Life is peppered with rites of passage: becoming a biped, going to ‘big school’ and – shortly after – working out how to appear sober in front of your parents. Many of these moments are universal, but some can be very specific to gender. For young men, learning to shave is one such mountain to climb. With a razor sharp blade and adolescent coordination, there’s a lot that can go wrong, and often a kindly dad will step in to stop things getting terribly, terribly messy. For transgender men, this first shave has a whole extra level of significance – an emotional moment of becoming that Gillette has tapped into for its new ad First Shave.
The one-minute short features Ontario-based trans activist Samson Bonkeabantu Brown and his dad as Samson shaves for the first time. Intimately shot in Samson’s bathroom, the ad shows his dad’s beaming while he repeats his shaving tips – “South, South, North, North, East, West. Never in a hurry” – as well as discussing what the experience means to them both. “I always knew I was different,” Samson says in the ad. “I didn’t know that there was a term for the type of person that I was. I went into my transition just wanting to be happy. I’m glad that I am at the point where I’m able to shave. It’s not just myself transitioning, it’s everyone around me transitioning.”
The ad has been released on Facebook to coincide with Pride month and has won fans in the trans community and beyond. It follows another exploration of modern masculinity by Gillette in a January spot which asked men to acknowledge and address sexual harassment in the wake of the #Metoo movement.