Hey. Welcome! I am 22, and I want to take it off too, but my family are not backing down. You can read about the huge row I caused on Friday when I tried to discuss taking it off https://www.councilofexmuslims.com/index.php?topic=30949.0
My earliest memories of anything 'hijab-related' is when I drew a picture of a girl wearing a skirt and coloured her legs in green (I wouldn't have been older than 7, but I believe I was probably younger than that because we were living in a different city at the time), and my father looked at the picture and said: "But Muslim girls don't wear skirts." So for his approval I pretended that she was wearing green trousers underneath her skirt. Later, or perhaps before that, I had an incident in either nursery, reception or year one as a result of which my clothes got dirty (can't remember what it was exactly - an injury? Maybe I wet myself?
) and the staff got a spare uniform for me, but I told them I needed long trousers because I wasn't allowed to wear dresses which showed the legs. I remember I was wearing a frock once (still a really young kid) and my dad made a screw face. When we moved to a different city he would pull down my T-shirt hard from the back if he thought it was too short. So from a young age I had it drilled into me that I needed to be covered.
Later he started making me wear one of those two-piece hijabs to Eid prayers. I remember I used to hate it and couldn't wait to take it off after the prayer. Then, maybe in Year four or five, I remember I wrote a dua on a piece of paper asking Allah to make things so that my crush would like me. (Oh Lord, the naivety of that! Back then my innocent mind thought Allah wouldn't mind things like that.) My dad found that dua note and stopped talking to me for days. I was only a kid.
When it got to Year 7, my dad told me that I was moving to secondary school now and that I had to start wearing hijab to school full time. He said that the Somali girls in your school do it and so you need to do it too. I used to wear it when I left the house and take it off once I got to school. Once, when my mum made me wear it on the weekend, my dad saw how upset I was about wearing it and bought me ice cream to make up for it. I was young then, and ice cream seemed like a fair deal so I went with it. I feel like I sold my soul for ice cream now.
Then in Year 9 there was an incident where a boy called my phone and I remember my dad saying that if I didn't admit everything I had been up to, he would slap me so hard that my head would spin round. He didn't actually do it, and I managed to get away with it by saying there was some kind of wrong number, but my dad confiscated my phone and stopped talking to me again. At that point I realised I was a 'shitty Muslim' and decided to take the hijab seriously and put it on properly, wholeheartedly and consistently in order to 'purify myself' and win my dad's love back.
Internally, I struggled with it on and off throughout my teenage years, but I did wear it pretty much consistently from that point on. As I got older, I did find that it *sometimes* freed me from needing to conform to superficial standards of beauty - especially when I wore it without makeup, with my eyebrows ungroomed and whatnot. A bit like when some feminists don't shave their legs because they don't believe women should have to do so in order for their bodies to be accepted. Sometimes when I was wearing hijab, I felt like I was being a bit rebellious, because I wasn't conforming to a societal pressure to do my hair or wear fashionable clothes in order to 'fit in' or look good. But I don't believe that the hijab was the real cause of that liberated state - because I could refuse to conform to superficial beauty standards even now WITHOUT simultaneously wrapping myself in a cloth in which I only started wrapping myself because my father told me to do so. I could refuse to conform to superficial beauty standards even now WITHOUT playing into a culture that suggests that a non-hijabified body in public is shameful or a sexual invitation. The hijab wasn't really anything to do with it. I could take it off and still be non-conforming.
A common defence of the hijab is that it prevents girls from feeling the need to display themselves like sexual objects in order to gain acceptance. I came across this YouTube comment once which was talking about how wearing less can be natural and doesn't mean you're sexualising yourself or that you've been pressured into perceiving yourself as a sexual object. For example, a woman, even without being exposed to the advertisments which glamorise bikinis, might choose a bikini in a hot climate because it's natural and comfortable to wear less in hot weather (we're talking about hot weather here because that's the climate bikinis are normally worn in). The same woman would then wear an appropriate number of layers when the weather is cold. No harm done, and an easy shift between the two. Whereas a woman in hijab is expected to follow a specific dress code in all weathers. One woman is following a dress code which comes more 'naturally' according to her personal wishes and the temperature of her body. The other is not. That really opened my eyes.