As a child, Janet Mock was proud of her long beautiful curly hair, she felt that it connected her to her father. In an article with Allure, she wrote; “My ringlets were a source of pride for my father. He is a black man from Texas who would often flash his polished gold-tooth smile anytime someone, especially a beautiful woman, complimented his baby’s ‘pretty hair.’ My dark curls brushed past my shoulders in wide spirals and were dressed in African hair grease Dad applied to my hair and scalp after bedtime.” Their bond through hair, allowed Mock to feel connected with her racial identity and her father.
When she was in Kindergarten, her mother would check her hair for ukus (headlice) and was obsessed with making sure her children’s hair was well kept. She found lice in Mock’s hair and immediately buzzed it off. Mock didn’t say anything to her mother at the time because she didn’t want to disrespect her. In her article she wrote, “I knew, even then as a gender nonconforming kid who didn’t even have access to language and labels to describe my trans girlhood, that trying to protect my curls would have made me stand out, made me suspect.” She felt her identity was tied to her hair, both her racial and gender identity and felt her mother purposely cut her hair so she wouldn’t be mistaken for a girl.
Her father would often threaten to cut her hair if he caught her doing “girl things,” like jumping rope, taking too long in the bathroom, or skipping instead of running. She often “acted like a boy” in front of her family, stating that “toughening up, performing masculinity, pretending to enjoy things I didn’t enjoy all enabled me to dodge the gender policing of the adults around me.” She once spent a week with her aunt and when she returned her father felt she was “too confident in (her) femininity,” and cut all her hair off. She felt betrayed by her father, as hair was the only thing they shared between parent and child.
When Mock was older, her parents shared that in their insecurity of her gender non-conforming ways, they focused on minor matters, like the style of her hair, in an attempt to try and conform her to culture’s binary norms. She stated that her hair “is a marker of how free I felt in my body, how comfortable I was with myself, and how much agency I had to control my body and express myself with it.”
Mock, Janet. “How My Parents Used Haircuts to Police My Gender as a Young Trans Girl.” Allure, Allure Magazine, 13 June 2017, www.allure.com/story/parents-police-gender-presentation-haircuts?verso=true.