Author Archives: beardstories

About beardstories

Stories of a beard on a female body. Some stories are friends-only, but I'm open to new friends if you're interested in seeing them.

Beard Stories – Finger curls

The hair on my head is dark brown and basically straight, maybe a little curly around the edges when it’s really humid. My beard is red-brown and tightly curled. It winds itself up in unruly tendrils, about a quarter inch across. Except when an occasional hair decides to be straight for a day. It’s never the same one. I know because I tried pulling That One straight hair, but there was a new one the next day. I let that one go, and after my next shower, that day’s straight hair was back to curling with the rest of the bunch, but there was an errant straight hair on the other side. After a while, I realized that I could make that one straight hair curl back up. It’s like curling a ribbon on a gift. If you have a rippled ribbon and you run one side of a pair of scissors along the ribbon, it will make a corkscrew curl to decorate your present. If I take my fingernail and pull hard against the stray straight hair, it will curl back up, into a tidy little quarter-inch-wide spring.

Except that the white hairs don’t seem to respond to curling so well. I’ve got a few white hairs now, scattered through my temples and head and beard. And it seems like the white hairs are more likely to be That One straight hair. And, at least half the time, they won’t re-curl, no matter how many times I try. Until a few days later when they re-curl of their own accord.
I don’t want to pull out my white hairs. I’m proud of my age, of what I’ve worked through, of the stresses I’ve endured to earn these white hairs. I think white hair is beautiful, and I admire and envy people who have a shock-white head of hair. I don’t think my genetics will turn my hair that white for a long time to come, so I hang on to the few white hairs I have. I let them stick out, unruly and stubborn, until they decide, in their own time, to rejoin the group.

When I first started growing out my beard, I wondered how long it would get. I envisioned myself with a ZZ Top style beard, draped down my front. I hoped to be able to braid it and play with it. When I was in kindergarten, I envied a kid whose hair was so long she could sit on the ends of her braids. Julia, I think her name was, and I can still picture her blond pigtail braids. I decided, with all my 5 year old determination, that I was going to have hair as long as hers. So I rejected haircuts and let my already-long hair keep growing. The problem was, the rest of me also kept growing. So, the longer my hair got, the further it still had to go to reach my tuchus. By the time I was 12, I’d finished my last growth spurt, and my hair finally had a chance to catch up. But by then, it seemed to have reached its natural maximum. If I tilted my head back, I could, just barely, sit on the ends of my own hair. I declared it a victory.
I supposed I imagined my beard would grow in the same way. That it would just keep going, long and straight, or perhaps a bit wavy, until it cascaded down my chest. After all, that’s how my brother’s beard grows. Thick, wavy, long, and red.
But I got curls. And, just like the trailing ribbons on the present turn into short, tidy little springs when they’re curled up, my beard hair curls itself up into a cozy mat around my chin. It refuses to get long. Or at least it refuses to show its length. If I pull my beard straight, right now, it reaches almost three inches from my chin. But when I let it go, it springs back up, nestling close in, barely an inch away from my face. At its longest, my beard got to maybe 5 or 6 inches, stretched out, but it only looked like a densely matted, uneven layer, about an inch and a half thick.
I’ve learned, over the years, how to trim it to make the curls as tidy as possible, and not to let it get too long. I was kind of bummed that I couldn’t grow a thick, long beard. And the curls continue to be a pain to manage.
But then I discovered the best thing about my tight, tiny curls.
My curls are small, about a quarter inch across. Too small to wind around my finger, even my pinky. But, I discovered six years ago, my curls are, delightfully and inconveniently, almost exactly the diameter of an infant’s fingers.
Or, I should say, my son discovered this. He’s always been an energetic child, even before he was born. When I was pregnant with him, as a nervous first time parents, I carefully counted and tracked how many times he kicked, to make sure he was growing ok. I was told to contact my midwife if he kicked fewer than ten times an hour. I never got anywhere near the worry point. When I counted his movements, I usually counted ten kicks within a minute, maybe two or three minutes on a slow day.
When he was born, he took to breastfeeding very quickly, and with enthusiasm. He didn’t want to sit still just because he was nursing, even as an infant. His tiny hands would wave and reach, and his tiny fingers instinctively closed on anything in their path. Including, of course, my beard, which was perfectly in arm’s range. His tiny fingers closed on a hank of my beard. And then his tiny, randomized, but surprisingly strong arm decided to dart off somewhere else. With my beard still firmly in his grasp. I tried to extract him – one-handed, since my other hand was still holding his tiny head firmly to my breast. I worked one finger loose of the cross-twisted strands that trapped his little knuckles, but then, as soon as I started extracting the next finger, the first little finger would dart back into the snare of curls. And as I worked, his arm kept moving, jerking my chin around, just a little bit painfully. It ended up taking two of my hands to remove one of his tiny hands from my tight beard curls, which were just the perfect fit for his beautiful, grabbing fingers.

