How My "Bisexual Bob" Helped Me Come Out

I cut my hair into a bob during my freshman year of college, and less than two weeks later, I came out as bisexual. This was not a coincidence. The Bisexual Bob (favorite famous examples of this haircut here and here) was a way to dip my toes in admitting I might not be straight—I was trying to confirm that "gay" looked good on me.

When I returned to my freshman bob a year ago, after several years of long hair, I wanted to look more visibly queer. Even though I’ve been in a long-term relationship with a man, I’d been thinking about the way being bi has affected the course of my life. The ripple effects of my sexuality haven’t stopped just because I’ve chosen a male partner, and I wanted my appearance to match the way I felt inside.

What is the Bisexual Bob?

Cropped between the chin and the shoulders, the haircut isn’t quite long or short, an incidental reflection of the way bi women aren’t fully straight or gay. 

But at the same time, when my friends asked why I cut my hair, it felt embarrassing to admit that I’d made the chop to look gayer. "There’s no such thing as a gay hairstyle," one of my straight friends told me, a well-meaning attempt to encourage me to wear my hair however I liked it best. But this isn’t true. While sure, not every queer person has the same hairstyle, and not everyone with a bob is bisexual, your appearance is a statement about who you are. Every day, most of us make choices, conscious or unconscious, geared towards projecting a certain image—maybe it’s a professional low bun, or a carefree wash of neon eyeshadow—to try and attract the people we want in our lives. But this "mask" we put on doesn’t always mean painting over our insecurities, hiding who we are. We use beauty and style for self-expression, to amplify the parts of us we want other people to connect with. Cutting my hair was a subtle way to signal that I’m proud of who I am, and who I’ve loved.

We use beauty and style for self-expression, to amplify the parts of us we want other people to connect with.

Beauty and style are integral to LGBTQ+ history, where aesthetic choices have helped queer people find each other for decades—with carefully placed bandanas, undercuts, and septum piercings, to name only a few examples. This has been especially true in places and times unsafe to be out, which is why it felt shallow to celebrate my new bob and what it meant to me. While I’m lucky to live among people who embrace my identity, to have friends who encourage me to examine my sexuality instead of ignore it, it’s also true my bisexuality is hidden under my long-term relationship with a man. I pass as heterosexual in situations where queerness can (unfortunately still) risk your physical, emotional, and financial security. This is important to recognize, especially in an age where queerness can also be trendy—where celebrities and corporations often co-opt a queer aesthetic for profit. Plus, people already treat bisexuality as frivolous, a phase you pass through before you settle on a single gender. I want to respect my identity, not tie it to a trend: a bob I can try, then grow out if it goes out of style.

bisexual bob
Kathryn Vandervalk

However, trying out a new haircut was what helped me first admit I was attracted to other women, and that I had been for a long time. I was inspired to get the Bisexual Bob when I met my friend’s roommate, Rachel—uncoincidentally, also my first college crush on a girl. I met her while I was getting ready to go to a frat party, and her messy brown bob and effortless white t-shirt suddenly made me self-conscious. I realized my own cascading hair and see-through blouse was a costume, one designed to impress frat boys I didn’t even like.

I described Rachel’s haircut to my stylist at home over spring break, and she made the chop. It was the old gay cliché: I was unsure whether I wanted to be like Rachel or be with her. Now, I understand the answer was both. Cutting my hair like hers was my first attempt to signal that I wanted other queer women, and also that I belonged with them.

I came back from spring break and—armed with my fresh, identical bob—gathered the courage to flirt with Rachel at a party. "You were my hair inspiration!" I confessed, four tequila shots deep. We spent the whole night talking in the hallway together, but I still wasn’t brave enough to face the fact that I liked girls, much less tell the one in front of me I liked her specifically. So at the end of the night, I let the guy I’d been seeing pull me out the door. For days after, I felt crushing disappointment, the cause too obvious to ignore. I came out to my close friends immediately.

I realized my own cascading hair and see-through blouse was a costume, one designed to impress frat boys I didn’t even like.

Like my (ill-advised) frat party fashion during freshman year, my new Bisexual Bob was a costume, too. But this time, I was trying to look like the woman I wanted to become. I didn’t just cut my hair because I wanted to look bi—I did it because I wanted to be bi, to inhabit the parts of me I’d been hiding away.

This bob was the first beauty choice I made for myself—before that, I’d been trying to dress up as an Attractive Woman, one with default long locks, like a Barbie. When I cut off my hair, it was the first time I pursued what I thought was beautiful instead of trying to optimize myself for male attention, giving myself the best chance that an acceptable jock would notice me and ask to walk me home. My previous haircuts had all been borne of fear—I was so afraid of being considered ugly or unlovable by men I hadn’t stopped to look around and consider what I really wanted. When I decided to stop making decisions out of fear, both for my haircuts and my dating life, I felt immediately more myself.

But this quest for self-acceptance wasn’t complete—in fact, it still isn’t. I met my long-term boyfriend soon after this, and over the years, my hair returned to its original length. I was delinquent about getting trims, because my hairstylist lived in New Jersey and I went to school in Chicago. But one day last year, I noticed my split ends climbing up towards my scalp, and I resolved to return to the bob.

First, I told myself I’d make the chop after I lost five pounds. Then, as my split ends became more and more tattered, I realized again I was acting out of fear. I wanted to ensure I still fit the mold of a “conventionally attractive” heterosexual woman. I would only allow myself to get a queer haircut after I made myself “more attractive” to patriarchal society by losing weight.

When I decided to stop making decisions out of fear, both for my haircuts and my dating life, I felt immediately more myself.

So again, I faced my fears and made the chop. The construction workers on my block stopped catcalling me, which made me simultaneously relieved and insecure. But this time around, I understood it would take more than a haircut for me to feel happy and confident in my own skin. Maybe I’ll grow out my hair in the future, or maybe I won’t. The best way to respect my identity is to keep fighting the impulse to center my beauty and style choices around male preferences. Being the best version of myself means committing to a lifetime of trying to filter out what I want from what society has told me I’m supposed to want. 

No haircut has the power to do all that work for me—but my Bisexual Bob was a great first step.

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