Military Haircuts

The last few weeks have been particularly challenging for me. For the first time in years, I felt like giving up... then, I found my "second wind" to be human.

I wasn't sure I was ever going to write this article. Recently, on the evening of September 18, I finally decided that maybe I should quit, to give up on everything and everyone: my family, my friends, my supporters, my court-martial appeal, and my other legal battles  --  even my articles for the Guardian and my Medium debut. Basically, I nearly surrendered.

You see, that evening I found out that the military was going to force me to keep my hair cut very short, to the "male" hair standard.

I didn't take the news well. I felt sick. I felt sad. I felt gross  --  like Frankenstein's monster wandering around the countryside avoiding angry mobs with torches and pitch forks.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to close the door to my cell, turn out the lights, and shun the world outside. I did exactly that. And then I cried, and cried, sniffled a little bit, and then cried some more. This went on until around midnight.

I wanted to cry myself to sleep on the concrete floor, but a guard came by twice and started asking me if I was okay. "Yes, I'm fine," I said. I was not okay, though. It wasn't his fault; he was just a young guy, maybe 20 years old, I thought to myself.

Then I started to think really dark thoughts. You know, "emo"-goth stuff, like "black isn't dark enough of a color for me."

After five years  --  and more  --  of fighting for survival, I had to fight even more. I was out of energy.

I called Chase Strangio, my ACLU lawyer, and I cried. As my legal counsel, he represents me in this lawsuit to challenge the hair policy that makes and treats me like a monster or a problem. But I just wanted love and support, and someone to cry to when I was feeling alone. He did such a wonderful job just listening to me.

After feeling devastated, humiliated, hurt, and rejected -- and after wanting to give up on the world  --  I found my "second wind" of sorts.

I can make it just a little longer. I just hope it's not too much longer.

I hope to use this platform as a place to document my experience and share my story and, maybe even begin a conversation. Going through such a seismic, existential shift in my life  --  transitioning in a military prison -- presents real, meaningful, and daily challenges. I want to hear your thoughts and questions so we can continue to have a dialogue. I also look forward to reading the stories you are brave enough to share with the world so we can understand each other and define ourselves on our own terms.

This post first appeared on Medium. Cross-posted with permission of the author.