Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hair and the Scalping Fiascos


Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

This post was prompted by two discussions I’ve had over the year: one I had with a few friends, who are well-meaning cis-allies but they have their moments of fail, and a blind-date conversation that turned horrible racist. With my friends specifically, I didn’t feel this was necessarily a trans-fail, because, to be honest, I know very few white-FTM individuals who actively keep their hair long. It sort of seemed like a race-fail, with some gender-fail sprinkling on top of it. The other guy? Well, you’ll see he had no excuse.

The question was: Dan, why do you keep your hair long?

It went into the typical argument that I’ve even heard amongst transgender community: I wouldn’t be taken seriously as a male. Really? Hair suddenly determines my sex and gender identity? I actually thought my hair determined if I was emo (see: days when I had scene hair), and what tribe I was from, or if I washed it that day. Of course, I doubt most tribes have purple in their hair, but I digress.

Since 2009/New Years 2010, I decided to keep my hair long. It’s been a love-hate process, because I constantly have to make validity of trans-ness (should I trademark that?) arguments, my Vitamin D deficiency (it almost feels rickets-y, I swear) has much of my hair in very dry, thin, and sometimes crinkled (literally, crinkled. It is not nappy, this is different) state, and it’s such a thick bundle that I can barely do anything besides traditional hair styles unless I super-condition it with sodium lauryl sulfates. It has taken longer for my hair to grow out, but I hopefully can get it to where it was when I was 5 or so. It was so long, that it fanned out around my butt when I sat down. I should really find a picture for you folks.

So feeling comfortable with my hair, obviously, has been a sliding scale. Then comes Mr. Bigot, who I regret letting him know that I was part Native American. It was a simple thing really; he asked why I had a Native American textbook with me. I explained why I was taking the class, etc, and was trying to lay some charm down. In a matter of 20 minutes this happened: I don’t know what he was thinking, but I think he was trying to be suave when he leaned over his coffee and whispered that other Indians would be jealous of my hair, enough to scalp it. See my face when, and then two seconds later.

…Let that take a moment to register. This player really thought he could a) be sexy while mention scalping, and b) that the concept of scalping can be reduced to mere jealousy.

Let me tell you something: scalping was mostly done by white people. Tribes who practiced scalping did it on such a small scale; it was never for jealousy of wanting white hair. Scalping was a means to demean someone usually non-fatally (though, there could be a valid argument for infection leading to possible death). I don’t remember any stories of Indians in the Plains Wars putting spikes of White people’s heads in front of their towns (but white people sure did. See “The End Nears”, second paragraph.)

Let me tell you about the 3rd Colorado Cavalry, where men returned to Fort Lyons brandishing vaginas, testicles, and breasts adorned on themselves, their horses, and guns. Wikipedia is too “polite” to detail what exactly the “body parts” were, but in oral tradition, we know. Some books will detail it, but even they are dismissed by Proper Historian Society. This was all done to a man, Black Kettle, who wore a fucking American Flag on his tipi. Some of my people were there, and probably few, if any, survived the Sand Creek Massacre, probably joined other bands of Kiowa. Scalpings of Indian men, women, and children were sometimes state and/or federally sanctioned for bounty collecting. That means, folks, kill an injun = get paid.
Whenever someone thinks of scalping, it’s always attributed to the Native American population. Even though, you European folk have Visigoths that also did this, and even Ancient Greece had scalping. Need I remind you of the French Revolution? Guillotine, anyone? If even the French, who are supposedly the highest in regards to “high culture”, practiced something even worse than taking someone’s hair. Clearly, there is substantial evidence dating back to Plymouth Friggin’ Rock of pure decapitation, not just scalping. So in conclusion folks, scalping wasn’t just an “Indian thing”.