We can often feel pressure to look and behave a certain way. But when you’re a transgender couple navigating society’s beauty ideals and finding your true self can be one of the biggest obstacles you’ll ever face. We talk to couple Jake and Hannah Graf about how transitioning and living as their authentic selves gave them true confidence.
As a trans person, do you think there is pressure to look a certain way?
J: As a trans man (especially if you are binary) there is a big pressure to have a beard and facial hair to blend in. You’re expected to conform and look cisnormative.
I was in the British Army whilst I transitioned, so I had a short back and sides. But there isn’t anything you can really do to grow out a short back and sides into a ‘female haircut’. – Hannah
H: As a trans woman, you feel the effects and pressures to conform and look a certain way just like any other woman does in society. A lot of trans women go for that high femme look early on because that’s how femininity is portrayed in the media. But I do find that nowadays I’m a little less conforming and just try to be myself.
How did your hair play a part in your transition?
J: I’ve always had short hair. I grew my hair very briefly but realised it was not me. Post-transition, my hair’s got marginally shorter and obviously, I’ve grown a beard, which I’ve kept short and neat.
I like coconut oil and dry shampoo is a must. – Hannah
H: I was in the British Army whilst I transitioned, so I had a short back and sides. But there isn’t anything you can really do to grow out a short back and sides into a ‘female haircut’.
Afterwards, I got expensive extensions (which weren’t the best things in the world). I had them for way too long and my hair became knotted but eventually, the hairdressers made it into a nice bob. After that, I went a bit longer than I am now but it was a bit too long as my hair is thin.
What’s your hair routine?
H: Now, I shampoo and condition but I’m still not very good with my hair because while other young women were experimenting with their hair, I wasn’t able to have that experience. I learnt much later in life! I usually keep it very simple. I’ve got thin hair that dries quite quickly in the shower, so I shampoo and condition, let it dry naturally.
What are your favourite products?
J: I just shampoo and condition and then use hair wax.
Jake, you have a great beard, tell us about your first experience shaving?
Now that I’m confident in my own masculinity, I’m happy to mix it up and also buy the women’s stuff too. It usually smells much nicer! – Jake
J: I’d watch my dad shave and I always wanted to shave so as a kid I’d get those fake razors or pretend with a spoon. When my beard finally started growing, I had no moustache so I’d scrape at my top lip, to make it grow (which it doesn’t!). When it finally came through, I grew it as long as possible. But now I keep it neat and trimmed.
How did you find shopping for beauty products after transitioning?
H: I found it terrifying. You’re conscious of your appearance and how people perceive you, so being a trans woman in a very feminine space can be intimidating because you are worried you’ll be questioned (it never happened). However, you do get more comfortable.
J: I used to buy everything in the big, black, masculine bottles and but now that I’m confident in my own masculinity, I’m happy to mix it up and also buy the women’s stuff too. It usually smells much nicer!
What do you do to feel confident?
J: After I transitioned, I could walk down the street and feel comfortable in my own skin and live in a real, authentic and genuine way as the man I always knew myself to be. And obviously, being married to my beautiful wife has helped too!
H: When you’ve not been your authentic self it takes its toll on you. Just being open with myself gives me confidence. But working out and keeping a healthy body also makes all the difference.
Don’t judge yourself against other people. – Hannah
What do you wish you knew about transitioning?
J: You are treated very differently by society when you are a woman and when you are a man. I’m not sure anyone can really be ready for that switch so I wish that was something I had known.
H: I wish I had been told that it’s not all about you. Remember that your friends, your family, your colleagues are all transitioning with you too.
What tip you would give someone transitioning?
J: You’ll wish you had a moustache, a beard and bigger muscles, and be desperate for the whole thing to happen so you feel comfortable in your own skin, but every step is a wonderful journey. Make sure you enjoy it!
H: Don’t judge yourself against other people. We can be quick to think I want to be like them but it’s all very individual. You’ll get to the place where you feel happy in the end.