Harnaam Kaur | Photo: supplied
When body positivity activist Harnaam Kaur gave a speech at the Stonewall Inn rally this year, being in such a crucial place to spread love felt ‘crazy’.
Harnaam has a full beard as a side effect of a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which she was diagnosed with when she was 12. A main effect of PCOS is a higher level of male hormones, alongside irregular periods and infertility.
She tried everything to make the bullies stop pointing at her face: waxing, tweezing, shaving, threading. Until she realized she didn’t owe anything to those high-school kids who didn’t know any better. She owed everything to herself.
After stopping removing her facial hair at age 16, her activism started.
Harnaam Kaur at World Pride
Now 28, Kaur aims at empowering herself and others through her voice, as unique as her looks.
She has been giving talks for a decade, experiencing both highs and lows, but being in New York for World Pride made it to the top of her best moments.
‘It was just an iconic moment being able to use my voice and help add value to the lives of people that listen,’ Kaur told GSN of that day.
‘To see 3,000 or 4,000 people in the streets just cheering. It’s one of those memories that you cherish forever, one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments.’
Trans men also get PCOS
Kaur is also fighting to bring visibility to PCOS, a condition which deeply affects the lives of those who have it. Trans men included.
‘I don’t say “one in five women have PCOS” but I say “one in five people with ovaries” and that automatically includes trans men,’ she said.
Kaur explained she would like to get more interaction from trans men. Despite trying to be as inclusive as she possibly can, it’s mainly cis women who approach them to thank her.
However, as her work includes advocating for unapologetically embracing yourself, many in the LGBTI community can relate.
‘I do get messages from people in the LGBTI community about how my work has helped them come to terms with who they are and the way their bodies are shaped,’ Kaur continued.
Harnaam Kaur and pansexuality
Harnaam doesn’t just speak to the community, she belongs to it.
‘I’ve always known that I was a little different. Even in primary school, I knew that I liked girls and I fancied my friends but I didn’t know that I was pansexual,’ she exaplained.
It wasn’t until much later that she came out to friends and family.
‘In 2014, I realized that there was a word to describe what I was feeling,’ she continued.
‘I use that term for people to understand, but I’m actually just someone who loves people universally, regardless of who they are.
Harnaam is reticent to use most labels – except one.
Brave ‘bearded lady’
‘I use the expression “bearded woman” because it mindfucks people. How can you use the words “beard” and “woman” in the same sentence? Well, I’m going to confuse you. And hopefully, that confusion will allow you to question me. And if you question me, you’re going to learn.’
Her activism is a mix of self-kindness – ‘your inner voice about yourself changes just by being kind’ – and a defiant attitude which gives the finger to gender stereotypes and unattainable beauty standards.
‘I don’t care if someone has this notion of a woman who is supposed to be clean and soft. If you want to that’s fine, but people say “oh you’re not supposed to have a beard” and I’m like “what are you going to do about it?”
She then added: ‘Some men are jealous that I can grow a finer beard than them and my beard actually connects and that I spend no money on trimming my beard because I don’t need to. I couldn’t give a shit about societal norms and gender stereotypes. All I’m doing is living authentically and I don’t wish to be anyone else but me.’
Uniqueness is a word that comes up a lot during her speeches, including her 2018 TED talk. Embracing one’s unique traits, however, isn’t a smooth process.
‘I had to build this tough skin. I’ve gone through a lot of trauma and I’m still trying to heal from it,’ she said.
‘But I realized that people aren’t going to make me happy, I will make myself happy. If I can’t accept myself, then what’s the point?’
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