Losing my hair, and then what?

Rachel Saunders
4 min readFeb 1, 2023

Three years ago today I shaved my head to reveal the full extent of my baldness, and it has not grown back since. As a woman I felt I lost something in the mirror back then, something raw and deeply personal, that I have never truly got back. Each morning I get excited for the odd hair or two that is sprouting, with the baby fluff that is gamely returning, though the woman in the mirror is still a bit of a stranger to me.

My hair never went grey, was this luscious brown, and I absently played with it when I was thinking. Funny little thing hair, frames your face, makes a statement about who you are, and honestly, even after this time I still do not know who she, me, actually is without it. Being queer, being trans, shaping a whole new identity is something I have done before. Being a woman born of boyhood means finding all the paths most women learn from the crib all at once. Being bald, not so much.

Lockdown gave me eighteen months to re-orientate myself, with many folk in my life not knowing me from the time before. Being bald was the woman they got to know, with my personality making up what was missing. Yet, inside I really do not know how to situate this version of myself. Yes, I could wear wigs and lots of make-up, but I have sensitive skin, walk a lot, and generally have a low threshold for itchiness. Its not as if this is a life and lemons situation, plenty of folk lose their hair. No, this is something deeper, richer, seated at the root core of so much of what makes me, well, me.

Talking about it in a jovial way helps me develop and cope, for it is stupidly funny how it likely came about. I am a field hockey goalkeeper and took two very heavy blows that sent me into shock about four and half years ago. Added to this was a heavy slip on ice which also sent me into shock. All three probably kicked my immune system into overdrive, cause my body to kill my hair over the course of 2019. Bodies are weird and wonderful things, and mine has given me the gift of baldness and a winning smile.

Being misgendered because of my hair has been one of the biggest personal internal conflicts. On the one hand, prior to losing my hair I had passing privilege for days. Now, male pronouns are in vogue. Do I talk back and correct people? Yes, and no, depending on my mood and the situation. It has, however, likely given me more privilege in some scenarios, as being read for male means I am taken more seriously. Just as likely I confuse people, as some think I am recovering from cancer (which I quickly correct them on I that I am not) or some form of non-binary. It is in the reflection of others that I am coming to see myself, and while I never use that reflection as a way of defining who I am, it is hard to fully detach the world’s eye view of me.

The last three years have slipped by. I have played lots of hockey, started and am in the middle of a PhD, held down numerous jobs, and tried to get used to this new version of myself. My personality, and laugh, lead the way for better or worse, which I like to think is for the best. Not having hair is its own kind of thing, hard to describe unless you go through it. On the plus side my head does a wonderful tea kettle impression when I take off my goalie helmet in winter.

There is no lament for lost styles and cuts; no, this is more about the woman I am now. Who is she in a world where hair is such a thing of beauty and expression? That is the enigma I am still working through. I queer every room I walk into simply by being myself, which is no bad thing. Maybe it is just about rolling with the waves and letting the tides of life carry you along. Or maybe its just about having a good moisturiser to stop the dry skin on my scalp. Either way, the next three years will see this version of myself evolve and then some.

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