Tag Archives: straight

POEM: Not the Straight & Narrow

Twists and turns, kinks and curls, unexpected bends and swirls.

Sounds familiar, right?

Black people, you know what I’m on about right? When we raise our hands to our heads

Or look in the mirror we see it growing out of our very scalp, don’t we?

Well that’s not what I’m talking about, though it’s kind of related.

It’s not immediately clear but that’ll soon be explicated.

You see: hair symbolises life, and different hair types symbolise different life paths.

The path to eternal salvation and bliss is the straight and narrow,

Straight because it’s direct, clear-cut, linear,

Narrow because it takes skill and effort to stay upon it,

Like your life depends on staying on this one and only path like a tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon.

But real life doesn’t go like that. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone.

Nobody always knows where they’re coming from and even less where they’re going to.

Destiny, life, whatever you want to call it, goes in different directions.

Some we like, some we don’t, but at least there’s always options.

How many options? More than the hairs on your head, and new ones are constantly growing.

See a spider’s web? One thread breaks, others are woven in its place.

The journey doesn’t end because the destinations don’t stay still.

Where do they come from? Where do they go to? Don’t know, can’t always know.

1 path, 1 straight and narrow path, leaves no room to turn back or turn aside,

No room for change, no space for adventure, nowhere to manoeuvre to turn the tide of past mistakes.

But countless paths, countless twisting knotting curling ways

Inspire adaptability, give the chance to start afresh,

And increase our spatial awareness like we’re looking at a maze.

That’s why I don’t believe in the one and only, the straight and narrow path,

And after hearing this, do you?

 

 

© ONE TAWNY STRANGER 2014

What’s all this fuss about natural hair?

Human hair naturally comes in different textures:

Afro-haired woman from Nossi-bé, Madagascar

Curly, also called coiled, spiralled or type 3. Though some like to think so, I don’t really think of afro hair (also called kinky, nappy, type 4 and less commonly crisped, woolly, fleecy, frizzy or crinkly) as separate from curly. To me it’s just the extreme end of curly so I refer to it as such, although it too can be divided into further gradations

Wavy, also called type 2. 

Straight, also called wiry, lank or type 1. 

This is partially because the follicles they grow from come in different shapes; curly & wavy hair grows from oval follicles, straight from circular ones. However, at least for some, hair naturally changes texture because the hair follicles change shape (though why this happens is unknown). It’s also partially because of the proteins in the hair strands themselves, which  are joined together by disulphide bonds. The more of these bonds, the curlier the strand.

Though type 4 hair is most common in indigenous Africans and their diasporic descendants, it is not exclusive to us nor is it the only texture we possess. As for type 1, it is most common in Easians but not exclusive to them nor is it their sole texture. Types 2 & 3 are pretty much the norm everywhere else.

Chinese girl exemplifying type 1 hair

 Hair also comes in different colours; black, brown (aka. brunette), orange (aka. ginger), yellow (aka. blond/e) and overlaps. This is because of different amounts of a group of pigments collectively called melanin, of which there are 3 types – black eumelanin (technically isn’t black but very dark brown), brown eumelanin (more obviously brown, like reddish/ chocolate) and phaeomelanin (yellowish-orange). Globally black is the most common hair colour, followed by brown, blond/e and ginger. White and grey hair can result either from old age (during which the hair typically produces less melanin of any kind) or from congenital lessened or aborted melanin production, such as the more extreme forms of albinism. 

 

So what’s all the fuss about? All people naturally have hair, right? Why should a post be made about it?

 

Well, here’s the deal. For ‘black’ people (especially women nowadays) it is often a self-esteem issue. Our story starts from the trans-Atlantic slave trade (TAST). When ‘white’ people captured Africans one of the first things they did was shave their hair. This may be no big deal to us but in some African belief systems the hair is on the head, and because the head is the highest part of the body it is therefore closest to God. This effectively meant that head hair was a symbol of connection to God. Therefore for the hair to be cut off and discarded like filth was, in a word, traumatising. 

However it gets worse. Soon after the slave trade started both ‘white’ and ‘black’ people were being worked like nobody’s business. However, while the elites started passing laws to stop them uniting and rising up they tried to find ways, no matter how trivial or fantastical, to justify the laws. They thus declared Africans to be naturally inferior and fit for eternal service, and one of the MANY ways they ‘evinced’ this was to pass judgments on the differences between Africans and Europeans. Nose shape, skin colour, language differences, lack of Christianity* and the like were all used (and this is also when the negative stereotypes started being invented), but for the purposes of this post we’ll focus on hair texture. The respected scientific minds of the time espoused that our natural hair texture was more bestial (beast-like), suited for jungle & wilderness and overall hideous and revolting. The church authorities agreed, claiming that our hair was part of the curse of Ham – even though the Bible doesn’t mention the nature of this curse.

