The end of that year was also the first year I attended Kaleidoscope Gathering. That was the week in which I was gifted my flower and horn crown, and was told over and over “Oh, you look like a beautiful Dionysus!”. And that’s where it all really started.
That was two years ago. Immediately after that week, I lost my job and in a panic to make myself more ‘marketable’, I cut off my hard-earned locks. I hated myself for it. Having been given my 2 weeks notice at the job I hated, I cut off my hair and suddenly everyone who had been ragging on me was telling me how sharp I looked, how handsome I was, how much better I was doing. It gutted me to think that I was winning them over simply because I looked “normal”.
I decided I was going to undo this. My hair had been a turning point for me. It was what sparked my relationship with Dionysus, and I wanted so badly to see Him in me again, so I promised to grow my hair out as long as it took so that I could donate it to charity, in His name.
As I mentioned earlier, the act of not cutting your hair doesn’t actually require much work. Anybody with long hair will tell you that maintenance is a lot of effort, but compared to some other devotional promises, it can been seen as ‘easy’.
This, however, does not mean that the act wasn’t impactful, or that it didn’t shape new parts of me.
In growing out my hair I’ve been faced with a few things…
Firstly, being a male with long hair really is a big deal to some people, apparently. I have been gawked at, pawed, and commented on more often for having long hair than I have for wearing makeup sometimes. The reactions have come from both ends of the spectrum; people telling me that I’m beautiful, and that I have baby soft curls, or people asking me “But you’re so handsome, why would you do this?”
Secondly, it really has changed the way that I see other men. When I stopped fighting against my hair, I started to appreciate other guys and their aesthetic choices as well, regardless of my previous tastes. This has happened to me before. When I was younger I used to shave my chest (you can only be called “disgusting” so many times before it starts to affect you). I’ve stopped doing that for a long time now, but as I became more comfortable with my body hair, I became more comfortable with other people’s as well. I don’t swoon over a hairy chest now, but I can appreciate it, and admire a guy who is comfortable (or even better still, happy) with his body hair. The same has happened with the hair on my head; I used to cringe at guys with long hair. Now, I see boys my age with ponytails and I can’t help but smile. I notice the difference between a greasy, I-don’t-give-a-fuck ponytail, and someone who takes care of and pampers their hair. I appreciate it in a way I never had before, and I see beautiful things in more people than I ever did before.
Neither of these things relates directly to Dionysus, per se. But the bulk of my work with Him is about breaking barriers, and getting rid of old and useless schema or points of view. It started in a lot of very important, personal ways (which I talk about here), and now is moving on to include things just within, or just beyond my personal sphere of influence. I no longer see people, their bodies, and their self expression in the same limited ways that I once did, because I’ve lived differently through my hair and have learned to love and appreciate these differences.
One hugely important experience that I’ve had to face in the last two years, and this is a very important part of my work with Dionysus, is being misgendered. In my exploration of Dionysus, I’ve found great comfort in a god that isn’t hyper-masculine and with whom my queerness is not only acceptable, but could be seen as sacred. It gives me great strength to work with Him and see the sacred queerness in myself and others, but it is still something that I struggle with. I come from a tiny town, and was raised in a Catholic environment for many of my formative years. After that I was pumped full of stereotypical self-depricating jealousy and lust for all things “masc.” in the gay community. So, while I wanted to wear makeup and be fabulous, I didn’t want anyone to call me ‘fem’, or to imply that I was a ‘fefe’ or, god forbid assume that I was a bottom.
Growing out my hair, people still assume I am all of those things, but people on the street will think I am not only a feminine man, but that I am a woman. And that raised my hackles in a big way. It hurt, and it made me angry. I could never pinpoint why, especially because I was so openly flamboyant and self-aware in every other situation. And then I realized that it was because those reactions weren’t my own. I had learned to be offended if someone thought I was feminine; not because I thought there was anything wrong with it, but because peopletold me there was.
I am still working through that personal baggage, but having grown out my hair and having been faced with being misgendered, I really have learned, just like I said before, to open my eyes a bit wider and take account of what I find attractive, or acceptable, or even shameful, and to assess its truth. To see if these feelings are really my own, or if they are learned, hurtful behaviours. What’s wrong with people thinking (or, well, realizing…) I am feminine, or a mistaking me for a female, or calling me fefe, or a bottom? There’s nothing wrong with being any of those things, so I have to address these issues within myself.
Finally, as strange as it may sound, I’ve experienced a little bit of real sadness, and uncertainty since I’ve started growing my hair out. People don’t understand what an act of devotion is in the world in which we live. People don’t understand why I would ever do something like this ‘to myself’. Nevermind that I think I am beautiful because I see Dionysus in me when I look in the mirror. Nevermind that I feel strong and proud of my commitment. People have said some really hurtful things during this experience to me, and they’ve tested my metal the whole way through.
Even my fiance dreams of the day I’ll cut off my hair. He hates it (though he respects it). Tonight I was told by a friend of mine “You’ve made me realize how shallow I can be. I thought you were so incredibly sexy! And then you grew your hair long…and now…”. And those are just two I can think up off the top of my head. I can’t count how many people have blocked me on social media sites as soon as I sent them a photo of me without a hat on. It starts to hurt after a while. In part it is my ego, and I have to be able to respect people’s tastes, but it is also in part that people seem so flippant and disrespectful towards me because of their tastes. They think my hair is unattractive, and suddenly I no longer worth their manners.
But, really, this isn’t about me in the end. This has been a devotional act in reverence to Dionysus. He has brought so much to me, and as I watch chaos float around this city from day to day like a rainbow coloured bubble, I just smile and think “I see you.” As people call me “Madame”, I just try to smirk, sissy my walk, and say “You are in me, here.” When I wash my hair, I imagine all of the hard eyes and harsh words washing down the drain and I think “I am new for you now.”
In 3 weeks it will be my 2 year anniversary with Dionysus, and I will be cutting all of my hair off.
Part of me is relieved, for all the vein and shallow and egocentric reasons you can think of. Though part of me is sad as well, because I’ve grown to love my hair, and what it represents to me.
I love my god, I love myself more and more, and I love the people and the world around me, all because I allowed myself and forced myself to love my hair.