Harnaam Kaur, of Slough, Berkshire, suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome – and a beard first started to appear on her face aged just 11. The hair quickly spread to her chest and arms, and the condition made her the victim of taunts at school and on the street. She even received death threats from strangers […]
Harnaam Kaur, of Slough, Berkshire, suffers from polycystic ovary syndrome – and a beard first started to appear on her face aged just 11. The hair quickly spread to her chest and arms, and the condition made her the victim of taunts at school and on the street. She even received death threats from strangers over the internet. But Miss Kaur has now decided to stop cutting her hair after being baptised as a Sikh – a religion in which cutting body hair is forbidden. She said: ‘I would never ever go back now and remove my facial hair because it’s the way God made me and I’m happy with the way I am.
‘I feel more feminine, more sexy and I think I look it too. I’ve learned to love myself for who I am nothing can shake me now.’ During her early teens, Miss Kaur was so ashamed of her beard that she waxed twice a week, and also tried bleaching and shaving. But the hair became thicker and spread – with Miss Kaur feeling so self-conscious that she refused to leave her house. She even began self-harming and she considered suicide. She said: ‘I got bullied badly – at school I was called a “beardo” and things like “shemale” and “sheman”. I can laugh about it now, but back then it affected me so badly that I began to self-harm because it felt better than all the abuse I was getting.
Despite all the opposition, she took the step to bear her beard, and now embraces the thick hair on her face and chest. But at the age of 16, everything changed for Miss Kaur when she decided to be baptised as a Sikh. It meant she would have to let her facial hair grow out.
The decision proved controversial – especially with her family. Miss Kaur said: ‘My mum and dad didn’t want me to do it – they didn’t think I’d be able to have a normal life if I had a beard. ‘They worried I wouldn’t be able to get married and that I’d never get a job. But I wanted to make my own decisions and live for myself – not anyone else. I’d had enough of hiding. Harnaam Kaur has embraced her beard after becoming a Sikh.
‘I’d had enough of the bullying and the self-harming and the suicidal thoughts. I wanted to change my whole outlook on life and I thought I thought it was time to stop locking myself away – I had to do something about it.’
PCOS is a common condition affecting a woman’s ovaries, with three main features. These are cysts developing in their ovaries, the ovaries not regularly releasing eggs, and high levels of male hormones – ‘androgens’. The syndrome is associated with irregular hormone levels in the body, including insulin. There is no cure for the condition, but medicine is available to treat symptoms such as excessive hair growth and fertility problems.
Most women with the condition can get pregnant – but sometimes need a surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling. This involves destroying tissue in the ovaries making androgens including testosterone. Her parents have come to terms with her decision – and her brother Gurdeep Singh, 18, is her biggest supporter.
She said: ‘It was incredibly daunting going outside because people would stare more than ever. At first I was angry but I realised that they didn’t understand and were probably too afraid to ask me so I just decided to smile back.’
But Miss Kaur has struggled to get a job and even shaved off her beard at the age of 17 after pressure from members of her extended family. She said: ‘I removed my beard once during a really low moment but when I’d done it all I could do was cry because I didn’t feel like myself without my beard. ‘My brother was actually the one person who was completely shocked by what I had done – he hugged me and said I had looked so beautiful with my beard, he didn’t understand why I had done it.’ She added: ‘It was from that point that I thought I’m never going to remove it ever again.’
Miss Kaur has been employed at a local Sikh primary school as a teaching assistant and her confidence has soared. Since then Miss Kaur has been employed at a local Sikh primary school as a teaching assistant and her confidence has soared. ‘I couldn’t take the stares from strangers so I’d lock myself in my room. It got so bad that I just didn’t want to live anymore’.