* This was ignoring the newly converted slaves, and that Christianity came to Africa about 500 years before Europe.

As such, many ‘black’ people were convinced that their natural afro hair was cursed and ugly. They could have tried styling their hair, but as slaves they barely ever had the time and usually just covered it in a headwrap. The only way for them to have hair closer to ‘white’ people’s (what became known as “good hair”, a very common phrase in USA & the Caribbean) was to have children with a ‘white’ person. This meant that either:

1 – ‘Black’ men would have to have children with ‘white’ women (which as far as I know never happened back then. It would’ve been absolutely forbidden and the man could be killed/ mutilated for it), or,

2 – ‘Black’ women would have to have children with ‘white’ men (this was very common, and pretty much always happened without the women’s consent – in other words ‘white’ men raped ‘black’ women and their mulatta children, especially in the southern states of USA. And were never punished because raping ‘black’ women wasn’t considered a crime).

Almost ironically, the ones who worked indoors (who were usually the products of rape anyway and thus had “good hair”) were the ones who had the time to style.

Al Sharpton, ‘black’ man with straightened hair. Yes, even at that age

Even after the TAST was abolished and the Civil War had ended, the psychological damage therefrom was ignored. This damage has been passed down to near enough every member of the African diaspora since. The desire for straight hair gained strength and prominence in mainstream media since the 1900s, when it was considered a sign of prestige and changing from “country” life to city life.

 

Note: the desire for straightened hair infected the men’s and women’s minds.

This explains why so many subscribe to the belief in euro & mixed hair as good & afro as bad. Obviously not all of us believe it but we all are familiar with it, and most of us know why. The Black Pride movement of the 50s and 60s worked well to counter this damage – for the time being. However it didn’t last and the ‘white’ media pushed the image of straight hair as beautiful with a vengeance. This is why the vast majority of ‘black’ women now either straighten their hair* or wear weaves/ pieces. Funnily enough, ‘black’ men no longer do it (except Al Sharpton) but most of us have been brainwashed into preferring our women with long silky straight hair.

* To do this they can use hot combs, but the much more common – and more damaging – way is chemical straighteners. Some ‘black’ Americans call it creamy crack, because its use is compulsive despite the health problems often brought with it. See Chris Rock’s Good Hair for elucidation, as well as its psychological & financial effects on ‘black’ women. And ‘black’ men, even though most of us don’t use it.

Because of colonialism and globalisation, even many women on the African continent itself (especially in the industrialised areas where Western media flourishes) hide their natural hair texture under blatantly fake weaves. Luckily, natural afro hair is making a comeback throughout the African diaspora, through the sporting of African/ afro-hair-friendly hairstyles or not styling at all. Most ‘black’ women are somewhat scared to do this because they think afro hair doesn’t grow and therefore looks manly. Afro hair can grow to awesome lengths, you just have to know how to look after it.

Even short afro hair looks good and feminine

 

LONG natural hair

 However, there’s another phenomenon taking place. It’s highly counterproductive and I don’t know how prevalent it is so I’m not going to call it a trend, but there are cases of women with naturally non-afro hair (including ‘black’ women) getting it chemically treated to resemble afro hair! What the hell?

But anyway, long story short (tee-hee!), everyone should love their natural hair texture, ‘black’ women especially.

Human sexualities

 For those who don’t know, a sexuality is a state of sexual attraction. It can also be called sexual preference, sexual expression or sexual orientation. It is not the same thing as sex or gender. Sex refers to what one is biologically; male or female (plus a barely-known 3rd category called intersexual). Gender refers to roles that society, families and peers influence people to adopt (or reject), which starts happening at a very early age. Sexuality, on the other hand, refers to one’s likes/ sexual urges.

Most people in the West have been raised in a paradigm that says one’s sexuality (whatever it is) is genetically determined and therefore immutable. Despite the search for the “gay gene” or any genes that are related to sexuality, none have been found. See NARTH for further reading.

Dean Hamer, American geneticist who tried (and failed) to find

a definitive biological origin for sexuality.

Though he admitted his failure, nowadays the gay lobby claims he succeeded!

Anyway, here they are:

heterosexual: also known as straight, hetero or het. Its prefix hetero- is from Greek heteros and means other/ another. This is when one has sexual attractions for someone of the opposite sex (ie. female liking male, male liking female). This is and always has been the norm for humans; we wouldn’t have made it to 6.8 billion without it!

 

homosexual: also called homo, gay* or bent. Its prefix homo- also comes from Greek, homos, and means same. This is when one has sexual attractions for someone of the same sex (ie. female liking female, male liking male). However, in common usage it tends to allude just to the male variety.

