Harnaam Kaur started having a beard when she was only 11. Puberty hit her like a truck in the sense that she suddenly had a huge bush growing on her chin, and she was only in sixth grade.
Now 31 years old, Harnaam Kaur recalls how those days were akin to hell for her. Her parents, who realized she was not having a normal teen time, took her to the doctor. She was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), which messes with her hormone levels.
Aside from the beard, she goes through irregular periods, and PCOS can also cause infertility.
Harnaam’s mom took her for waxing, but it wasn’t easy for her at all. The pain was not worth the social conformation she desired so much. She recalled, “I was going through all of this pain – because my skin was so soft and sensitive, particularly at that age – and trying so hard to conform, but all for nothing.
“The hair was also growing back thicker and darker after every wax. So one day, shortly after my GCSEs, I made a decision. It took a lot of strength, but I thought, ‘I can either keep trying to fit in, or I can be me.’”
She prepared herself for six weeks during the summer holiday and returned to school. Harnaam decided to return with a full beard on her face, and she couldn’t even begin to predict how hard life would be for her from then on.
“Nothing could have prepared me for the hell that awaited me,” she recounted.
“Things got massively worse, and I began to self-harm. I was taunted continuously and suffered awful dreams about being brutally attacked by my school bullies.”
The struggle continued as she got engaged at the age of 21, arranged by a local Sikh temple.
“Because I really wanted a relationship, and at that time wanted to have children young, I went for it. That might sound mad to some people, but in our culture, it’s not unusual,” she explained.
“The day I met him, it was very formal, and nine days later, we were engaged. He didn’t comment on my facial hair, but suddenly there were all these cans and can’ts,” Harnaam continued.
“I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up or have tattoos and piercings. Then, he told me if he found out I wasn’t a virgin, he would never touch me. I broke up with him two months before we were supposed to get married, and I’ve never looked back.”
She’s still struggling to find someone to love and is just “casually dating.”
“I’m pansexual, which means “hearts not parts” – it doesn’t matter what your sexuality is or what your gender is, I love you for who you are.”
Finding someone who’s “open-minded” has proven to be an issue for her. Harnaam said, “I actually had my palm read the other day, and the lady told me I’m not going to meet the love of my life in the UK because a lot of people are still really narrow-minded here. So perhaps they’re abroad!”
On top of that, people treat her like “a fantasy or a fetish,” and they only want to “try” her.
“They’ve got kinks that they want to delve into, and that’s all I am to them. It can be difficult navigating who’s genuinely interested in me,” she shared her thoughts. But she’s never found herself regretting her beard grow that summer.
“Looking back, despite everything, choosing not to wax my beard is probably one of the greatest decisions I’ve made because I’m no longer hiding my true self.”