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Beard Stories – Catching up

I’ve been collecting beard stories, but haven’t had time to post. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the last seven years –

I had a child, found a co-parent and partner, became president of a nonprofit, got married, switched from working full-time to parenting full-time and working part-time, went camping a bunch, bought a house, had another child, grew my hair out long, started a business, sold a house, moved 2000 miles away – from California urban to mid-western suburban, juggled five different part-time jobs, moved one more mile, and planted a garden.

I still have a beard, and I still have my AFAB body.

At some point, I’ll get to writing up the beard stories I’ve been keeping notes on for the past seven years. Here’s a recent one.

A few weeks back, a large sign was posted in my town, tallying the US COVID deaths. Within an hour of when it was erected, before its official unveiling, there was a small crowd of angry anti-maskers yelling and screaming in front of the sign. The loudest one, a grey-haired white man in a Packers tshirt and sunglasses, stood on a low rock wall, spouting whatever came to his mind, and his half-dozen fans cheered him on. About an hour into his rant, he started going on about how conservatives were better in every way. After discussing how conservatives were richer and had bigger balls, he started yelling about how conservatives have hotter women. His three adoring Karens cheered and clapped, so he repeated himself, and they cheered more. He repeated himself again, “”Conservatives have hot women!” The Karen in front replied, facing toward her friend but speaking loud enough for the crowd, “Not women with beards.”

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Beard Stories – Movember

Another bearded woman. This one’s growing out hers for Movember (No-shave November) to raise awareness of PCOS, while her bearded bros raise awareness of testicular and prostate cancers. 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/07/woman-movember-moustache-_n_4234198.html

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Beard Stories – Disneyfied

Disney princesses, reimagined with beards!

http://www.buzzfeed.com/adamellis/your-favorite-disney-princesses-with-beards

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Beard Stories: Another One of Us

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/siobhain-fletcher-woman-grows-beards-for-movember_n_2206092.html

 

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Beard Stories: Finally

The last day of school. The second-to-last class of the day.

“Ms. G, we have a question.”

This is nothing new. This is how many of my students – and these two in particular – often start class.

“Great!” I reply, as usual.

“Not about biology.”

“Ok!” I’m happy to go off-topic. And, if they’re asking me, even questions they think aren’t about biology often have a biological connection. These are the two whose questions, for months, probed the causes and intricacies of diarrhea, why a person might cry a little while pooping, whether there are biological origins behind the stereotypical lispy “gay voice” of some gay men, the ethics and methods of killing nuisance pigeons, the superhero potential of future human mutations, and whether our class lab methods could be twisted and abused by an evil scientist.

“Why do you have a beard?”

I nearly laughed. Really? Finally? All year they’d been wondering? I assumed they knew. I assumed that the rumor mill had taken care of that. When I told my students nearly 4 years ago that I was going to grow out my beard, I explained it all. I had imagined that this information had made its way through the collective student brain, along with the details of which teachers never checked homework and who was a stickler on tardiness. Apparently not.

“It just grows there. When I was thirteen, hair started growing on my chin. For years, I shaved and tweezed to get rid of it. Then, about, um, five years ago, I decided to grow it out. I was just going to grow it for a few weeks, to try it. But it was easier than I thought, and I liked it, and people responded well, so I figured I’d let it go for a few months. And it was easier than I thought, and I liked it, and people responded well, so I kept it.”

“Oh! Ok. Huh! Wow.” Nods and smiles.

“So it just grows there?”

“Yep. No added hormones or anything. Many men grow beards, but some don’t. Most women don’t grow beards, but some do. Most of those women hide it – I’ve had a lot of women tell me that they have beards that they tweeze and shave, and no one knows.”

“Huh! Really. That’s interesting.”

“Honestly, I’m surprised you’re only asking now.”

“Well, we didn’t want to upset you. We thought you might get mad, since, you know, it’s personal.”

“No, it’s fine to ask. Sorry I didn’t make that clear earlier. I didn’t mean to make you nervous!” I smiled.

“Well, we didn’t know if you’d be ok with it.”

“Well, I’m glad you asked,” I said, smiling.

 

It was a great end to the year. Two of my most delightfully inquisitive and open students, finally getting up the courage to ask a question that seemed, to them, more taboo than all the rest.