* Note: until the 1940s gay meant happy, merry, joyful. This meaning hasn’t completely died out.

 

lesbian: specifically female homosexuality. As far as I know there’s no male-only equivalent.

 

bisexual: also called bi, ambisexual and ambisextrous. This prefix is from Latin – bini which means double or twice, while ambi- (Latin) means both. This refers to when one has sexual attractions for both sexes, and is often seen as a kind of crossroad/ state of “confusion” between gay & straight.

 

transsexual: more of a sexual/gender identity than a sexuality. Also called tranny, transie, transgender, MTF (male-to-female), FTM (female-to-male), transman (FTM) and transwoman (MTF). The prefix trans is Latin and means across, beyond or through. This means someone who either has been surgically altered to have the features of the opposite sex or wants to be, often because of a belief of having been “born in the wrong body”.

Note that surgery only affects physical appearance, it can’t affect one’s sex (because sex is genetically fixed) and doesn’t necessarily affect sexuality. MTFs can like either women or men (or both), as can FTMs.

 

(Note: intersexual is not synonymous with transsexual. An intersexual is someone whose natural phenotype [physical features] can’t be pinpointed as specifically male or female. This can be because of intrauterine [in the womb] hormonal imbalances or unusual chromosome combinations that cause genetic females to exhibit male gentials – or vice versa. This is to do with biology and therefore doesn’t affect sexual attraction. Also be aware that intersexuals are not the same thing as hermaphrodites, though they used to be. Hermaphrodites are organisms [most likely not humans] whose genitals work just like those of males and females. This is completely normal in many invertebrates)

 

pansexual: means someone whose sexual attractions aren’t limited to any biological sex or gender identity (ie. includes intersexuals, transsexuals and everyone else). This means they’re more inclusive than even bisexuals. The prefix pan- is Greek and means all or every (as does the Latin omnis). Synonyms include gender-blind and omnisexual.

 

LGBT: an acronym for lesbian, gay, bi and transsexuals. It’s effectively a catch-all term to mean pretty much anyone who’s not straight.

 

Here are some sexualities that are usually ignored or not known about:

 

asexual: someone who has no sexual desires. This is not the same as being celibate or virgin. Celibacy is when someone chooses to abstain from sex for whatever reason, but this doesn’t mean they stop feeling sexual desires. A virgin is someone who’s never had sex (yet).

 

demisexual: a person who only gains sexual attraction to someone they have strong emotional attachments with. Part of the grey-A, which describes a range of states between sexual & asexual. Sounds like the perfect romantic, but in practice it doesn’t quite work like that because sexuals often initially see them as ‘just friends’ and thus may not see them as potential partners.

 

antisexual: a person who believes sexual activity or sexuality is wrong. This is pretty much the same as celibacy. Such people may still have sexual impulses but just ignore them. Funnily enough, it is possible for antisexuals to form romantic relationships – they just don’t include intercourse.

 

Alfred Kinsey himself.

Look how he’s eyeing up that woman!

Remember in About me when I called myself Kinsey 0 heterosexual? This refers to the Kinsey scale (aka. heterosexual-homosexual rating scale), a method of assessing one’s sexuality named after Alfred Charles Kinsey. This scale goes from 0 to 6 (plus an 8th category called X):

 

0 = completely straight

1 = predominantly straight

2 = somewhat more straight than gay

3 = slap-bang in the middle, ideal bisexual

4 = somewhat more gay than straight

5 = predominantly gay

6 = completely gay

X = asexual

 

As you’ve seen, there are many more sexual preferences and identities than are accounted for on this scale. Mind you, this is only 1 of over 200 sexuality rating scales. See Wikipedia for more info.

 

So there you have it, sexualities. Note that due to its behavioural/ psychological nature sexuality is unfixed and can be changed, though often with considerable effort. In fact, NARTH specialises in helping gays become straight if they so choose, and advocates recognition of the mutability of sexuality (which the American gay lobby wishes to deny). To some this sounds ludicrous, or even homophobic, but it’s a truth that’s being very actively suppressed.

 

(Update: as I wrote this post back when I was Muslim, I revoke this last part about NARTH. I wasn’t aware of the harm gay conversion therapies inflict, not to mention the moralistic/ condescending Christian undertones. Of course people can in theory choose to change their sexuality, but the issue is why they want to change. That still works on the underlying assumption that some sexualities are “wrong”. Regardless of the nature-nurture debate around sexuality, it’s wrong for anyone to say any of them are wrong. As long as the attraction/ activity is between mutually consenting adults and no physical/ mental harm is caused, it’s all good.)