I don’t actually have a good answer to that even though I think about it a lot. At this point I guess the beard has become so much a part of my identity that I can’t imagine life without it.

It’s hard to recall what my thought process was around growing the beard 10 years ago. I started off with a goatee when I was 18 after having a fake one in a Shakespeare play. Ever since puberty I hated the way my face looked with my jutting cleft chin. Hiding my chin was definitely high on the list of priorities but it probably had something to do with trying to claim some semblance of masculinity. Also a convenience factor since by 17 I was shaving twice a day to go to evening events without visible hair. I took great pride in being one of the few in my dorm who could grow a full beard in the space of a month for No Shave November though it took until 21 for my cheeks to not be patchy.

Oddly growing a beard was a point of big contention with my family. My dad and mom both thought beards were symbols of hippies and rebels and that I wouldn’t be respected with one. Also some religious reasoning that I can’t recall. But I managed to come up with a long list of historical and biblical characters with beards and trace the societal perceptions of facial hair across American history to show that the clean shaven look was a legacy from WWI and II and the negativity had largely faded. So maybe part of it was me trying to be a rebel (in a weirdly conforming way).

Now my beard is so important to me that I avoided researching hormone therapy for a long time because I was mistakenly under the impression that I would lose my ability to grow it on estrogen. But even if I imagine a full surgical and hormonal transition (not something I am planning) I can’t imagine myself with a face I like sans beard.

I’ve only fully shaved twice in the last 10 years and I definitely don’t plan on doing it again without medical necessity. But who knows what hormones might do to soften my face. Maybe there is a future where it’s not necessary. But I’ll probably still choose it.

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