I’m relieved, I must say, to find out that the student rumor mill doesn’t work as well as I thought, and also to find out that the students have a strong sense of boundaries. Even if the outside observer wouldn’t describe them as having strong boundaries, as they ask about poop and sex, they apparently do have strong boundaries, just in a different place that I might have guessed. Personally, I like that their boundaries allow them to ask for information that relevant to them, on all manner of topics, but keeps them out of the personal lives of teachers. I don’t know that I would have guess that that was a school and community norm, but I’m pleased to find some evidence that it is. It also reassures me that, hopefully, other details of my personal life will stay personal in this school community.

And, considering this, next year I need to let students know early on that they can ask about my beard, or just explain it during a lesson on gender or hormones.

Categories: Beard Stories, bearded lady, bearded woman, Positive, Questions | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Beard Stories: Update

I haven’t been very active on this blog lately.

Partially this is because the frequency of new beard stories is dropping off – I’m getting repeats of the same ones or not getting any responses at all, as I run into the same people over and over again.

And, partially, this is because my life has been full of a number of new and fantastic things – including but not limited to a new and amazing partner, being president of one nonprofit and on the board of another, finishing up the school year, and  moving to the east bay.

If things go well this summer, I’ll be working on editing and compiling these stories to turn them into a book. Wish me luck!

Categories: Beard Stories, bearded lady, bearded woman | 1 Comment

Beard stories: Welcome to Oakland

I moved from SF to Oakland a week and a half ago. I’m learning my way around – new errands, new routes, new familiar strangers – clerks, cashiers, etc.   In the Oakland Kaiser Pharmacy this morning:   A black butch-type person, maybe a few years older than me. Wearing black athletic clothes – jersey over tshirt, track pants. Flattened-looking chest, short short hair, no facial hair visible. We cross paths as I’m walking up to the dropoff line and ze is walking away from the counter. “How you get that?” motioning to hir chin. “It just grows there.” Shakes hir head. “Nah!”   “Yep.” “I be hatin’!” ze says enviously. I shrub my shoulders and smile, “Sorry!” Ze smiles.       An older black woman and a 7-year-old girl are sitting across from me as we wait for our respective medications. She smiles and says, “How are you?” I smile, “Fine, thanks. How’re you?” “I’m good, I’m good.” Which would be the end of the friendly-stranger encounter, but she holds my gaze a bit longer, still smiling. Then she turns the book she’s reading towards me, showing me that she’s reading Stephanie Brill’s “The Transgender Child.” She doesn’t say anything more, but still smiles warmly at me in a way that makes me think I should respond. “Ah, I’ve heard good things about that book. I haven’t read it, but I’ve read her other one, on lesbian parenting.” She tells me that she’s reading it because she’s got 4 children  – 2 teens, I think, and I forget the details on the others – who are transgender, so she wanted to brush up a bit. “Ah, that’s great,” I say, while I try to figure out what she means by she “has” 4 trans kids – she’s a parent to these kids? Foster parent? Four is a lot. Teacher, maybe? She explains that these are kids at her church, the City of Refuge, a UCC church in SF. She asks if I saw the parade, because her church sang in the parade. I explain that I didn’t see the parade because I was in it, way back in the lineup. She tells me how the church is moving to Oakland soon, due to parking issues, and that they have people coming from as far away as Sacramento for her church. She invites me to services – Sundays at 1pm – and I smile and say that it sounds nice, but I think my hesitation is clear in my voice. She takes a phone call, lets the girl know that her mama’s meeting them soon, and then goes back to reading her book.

Categories: Beard Stories, bearded lady, bearded woman, Positive, Questions | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beard Stories: One of many

Several friends have now sent me links to the current news story about Mariam, a bearded woman in Germany.

These, among others:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2306272/Bearded-lady-Mariam-People-say-I-shot-having-beard-Ive-felt-sexier.html
http://now.msn.com/mariam-feels-sexier-since-letting-her-beard-grow
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/webreg/user/reg_cnt

Talking to M last night, we were trying to count up the bearded women we know or know of. Here’s the list of who I can think of –

Mariam
Jennifer Miller 
The bearded woman who was talking about producing a documentary a while back.
E, a friend of M’s
Debra Beechy 
The person who ran Red Dora’s Bearded Lady Cafe in the Mission
Someone M remembered seeing a few years back at a workshop
Vivian Wheeler 
Amiee Ross
And this list from wikipedia:

This article says there are 30 people (both men and women) in China with congenital generalized hypertrichosis terminalis, a condition causing extensive body hair growth, including a beard.
According to womenshealth.gov, “Between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS. As many as 5 million women in the United States may be affected.” Not everyone with PCOS has facial hair, and most folks don’t let it grow. But, still, there are probably a few who do.
Plus there are various other reasons for a woman to have facial hair.

