“I always wanted my brother’s trucks, but my sisters got me girly clothing for Christmas. I would cry. They would tell me, ‘You’re a girl, this is what girls wear,’ but I never actually would.”
Chara remembers her youth as a tomboy- avoiding dresses, opting for a jean jumper and baggy shirts until thinned by her body’s wear. For eight years, beginning at the age of six, Chara wanted to be a boy. The closest she ever felt to living her sisters’ version of girlhood was during the period of time she sported a weave. Draped along her shoulders, she certainly felt more feminine, but it weighed heavily on her back and on her understanding of herself, “I felt unrecognizable.”
Sprouting just north of her skull, today Chara’s hair is short. When she was seven, a bully told her she looked like a boy. She reflects on these tormenting moments as numerous, sprinkled as normalcy throughout her life up until three years ago. Now as a woman of nineteen, Chara shares that this continued as she got older, but sometimes she liked when people were unsure of her identity, “Maybe because a part of me still associates with being a boy.”
Throughout her childhood, Chara’s brother was able to stay out late into the night while she had to return home by sundown. “My brother got more freedom than I did.” Finally attaining that freedom, at fourteen she traveled to the United States for schooling at Garrison Forrest. During an assembly, the student body watched the movie, Hair, followed by a conversation centered on the question, ‘What does hair means to you’? Chara reflects that this was one of the more compelling conversations she took part in; “We were all able to learn more about different cultures through hair and this brought us closer.”
Chara has an air of ease when it comes to her image. One afternoon, Chara’s sister, Boggie, was cutting her hair in preparation for perm. Her niece knocked at the bathroom door startling Boggie, who accidentally snipped far more than planned, “she broke off my hair. It was okay though, I didn’t have a problem with it. I wore a wig cap for one month.” She tells me, “Many young Bahamian girls have shorter hair, and a lot of them are lesbian or bisexual, but not all of them. People just assumed I was when I took the wig cap off.” Regardless, Chara has always stayed short and herself regardless of judgment.
Recently, Chara decided to take a break from cutting her hair. She has plans to grow it down to her shoulders, but first, it must grow up. She wears it contained in a headband atop her head. Soon, she will have it braided to train its shape downwards. There are moments when she wishes she had different hair, “I’ve definitely broken some combs…When my American friends tell me their hair is hard to brush, I just look at them like, ‘really?!’” For now, Chara is an experimenter, but one who knows herself well and knows what she stands for. “I feel happier when my hair is shorter, but I am also excited.” She is eager to see how her hair affects her as she grows alongside it. She is open to change, but that jean jumper and those baggy shirts will always be stitched deep in those roots or simply in her heart.