scars can be there for years.  Yep!

The other problem with shaving is how often you need to do it—and the more you do it, the more often you need to do it.  Just like a beard or mustache, the more you shave it, the tougher the hair gets.  It feels a bit like fighting against your own goals.

Home Waxing and the Epi-Lady

No thank you.  Talk about ouch.  The Epi-Lady is an instrument of deep personal torture.  Apart from the fact that it just yanks and yanks at the same hair repeatedly until it finally comes out (you hope), it hurts like heck.  I still have stretch marks leftover from the first time I used it and tried to hold my skin taught enough to make it more likely the hairs would come out.  I used it once.

Home waxing strips work fairly well on the legs, and this is what I did for years, saving creams for the harder to get to places.  But they are expensive, and don’t work all that well.  The beauty of wax, though, is incontrovertible: the more you do it, the less you have to do it—the roots die slowly, and the hair grows back lighter each time.

Laser and other Permanent Forms

I don’t know anything about these methods yet, though I suspect that I will learn in time…What I do know, however, is that fair people like me don’t respond as well to these treatments—the lasers have a better time of zapping the darker hairs.  Oh well.

The Wax at the Salon

It is interesting to me how easy it is to find a salon that will do a full body waxing in some countries, cities, but not in others.  I have been waxed in New York, Paris, London, Miami, and Milan.  In 4/5 of those cities at least one of the aestheticians was a Ukrainian.  Lot’s to talk about.

Going for the First Time

Be open.  I was nervous.  I was afraid I would get hard!  Thankfully I did not.  But the second time I did!  I figured out why—the woman was just touching me too much down there and even though every other thing in the world was going through my head, the body has a mind of its own.  Right?  Too embarrassing.

It wasn’t so bad.  She didn’t have to leave the room or anything.  But that is the number one fear that a man going for a full Brazilian is worrying about.

What have I learned about this?  Many aestheticians ask you to help by holding yourself in position, and this is good, as it removes her touch from the equation.   What else works?  Talking?  The second time that woman whose method included excessive “fondling” waxed me, I spent the entire time speaking to her about God and religion and going to church.  That helped.

Cultural Differences

In the U.S. I was told to get naked and given perhaps nothing more than a paper towel for modesty.  In Paris and Italy you get very skimpy paper panties.  In Italy, they were concerned that they find me a pair of black paper panties, and I was looking at the basket filled with pink ones,  and said, “it’s okay, these will do just fine.”

“Oh, no, of course not.”

“No really, it’s okay.”  They turned the place upside down and found me a pair of black ones.  They are every bit as skimpy as the pink ones—a proper g-string.  And anyway, by the end, when the aesthetician is going out your smalls, they are invariably torn off, so the result is the same.

In Italy, I had a good deal of advice on my body, how to take care of it, what I should be eating, what I should be drinking, how to take care of my toenails, pretty much everything.  In New York and London the topic seems to always be about politics.  In Miami, a reflection of the Latin character of the city, the conversation was about family and children, or God and religion.

One thing I was not expecting was the comment of one of the aestheticians in Italy as she walked into the room and saw me shirtless.

“Wow, che bello fisico,” (what a nice body).  The other thing that was different in Italy, is that instead of one person who did the waxing from beginning to end, I had three women on me at once.  You’d think this would mean it would go much faster, but it’s Italy.  There’s lot’s of talking!  It still takes about two hours from beginning to end.

The Wax Product

There are good ones and not so good ones.  Make sure to choose a salon that uses all natural product, and can advise you on moisturiser, how to avoid ingrown hairs, and a general beauty regimen.

There is a thick wax product that more or less hardens and is quite gummy, and this gets pulled off when it is cool enough.  The other method uses a cloth strip on top of a thin layer.  This is more suited to lighter hairs.

Other Things I Learned

I have been told that more and more men are coming into the salon for waxing.  That more and more people are also going for the Brazilian in its various forms, or in its complete form, the “Hollywood”.  

I have also learned that women’s pubic hair is generally thicker and more persistent than men’s.  Maybe you knew that, but I didn’t.

Presence

We think of yoga and meditation as the best ways to cultivate presence.  That’s a struggle for me.  Exercise is an easier way.  Many in the BDSM world say that there is nothing like a good ol’ fashioned whipping to bring you into the present.  I have a new contender as best way to be present: a full body wax!

Presently yours.

8 thoughts

  1. Thanks for offering these provocative insights! Gender-tied preoccupations with body hair are so peculiar. It’s high time we stopped taking them for granted as though they were somehow “natural”….

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Thank you so much for dropping in! They sure are. It is kind of hard to understand how hairless has come to mean feminine, though I read a great article somewhere that it is about infantilising women…and that is how the aesthetic evolved. That’s right up my personal alley…LOL…but you are so right. Still, because it is so laced with cultural meaning it becomes an important ritual for me…and I have made it part of a whole meditative wellness routine…it really gets me physically into the moment. Plus, now I think it looks great.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So…this professional waxing is something I have never done, but want to. My question is this… do you have your butt waxed, including between your cheeks? I want to do this…but feel so shy about it. Would love to know if you’ve had this experience. If you have…do tell all! What position did you have to be in (on your back, or on all fours), was it anymore painful than other places, etc. Thank you, my beautiful friend! XOXO

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya. When I say everything, I mean everything, from the neck down, even fingers and toes. I have found that the underarms are the most painful for me. That isn’t to say that the privates are a walk in the park, but apparently, as I just learned, and as sensitive as men would have us believe their privates are, it is more painful for women to get waxed down there–but this has to do with the thickness of the hair.

      It seems to vary a little bit based on who is doing it. In most places, the therapist will enlist your help to hold things in such a way that makes it easier for them to have access to hard to reach nooks and crannies…and this also serves to hold the skin tight. I think of the folds of certain places, whether on a man or a woman.

      You will spend time both face down and face up. Generally, they start with other things, as the pain level stimulates endorphins and you can handle it better–one reason I find it is better to do a whole body wax than just a Brazilian or the rather unappealingly named “nut, crack, and sack wax”–what is it with men? I mean, really! And they call their business their “junk”–if I were a woman, I am not sure I would want a man’s junk inside of me.

      I am not aware of waxing on all fours, but that sounds kind of fun. Maybe I should suggest it!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for the information, my friend! I was recently watching a show and she was being waxed…and was on all fours. Totally surprised me. I am going to be brave and book an appointment! XOXO

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Was it a comedy? Let me tell you, there is nothing better than a salon wax (make sure to find a good one). And it sure hurts a lot less when you can just lay back and think of the Queen!

        Liked by 2 people

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