Pardon me, but I have a secret to share with you. Actually, it’s not a secret to the clients who see me on a regular basis, but…er…the headshot on my website is kind of out of date. By about eight inches. Yes, I’m a male therapist with long hair.
It’s shoulder length at this point. I tie it back in a ponytail or some sort of foldover or “man bun” most of the time. It’s always tied back when I see clients—doing so fits the professional image that I want to put forth. I’ve been growing it since about September 2016 and it’s about ten inches in length at this point. This is the third time in my life I’ve made a serious effort to grow it out—the other two times were when I was in my early teens and early twenties respectively.
Why be a male therapist with long hair? To walk my talk.
As a therapist and an advocate for mental health, I firmly believe that boys and men should feel free to grow their hair as they wish. Who are they harming by having long hair? Workplaces and schools with short hair dress codes are doing more harm than good. By pushing such conformity, these institutions tell us that:
- Our bodies are not our own. Others have the right to impose their will on our bodies.
- What other people think is more important than how we feel.
- What’s on the surface is more important than what’s inside.
Instilling self-doubt in people by denigrating a person’s otherwise harmless choices can lead to self-doubt in other critical areas of life.
I felt compelled to cut off my long hair in my mid-twenties, and I felt like I’d lost a big part of myself doing so. I’d needed a job when I moved back to my home town of Chicago but I seemed to have difficulty finding one that matched my skills. Noting that the Windy City seemed a lot more conservative than what I’d been used to on the West Coast, I reluctantly decided to cut my hair.
The haircut certainly allowed me to land a job which gave me excellent mentors and valuable experience. But there was one thing that I absolutely HATED HATED HATED about that job (besides not being able to wear my hair long)—being required to wear a shirt and tie to work every day. Some people are comfortable with that uniform—but I wasn’t. I felt I had to work hard to be somebody I wasn’t. Such effort was very draining. The more energy I put into being someone else, the harder it became for me to just be myself.
Entering my career as a therapist, I realized that while I needed to be professional, I also needed to be myself. I did not think I would serve my profession well if I didn’t let myself be myself.
If you think I am being overly dramatic, consider the stories told by parents of boys with long hair. One of the most moving stories concerns a mother whose son was fighting for his life with a rare disease, and once she decided to honor his wishes and let him grow his hair long, he sailed through physical therapy and became an amazing, unique, creative child.
I have been following the bloggers El Moreno and El Rubio on the Longhairs.us website during much of my recent longhair journey, and they’ve provided a number of useful tips. (I sometimes post in their comments section as “El Terapeuta” which is Spanish for “The Therapist.”) They have been excellent advocates for men and boys with long hair, and many parents of long-haired boys have turned to them for support. Many parents report that while the teasing and bullying their children receive for long hair has been difficult, it has also been character-building for these children when they get family support for their decisions. Many of these children have learned to politely defend themselves or have witty retorts ready in the face of being picked on. This can provide valuable life lessons for other times when these children will need to assert themselves—especially as adults.
This is why the world needs at least more male therapist with long hair.
Of course, the importance of being true to oneself extends well beyond hair. Indeed, my challenges in being accepted as a male therapist with long hair are trivial compared to the stigma that many other people have to overcome. Thankfully,
- More people feel free than ever to be open about their sexual orientation.
- The body-positive movement seeks acceptance of people with all sorts of body shapes.
- The Disability Pride movement seeks to erase the stigma and barriers that disabled people face.
- More and more people are awakening to their freedom to express their gender in a way that feels comfortable and natural to them—regardless of current societal gender norms and regardless of what gender they physically were born with or labeled.
(Note: the Trump Administration is currently trying to define transgender people out of existence. The transgender community is standing up for themselves in response to this development. The #WontBeErased hashtag is currently going viral.)
In the meantime, an updated picture of me will have to wait until I find some time with a professional photographer. The thing about me and pictures is that I have this involuntary reflex that immediately produces the most awkward facial expressions imaginable whenever a camera is pointed my way, meaning that I require professional photography help. In the meantime, I will keep you entertained with a longhair stunt that you should probably never try at home–especially if you live in Florida.