This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
First of all, congratulations on your book! Can’t wait to read it. I hope your publisher gives you very cute tiny celebration hats for your cactus.
I am writing to you in the hopes you could provide some perspective on aging as a queer man. I’m a trans man approaching 30 and I was fortunate enough to get HRT at age 12. The downside is that, in the past couple months, I have noticed my hairline receding and thinning in the front.
My hair has always been one of the few ways I can express myself and feel good about my body. I had been warned about balding but had no idea it could happen so soon. I spent a lot of my teens and early 20s homeless, and only since 2016 have I finally been able to live normally and date freely. I feel a little doomed, as if my chance to be attractive to people, especially men, is about to shatter.
I know that’s not exactly a fair assessment, but I can’t seem to shake it. With the pandemic, it’s not safe to date and socialize for who knows how long, and by then I’ll probably be in an obvious early stage of balding. For the first time in my life, I have the urge to look up anti-aging face cream and hair vitamins. How do I accept this and stop worrying about it? I feel so silly. I know I wouldn’t want anyone else to feel so devalued over their hairline but I can’t seem to internalize it.
Balding & Bawling
Hey there, BB!
Yes, we love to be men attracted to men. It’s so good. I have such a precise visual vocabulary for what is right and wrong with my looks, written and gifted to me by men who probably wouldn’t give me a second thought in the first place. Hell is empty and the demons are all updating their bios on Grindr with things they don’t want.
In any case, I have good news and bad news. It’s one piece of news, actually: There will always be men. This, I know. All your hair could have fallen out of your head by tomorrow morning, and there would still be men who would be attracted to you.
Some men would be even more attracted to you. I, for one, enjoy a receding hairline in a guy. I find it rather rugged, like a cozy oversized flannel, or an international man of mystery who has been on dozens of dangerous missions, or, like, Luke from The Gilmore Girls. You know, that sort of thing.
But enough about other men. We have just one bald(ing) man to worry about today, and that’s you, BB. I don’t think the problem is really whether or not you’ll be able to find someone who is attracted to you. I think the problem is you feel less attractive because your hairline is maturing, and your confidence is taking a hit.
When you think about it, confidence really is everything. I don’t just mean in terms of dating. We need confidence to move with any sense of fruitful purpose through this bumpy, often demoralizing life. Good things will find it hard to reach us if we feel we don’t deserve them.
I would never lie to you, BB. There are stringent beauty standards in place that men are not exempt from. There will be people who dismiss you as a potential romantic partner because of your hair. We are dismissed as potential romantic partners all the time for a litany of reasons: height, skin color, facial features, weight, voices — an endless list.
I suffer over this as well. My quandary is that I’ve found I can’t push through my days without confidence, nor can I reliably induce a state of active love for my body, which, to be clear, could be doing a much better job at accommodating my personal tastes. My solution has been to accept a sort of body agnosticism when necessary.
“Yes, I have a body,” I remind myself when I find I’m being overly critical. I don’t need it to be exceptional, or for people to trip all over themselves complimenting it, or for it to photograph the way I want it to every time (THOUGH IT WOULD BE NICE). I only need it to be mine.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I feel quite beautiful. I treat myself by wearing a nice outfit, or snapping a selfie, or applying one of the million placebo creams on tap that promise to make me immortal, and I think, Yes, I am a succubus. These moments come and go. I seize on them when they show up. When they make themselves scarce, I take comfort in the steady drum of my newfound whateverism: Yes, I have a body. Yes, I have a body.
And I think too there’s something to be said about changing our bodies if and when we feel like it or are able. There are creams and pills for this “balding” business. They’re quite expensive! Point is, it’s not a binary of “radical acceptance” and “desperation.” You shouldn’t feel bad about pursuing things for the sake of aesthetics. It’s your body.
There are also things like tattoos, exercises, fashion choices, and so on that can put us more in control of our appearances. Do it! Do whatever you want! But while you’re tinkering with that freedom, try to remember: You have it because you are yours and yours alone. You get to decide how you feel about the facts of yourself.
And if it’s at all possible, even if only from time to time, for you to feel like you simultaneously have a receding hairline and are criminally handsome, well, BB, I do hope you let yourself.
Con mucho amor,
Originally published on November 2, 2020.
This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, here.