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Mackenzie Costello

Mackenzie's Story :

Like the character of a carefully planned novel, my story had an unusual beginning.  It started with me sitting in the back of my dad’s car dressed like Sailor Pluto, pulling bobby pins out of my hair, which was frozen solid in their hair sprayed place. The green wig I’d been wearing all day was somewhat unceremoniously dripping onto the floor, and I wondered to myself for the first time what the point of having long hair was.

I guess if you wanted to, you could go back earlier- fifteen years earlier- but that day, cosplaying at the Fan Expo convention in Toronto, was the first time I remember thinking about cutting my hair. Images of my Barbie dolls with tortured haircuts flashed before my eyes- and I pushed the thought of a haircut to the back of my mind, which wasn’t too difficult, with my bobby pinned head throbbing.

For the next year and a half, that thought kept coming back to me- and every time someone else brought up my hair, I would tell them I was thinking of cutting it. And all the while, I went about life making no effort to actually prepare for that eventuality. I was too scared to do anything, partially because I thought that it would end up looking awful and I would be stuck with it for months before it grew into something different. I couldn’t remember the last time I had even been to a hairdresser- I’d been letting my split ends grow for years without any thought.

I was mainly scared, though, that when I cut my hair everyone I met would assume that I was gay, and I knew that I wasn’t ready to come out like that yet. It was one thing to be out to my friends, and to be the coordinator of my school’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance, which at the time only involved planning a bake sale now and again. It was a totally separate, and much more terrifying prospect, to think about incorporating that bit of gender non-conformity as a staple of my life. I couldn’t hide behind a couple of braids anymore- I knew that cutting my hair meant giving up the last little bit of control I had over what strangers thought of me.

During March break in grade 11, I found myself in a dark mood, having spent most of the day crying. I took a piece of paper and wrote down all of the things in my life that frustrated me. I hated the feeling of dead hair hanging on the back of my neck. I hated having to look for hair elastics. I hated having to spend so much time brushing knots out of my hair. I realized that, of the things that I could control on that list, cutting my hair could solve most of those problems.

I cut my hair that week, donated it all to charity, and I never looked back.

In the remainder of high school, I dedicated almost all of my free time to my school’s GSA, planning events, spirit weeks, awareness campaigns, and fundraisers which raised hundreds of dollars to support local LGBTQ+ organizations. I made my school the first in the KPR school board to fly the transgender flag, and in 2018 I was the recipient of the Serving With Pride Youth Advocate Award. I now study writing at the University of Victoria in BC, where I’m working as Project Organizer for UVic’s Gender Empowerment Centre.