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. Read her powerful experience of self-discovery and stepping into her truth as told by her life-long relationship with her own hair…
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.
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 me
you’ve always known, just more liberated, fully realized, and ready to stop straightening myself
into something I’m not.
I love you all.
A lifelong, but slow blooming, wavy, curly, Queer Bi-con
As a postscript:
I know folks might have questions. But it’s not my job to answer them, educate you on
bisexuality or queerness, or make you more comfortable with how this makes you feel about
what you thought you knew about me. So, unless you are offering support, celebration, and
affirmation, please do not comment here or message me. My sexuality isn’t up for debate or
open to questioning. However, if you are in the questioning stage or don’t feel fully comfortable
coming out, I am absolutely here to listen and share my own experiences.
But because I know there are the two questions I’ve gotten the most, I will answer them here
simply because I think they might be helpful to others:
Q 1. Does coming out mean that I will now no longer be with my husband?
A 1. Absolutely not. I married Nick because I love Nick and want to spend my life with NIck.
Being bisexual doesn’t change that.
Q 2. Why did it take me “so long” to come out?
A 2. Because of compulsory heterosexuality, because of a lack of bisexual representation in
entertainment and media, because of a lack of understanding about the non binary and fluid
nature of sexuality until somewhat recently, because- much like with my chronic illnesses and
disabilities- I didn’t realize the way I was seeing and experiencing the world was different from
other people, and also because- much like with my chronic illnesses and disabilities- this
difference in my sexuality is largely invisible to those who have only ever known me to be in
seemingly heterosexual relationships… I wasn’t prepared to see, welcome, and fully express this
part of myself until well into adulthood. Being in therapy, working on healing my traumas, and
becoming a person who truly gives far fewer fucks, helped me to finally make this realization
and accept myself exactly as I am.
Here is a quote about bisexuality that I really like:
“I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted
– romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same
time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree. For me, the bi in
bisexual refers to the potential for attraction to people with genders similar to and different from
my own.” – Robyn Ochs
Here is a website that I found really helpful and affirming
I want to give a special mention to Harvey Guillen – an incredibly talented actor and supremely
warm person – who gave me some beautiful language to talk about my sexuality. We met at an
Awards Season event in Los Angeles earlier this year and the subject of my “coming out” came
up. He was so excited for me and grateful that I had told him my story but he made an offering:
He said that Instead of calling it “coming out” he talks about it as “letting others in”. So, while this
may be my “coming out” story it’s really the story of how I am letting others in to know my true
self. And that is something I will always strive to do.