Gender Expression for Dummies
So, you wanna be a man, huh? Time to throw away the hundreds of dollars of makeup that you have been forced to buy your whole life. You won’t need them anymore!
My experience wasn’t so clear.
When I started to transition, throwing away my makeup was not an issue for me. For starters, I didn’t really have any. Just the bare minimum of foundation, eyeliner, and blush that I never used. I probably didn’t have a single eye shadow color.
Makeup made me cringe. I loathed putting it on. My face felt heavy and I would be desperate to rub my eyes or itch my nose all day. This is partially because I am autistic, but it was just not me.
Growing up, My mother wanted me to wear makeup at least once a week. When we would go to my grandmother’s house, my uncle often asked her:
“What’s wrong with your kid? She looks sick.”
In all fairness, I did look a little sick. I was unhealthily thin. I was that autistic child who ate nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and Goldfish crackers for every meal, and I have been a pasty ghost since birth. But, hey, maybe don’t bully a five year old.
Despite my tears, my mother would put at least “a little blush” on me often before we would see family or go to a fancy dinner. I hated it, but it was better to just let her do it than to argue about it all evening.
“Look how pretty you look with just a little bit of makeup!” She would say. I was always confused and offended by the sentiment. Don’t I look good just as myself?
When I came out as gender nonconforming (now I identify as transmasculine), I slowly changed my entire wardrobe. Nothing itchy, heavy, or cumbersome. I wore makeup for a little while longer, but soon swore off of it entirely.
Then, I became a New Yorker.
Moving to New York City introduced me to a new world of makeup: stage and drag makeup. I started doing queer theater and burlesque, and soon, I became a drag king in Brooklyn known as Queue.
Makeup became a new hobby for me. When I asked my parents for a face-painting palette as a Christmas gift, I even shocked myself. I became a pro at masculine-contour, eye shadow, and “blending.” Did you know all those different shapes and sizes of makeup brushes have their own specific use?
My signature look was a particular shape of painted facial hair. A curly, colorful mustache, and a matching, geometric beard straight of the Hunger Games became my calling card. Using makeup to express my non-binary gender felt mildly liberating. I felt as though I was letting go of a grudge toward an art form. I was able to construct a look that made me happy, and forget about the social pressure that made me hate it in the first place.
Making makeup masculine gives me gender euphoria in a way that I had never experienced before. I now have hundreds of dollars worth of makeup. I spend hours watching makeup tutorials. I’m up on all the beauty vlogger drama. I am a rupaul-watching, makeup-wearing, flamboyant queer boy, and I will not apologize for it.