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Sarah Ann Masse Opens Up About Coming Out as Bisexual, Accepting Herself, Curls and All

Sarah Ann Masse Opens Up About Coming Out as Bisexual, Accepting Herself, Curls and All
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Actor and writer Sarah Ann Masse compares coming out to her relationship with her curly hair in a heartfelt personal essay.

Editor's note: Actor, writer, and filmmaker, Sarah Ann Masse, is a fierce advocate for survivors of sexual violence in the entertainment industry. Masse, who was one of the first people to come forward about Harvey Weinstein formally launched “Hire Survivors in Hollywood” in 2020 and made made her feature film debut in 2022. A SAG-AFTRA committee member and newly-elected convention delegate, Masse is committed to being the change she wants to see in Hollywood.

Now, she’s coming forward to share her queer identity and coming out as bisexual in a personal essay, first published in GLAAD. Read her powerful experience of self-discovery and stepping into her truth as told by her life-long relationship with her own hair, accompanied by an exclusive interview with The Advocate Channel.

Sarah Ann Masse on coming out as bisexual

My hair, and my relationship to my hair, is a bit of a funny thing.

The story goes (and photos support this) that I was born with a full head of hair. Growing up it was gently wavy, thick, and a deep, dark brown. As a kid, people always said I had black hair. And it annoyed me. Not because I disliked black hair- as a matter of fact I loved it- but because it wasn’t true. My hair wasn’t black. It was dark brown with strands of orange and auburn in it, especially when I had spent time in the sun. I didn’t like that people weren’t seeing me clearly when they said I had black hair. It felt like they could only see things in binary and that all my dimension was being erased.

Then, there were the haircuts and hairdos. I usually had bangs as a little girl. I liked them because it kept my thick hair out of my face. But it also meant my poor mom had to trim them quite regularly. She usually put scotch tape across them to serve as a guide and used whatever pair of scissors we had around the house. It wasn’t fancy but it (usually) worked. Until one time it didn’t and I had some very crooked bangs. Right before kindergarten photo day.

Fortunately I wasn’t too upset because my mom had given in to my pleas to buy me an Ivanka Trump style bright blue power suit with shoulder pads to wear for the photos. I was a weird kid. I had started developing a bit of an obsession with scissors as a child. One day my parents walked into the living room, after leaving me alone for 10 minutes, and found me surrounded by fake dog hair. You see, my puppy Max (the stuffed dog from The Little Mermaid) couldn’t see through his fur. So, I had to give him a haircut.

Soon after, I started chopping the hair off my Barbie dolls and was devastated to find out it wouldn’t grow back. Fast forward to Fourth grade. I was tired of my bangs so, logically, I thought I’d just cut them off. Big mistake. Huge. My widow’s peak was now gone, replaced by choppy stubble. Staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, I panicked. I dug through the drawers and found some of my mom’s foundation. I slapped it on over my hack job of a haircut and confidently walked out of the bathroom, certain my parents wouldn’t notice.

They noticed.

By this point I was already being mercilessly teased at school for my good grades, my willingness to sing in front of the class during music lessons, and my fiery need to stand up for other kids, myself, and what was right. So, going to school with a bald spot in my bangs was not going to go well. My mom and I came up with a solution though: I’d wear one of those thick, soft, fabric headbands over the bald spot. No one would notice. And magically, this time, it worked.

No one noticed! Well, actually, everyone noticed. And everyone started wearing their headbands the same way. Suddenly: I was a trendsetter. Shortly after this incident, I left school to be homeschooled, and started to be able to really be myself without fear of teasing. One of the first things I told my mom I wanted to do was to get a haircut.

We went to see Dawn, the only person besides my mom and myself who had ever put scissors in my hair. I told her I wanted a big change. Chop it all off. I wanted a chic french bob. She refused. I stood my ground. She refused again. I stood my ground harder. She looked at my mom. “It’s her hair”, she said. I added “Don’t worry Dawn. It’s just hair. It’ll grow back”. She laughed and started cutting. I was THRILLED. I thought I looked like a gamine. I felt so Parisian. So grown up.

