Over the weekend I went to visit my family and, as part of the visit, attended church with my family to make my grandmother happy. This is always a trying experience for me for a variety of reasons. There are the uncomfortable pews that tend to make my pain worse (which is exhausting). There’s the constant hugging and touching without consent that sets my skin on fire. There’s the piteous looks my husband and I receive for being disabled people who dare to exist. But one moment in particular stood out this time. It’s a comment that has been on my mind ever since.
While sitting with my grandmother, the woman in front of us turned around to introduce herself to me and in the process commented on how it is so brave that I cut my hair the way it is. For reference, my head is shaved on one side and the remaining hair is dyed red. For my grandmother’s sake, I brushed off the comment in the moment but it was one that wormed its way under my skin. It’s not the first time I’ve received this comment and I’m sure it won’t be the last, yet it’s one that always irks me.
Wearing my hair as I do is not brave. Having part of my head shaved is not brave. It’s simply a stylistic choice I’ve made. Sure, I receive some unpleasant comments and glances for the way I wear my hair. Sure, I’ve been treated differently for appearing the way I do, but, to me, wearing my hair in this way is not brave.
This may seem like an insignificant comment to be bothered by. It was just a passing comment that I’m sure was intended to be a compliment, but it’s one that really bothers me.
I am brave. I have done many things that I consider to be brave, but cutting my hair is not one of them. To me, adding cutting my hair to the list of bravery feels like an insult to the times I actually have been brave.
I was brave when I went to the police after getting raped again even though I wanted nothing more than to lay in bed and cry. I was brave when I went to get help to deal with the trauma. I was brave when I stood up in front of a crowd to tell the story of my most intimate betrayal to a group of strangers. I was brave when I went on live national TV to talk about getting raped and the problem of rape on college campuses.
I am brave when I get out of bed each morning while my insides scream in pain and each movement feels impossible. I am brave when I go to work each day despite the pain and fatigue. I am brave when I fight through the clutches of depression to see another day. I am brave when I face off with my hallucinations even as fear takes hold and my body trembles. I am brave when I go into a store knowing that it will be sensory hell and I’ll have to interact with strangers despite the anxiety it gives me. I am brave when I stim in public without regard for what others will think.
I am brave in many ways. Each day requires acts of bravery from me just to accomplish the things that must be done for mine and my husband’s survival. As a person with multiple disabilities that affect my every waking moment, bravery is necessary for my continued existence. The trauma I have suffered has led me to acts of bravery. All of these things were brave, as well as moments I can’t think of right now. I am proud of my bravery and the ways it makes me who I am as a person. To include a simple act of cutting my hair into a moderately popular hairstyle demeans the true acts of bravery I participate in every day.
I am brave in the face of my disabilities and trauma, please don’t diminish that by calling something so trivial brave.