I like graphs. I’m wishing for a graph of the number of bearded women throughout history (with the y-axis units being “bearded women per capita”). I want it to magically auto-update itself each time a woman stops shaving. I want a graph that would take a little dive if I shaved my beard again for a wedding or some such. I want a graph because I’m curious, and I like data, and I’m curious how my fellow bearded women are doing out there in the world.

And, also, I’ve got a bit of ego in the game. I want to know if I’m starting a trend. I want to know if the number of bearded women is rising slowly but exponentially as we bearded women become more common. I want to know if clusters of bearded women are popping up, centered around prior bearded women, in a pretty fractal pattern. I want to know if anyone else has looked at me, like I looked at Jennifer Miller ten years ago, and thought, “Hm. Maybe I could stop shaving mine.”
I kind of hope so.

Categories: Beard Stories, bearded lady, bearded woman | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beard Stories: Kids

There’s an after-school program for gradeschoolers that meets in the classroom next to mine.

When I left my classroom yesterday afternoon, there was a girl, maybe 9 years old, hair in high tight pigtails with colorful plastic balls on the rubber bands, standing in the hall with her back flat against the wall, looking bored and chastened while her classmates played inside.

She looked at me, and I smiled at her and locked my door behind me.

“Are you a boy?” No emotion yet, just checking.

“Nope,” in a cheery tone.

“A lady?!” her voice incredulous, quiet and breathy.

“Yep!”

She raised her hand to her chin. “You have a beard?” sounding confused, like she was checking her facts, wondering if I was an optical illusion.

“Yep,” nodding.

She considered this for a moment as I walked by her, towards the stairs. “How?” a straightforward question, curious about new information, the kind of tone I hear in my science classes.

“It just grows there,” shrugging my shoulders.

“You should shave it,” she instructed me, having resolved the issue.

“Nah. Too much trouble. And I kind of like it,” smiling.

Her eyes bugged out a little.

At this point I was at the stairway door. “Have a good afternoon!” I called to her as I left.

 

I forget which trans* writer said that they were friendly towards kids asking them gender questions but drew the line at puberty. The writer felt that after about age 12, a person should know better than to ask personal questions of a stranger (or a family member, neighbor, or co-worker for that matter).
I don’t feel the same; I like it when adults ask me curious and non-threatening questions. But, there’s something particularly fun about having a kid ask me about my beard. Their emotions flicker so rapidly, covering a charming range from shock to decisiveness to wonder as they work to fit these new pieces of information into their world.

A good friend of mine has a two-month old, who I’m lucky enough to get to spend lots of time with. It’s fascinating trying to figure out what her tiny brain is making of the changing lights and sounds that swirl around her. When she’s not sleeping, she spends most of her time wide-eyed, staring intently at the ceiling fan, a nose, a hat, a picture of black and white dots. One minute she’s smiling and then next she’s upset, but she spends a lot of the time in between with her little brow furrowed in puzzled concentration. As children sort out the world around them, they spend less and less time astounded, puzzling through the mysteries of everyday events. Grade schoolers still do it a lot, middle schoolers somewhat, adults almost never.

When I teach science, I get to reawaken that “what the heck?” response. I get high schoolers, who think they have it all figured out, to be amazed. I get to make them curious by showing them something completely perplexing. I love the bug-eyed “What just happened?!” look on their faces when I convince them, for example, that plants are made of air or that a clump of atoms has the information to make them who they are.  (I feel particularly proud of myself on days when they actually, literally say things like “Whoa!” or “Wow!”)

I’m only just realizing this now, as I write, but I think this is part of what I like about having my beard. I get to give adults the experience, rare in their grown-up lives of routines and schedules, of encountering something utterly new and yet not dangerous or even upsetting. Usually if an adult encounters something completely new, it’s a scary situation like a disease or a car crash. Outside, perhaps, of international travel, it’s hard for adults to find new experiences in the daily routine of work and home.

On a kid’s face, the stumped curiosity is more visible, but I like catching glimpses of it on an adult’s face, too. I like when an adult is willing to break through everything in their brain telling them they should understand everything already. I like it when an adult is willing to engage with something puzzling, rather than pushing the experience away under the guise of politeness or dismissing it as unimportant to their life.

I like curiosity, fascination, inquisitiveness, and wonder. I like it in babies, I like it in my students, and I think I like it in the people who go a little bug-eyed as I walk by.

Categories: Beard Stories, bearded lady, bearded woman, Positive, Surprising | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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