Beard Stories: Life as a Bearded Woman
By Rae Goodman For
Last week, Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman with a beard, made Internet headlines after a stranger posted her picture in the “funny” category with the caption “I’m not sure what to conclude from this.” Her response and the ensuing discussion gave the public a glance into the life of one bearded woman.
I, too, am a bearded woman. It’s a less eventful life than one might imagine. It seems that most people, like the one who snapped Ms. Kaur’s photo, are unsure what to make of my appearance. I’ve gotten a variety of questions in the three years I’ve had my beard. “Is that real?” “How do you grow that?” “Are you a boy or a girl?” But usually people say nothing.
The second most common response, contrary to what I expected, but consistent with Ms. Kaur’s experience, has been support and encouragement. Sometimes it has come from thoroughly unexpected places.
I was waiting in line for a crowded public restroom. An older Latina woman in a uniform pushed her cleaning cart past the people in line. As she passed me, she stopped, gestured to her chin, and told me that I was a beautiful and strong person.
I was sitting in a taqueria. A homeless man came around to each table, asking for change. When he got to me, he stopped, did a double take, raised his sunglasses to look closer, and then said, “You’re great! You’re just beautiful. I want you to know that. You’re just beautiful! I mean handsome. I mean, you’re just great. You know, when the voices in your head tell you you have to hate gay people, they’re not always right. You don’t always have to listen to the voices in your head. They don’t know everything. You’re beautiful!”
I was in Nicaragua, and a toothless old man walked unsteadily but surprisingly quickly towards me, crossing the street to stop me. He asked if my beard was real, and when he heard it was, he said that he loved it and he wishes his wife would grow her beard. Then he asked me for a hug.
Time after time, women have come up to me and complimented me on my courage. Many have told me that they, too, have facial hair, which they go to great and sometimes painful lengths to keep hidden. There are far more potentially-bearded women out there in the world than most people would guess. I hope that someday more of them feel comfortable enough to make choices about their beards based on their personal preferences rather than fear of ridicule.
For more funny, sad, sweet, and surprising stories about what it’s like to live as a bearded woman, check out beardstories.com