‘I had just turned fourteen when thick black facial hair began to grow on my face. I did not want to be different. I wanted to be a blond child, like my German classmates, not a bearded Kurdish migrant boy. I put bleaching cream under my nose and on my chin and I waited for thirty minutes. I took it off: my whole skin was red and blistery, and my hair had turned yellow. My mother tried to help me by shaving it off, but it made it worse. My face became one big wound. The children at school laughed at me for weeks.

After graduating from high school, I followed my dream and went to Australia. I met free-spirited people, we travelled in cars and vans across the entire country, living everywhere and nowhere. For the first time in my life, I went to a ten-day silent meditation retreat, where I meditated for ten hours a day without any eye contact. On the initial days, I wanted to run away. Then, little by little, I became more aware of my body. Travelling through my spine, my heart, my brain, I could feel every inch of myself. I connected with myself and felt a deep peace growing inside me. I finally felt safe. I stopped trying to fit in and please. I came out.

It wasn’t long before I let my beard grow out fully and freely. My thick, wild beard is an expression of my sexuality. It comes out of my body generously and without shame. I think that is hot. Hair should not be clean and controlled, but unapologetically honest.

‘Travelling through my spine, my heart, my brain, I could feel every inch of myself’

I travelled to Spain, where I fell in love with a farmer. He had a gorgeous beard that smelled like cedar wood and Cyprus. It felt like heaven. We had only been dating for one summer when he broke up with me. I was devastated.

Maybe the break-up was so painful because it felt like I had to say goodbye to a childhood utopia. As a child, I fantasised about living together with a big, bearded man, in harmony with nature. I guess this was my own version of the stories my parents had told me about their beloved Kurdistan. My father had always had a beard, as did the holy men back home. For me, men with beards were a symbol of safety and belonging.

Then one day, the mourning ended and I realised that I am actually happy where I am. I mean, I do not really want to live in a small community in the countryside, or in Kurdistan with its war and homophobia. I live in a city where I can be true to myself. My friends come from all over the world. I feel a sense of community. We love each other for who we are.

I make my own beard oil with a blend of lavender, patchouli, sandal, and cedar wood. Every morning before going out here in Berlin, I comb my beard and rub in the oil. It grounds me and makes me feel attractive.’