In truth, I had recently transformed from a soft faced, soft bellied little girl into a gangly stick figure (pre pubescence and finally realizing you have food allergies will do a number on a young body) so folks kept mistaking me for a little boy. Again, I was annoyed. Not because I disliked boys- as a matter of fact I loved boys- but because I once again wasn’t being seen for who I really was. So, I started putting sparkly, flowery clips in my hair and convinced my mom to let me wear a little lipstick.

Once I became a teenager, I started fighting my natural waves. Straight hair was all the rage at the time so I dutifully straightened my hair almost every day. And gosh did I get compliments! Especially from the hairstylists. They’d say things like: “It’s so shiny! It’s so healthy! You’ve never dyed it? Really? Never start! It’s so perfect! Definitely not black hair! Something much more dynamic!” (Score!)

And yet, even after all that praise, they’d straighten the hell out of it, just like I did, subtly telling me my hair, just as it was, wasn’t quite enough. After years of guys I wanted to date, and girls I wanted to impress, complimenting my straight, shiny hair, I doubled down on my commitment to straightening it. And over the years, I straightened it so much that it started losing its natural wave and curl. I had long hair with bangs, graduated bobs, long hair with no bangs, shoulder length shags… You name it, I had it. I kept my natural color but lost my natural curl pattern. I was sort of being myself, but sort of not.

Finally, at some point in my adulthood, I got tired of straightening my hair. A combination of not wanting to fry it, my disabilities making it too difficult, and being sort of curious to find out what would happen if I left it alone, made for a discovery of my *true* hair. There’s a lot of it, yes, and it’s not black but brown with orange and auburn photo bleaching, sure. But it’s also wavy. Like really wavy. Actually kinda curly? But definitely not straight.

Sometimes the weight of my hair messes with the curl pattern and it begins to look straight again. But trim a little of the heaviness off, or even splash it with a little water? And bang! Hello waves! Goodbye straight! So even though I spent most of my life believing that my hair was straight, willing it to be straight, convincing myself and everyone else that my hair was straight… It was never straight. It was always wavy. Always curly.

And, wouldn’t you know it? I really love my not straight hair *exactly* the way it is, without the compulsory straightening I felt I needed to do to be pretty, or accepted, or seen the way I wanted to be seen.

When it comes down to it- I’m actually much happier now- showing off my not straight hair. Because what I’ve always wanted so deeply is to be seen clearly, honestly, and appreciated for exactly who I am and how I am.

So, imagine my surprise when I realized- in the grand scheme of things not too long ago- that much like my hair, my sexuality also wasn’t straight. This realization started coming to me slowly, and it took me a while to see it. Because I had been straightening my sexuality for so long- buying into compulsory heteronormativity for so long- it took a while for the waves and curls in my sexuality to start showing. But once I gave my sexuality a little space, and stopped burning the crap out of it so it could look the way everyone else told me it should look, it bounced right up into the wavy, curly, multi faceted, unique thing it really is.

It was with this hard won realization that I- on Sunday June 12th, 2022, just about an hour or two before the TONY’S and shaking with nerves- came out as bisexual and queer to my husband Nick. He welcomed me, all of me, exactly as I am, with the most open of arms and most expansive amount of love. We cried, we laughed, I felt really, really scared.

But a heaviness lifted off of my shoulders and a brighter, truer smile appeared on my face. Then, over the next few weeks I began slowly coming out to friends, family, and colleagues, (and sort of to myself, over and over again) as I felt comfortable to do so. It’s been a weird, wonderful, simple, scary, complicated, freeing, confusing, beautiful experience.

I originally wrote this little essay during Pride Month 2022, because I didn’t want to let it pass without owning, out loud, another deep and important part of myself. Now, 15 months have passed, and I have an even deeper, more joyful knowledge of myself. There have also been moments of deep pain, of biphobia, of watching the hatred and bigotry towards the LGBTQIA+ community and our allies play out (as it so often does), and those are things I will continue to unpack and address and fight as I continue to come into my own.

But mostly it’s been joy and mostly I’ve been celebrated by my siblings in this community. As this news of my true self becomes more public, I hope all of you in the LGBTQIA+ community will welcome me with open arms, and I hope all of the cishet folks who know me will do the same. Because I am the meyou’ve always known, just more liberated, fully realized, and ready to stop straightening myself into something I’m not.

I love you all.

Signed,

A lifelong, but slow blooming, wavy, curly, Queer Bi-con

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