Why Getting a Short Haircut & Tattoos After Breakup Felt “Like a Second Coming Out” For Lesbian

by Sarah Rahl

My name is Sarah Rahl, and I’m from Kennebunk, Maine. 

When I went to school in Virginia, I went to college, I was on the lacrosse team. I was so closeted at that point. I knew that I liked women but hadn’t acted on it. My surroundings growing up, there wasn’t much visibility at my college. There were only a few out lesbians. One in particular was, I would say, proudly out almost a gentle, aggressive term when it came to interacting with other women. She was athletic. She had short hair, kind of carried herself with that swagger. 

I remember one night, me and my teammates were going out and going to a house party or something. They had mentioned, “Oh, I hope that she doesn’t hit on me.” Or, “She’s a little much, is aggressive, and I’m not gay,” and this and that. That just kind of further cemented in my mind like, Oh, I don’t want them to talk about me like this. I will say it definitely kind of turned me off to being out in that environment. 

After graduating from college, I was still closeted. I bounced around. I was in Boston and Rhode Island and upstate New York. But I remember one night when I was in Rhode Island, it was a year or two after I graduated from college. I was laying in bed and thinking about what my future looks like and what was going to make me happy.  That night was like an a-ha moment where it was like, “I can’t spend one more hour, one more day without being open and honest with everyone.” I can’t think of any other option other than to come out.

I was laying in bed and thinking about what my future looks like and what was going to make me happy.

I woke up the next morning early because I really didn’t sleep that night. Like I said, I was in Rhode Island. My parents were in Maine at the time. I called them and said, “Can we meet in New Hampshire?” We met up, and I came out to them. They were the first people I came out to. I remember saying to them, because I’m an awkward person in general, sarcastic, I was like, “As you know or as you probably already know, I’m gay.” 

My mom, I actually told her first. My dad was shopping somewhere. She was like, “No, but great.” Okay, yeah. 

And I was like, “Should I tell my dad? Or do you think it’s better if you tell him?” 

She was like, “No, just tell him. When he comes back, just tell him.” 

When he came back, I told him. My dad asked me once, “Do you think you just haven’t met the right guy yet?” 

I said, “Nope, absolutely not.” It’s the last it was ever talked about and ever since, nothing but support.

So really immediately following coming out to my parents, I went back up to Maine and met my first girlfriend or somebody who I had known in the past. After that year, she got a job down in Austin. I was like, I’ve never been to Austin. I’m not really doing much. So I moved with her down to Austin. 

We were together about three years or so. I thought that she was the one. I was like, the first person, Oh my gosh, this is so exciting. I’m with a woman, and we’re in a relationship. We’re going to be together forever. When we broke up, it was devastating. I felt a need to kind of go big. 

When I was with her, I had long hair. When we would go to weddings, I would wear dresses. After we broke up, I wanted to kind of have a big change. One of the best ways to do that, I thought, was to get a haircut, transformation cut. So I went to the salon and wasn’t really sure how I wanted it. I’m sure I showed a picture or two. God knows what I showed. But ended up being short on the sides and essentially spiked on the top and maybe not what I was thinking in my head. But at the end of the day, it was the best haircut. It was very freeing. Quickly after that, started getting tattoos, tattoos everywhere. 

Changing my outward appearance really was almost like a second coming out that was way more satisfying than just calling my parents up, “Hey, I’m gay.” Which is also an amazing life… life-changing thing, but nothing for me compared to how my life changed in Austin. It’s funny now thinking back on that girl from college who had short hair and had tattoos. It’s kind of a full circle moment for me where I can appreciate it and how she was a little bit more now… Well, I won’t say I’m as aggressive still as she was, but I can appreciate where she was coming from a little bit more now.

Coming out sometimes isn’t the end of your story. It progresses, and there can be even better things on the horizon. So it’s just… you never know what’s going to happen. Have the confidence to do it because you never know, like, what will happen.

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