The secret to my drag is that I never use foundation. Ever.
Although, I guess it’s no secret. I am very open about my hatred for any and all liquid or powder foundation. I can put layer upon layer of face paint over my skin, but even a single swipe of concealer makes me feel nauseous.
I used to hate all makeup. Unless I was going to a wedding or prom, I would refuse to wear it.
I was always very pale. I am a white guy who will burn under any direct sunlight. I have no desire tan. Apart from the crippling gender dysphoria, I’m alright with how I look.
When I was around three- or four-years-old, my uncle asked my mom:
“What’s wrong with your kid? *he looks sick.”
Rather than gape at this 22 year old man and question why he cared about the complexion of a toddler, my mother started to put makeup on me before we saw family.
“You’re pale as a ghost,” she’d say. “You look sick. You just look so much better with a little makeup on.”
I could kick, scream, or cry, and my mom would still make sure I had on some blush or bronzer on when we went to Sunday dinner. I got the message very clearly: she was ashamed of me the way I was. How I look naturally was wrong.
My mother dictated everything about how I looked. My aesthetic, the cut of my shirt and shorts, and my hair were under her jurisdiction. I was a kawaii-punk, pastel-goth trans boy trapped in a cotton, floor-length skirt.
As YouTuber TheraminTrees once noted: it was as if I didn’t own my own body, but I was simply renting it from my parents.
When I moved out, I was finally able to express more autonomy. I came out of the closet. I stopped dressing like my mother. When I finally got myself into therapy, I realized how little say I had over my own body.
One question kept coming back to me: why would my mother, a married woman in her thirties with two children, care about the opinions of her 20-something younger brother?
Not only that, but why did he care what I looked like?
Slowly, memories started coming back to me. My uncle was overly interested in my appearance. If I were in a swimsuit or draped in a towel, he would whistle at me. He would catcall a four-year-old. I remember being disgusted and annoyed.
but I also took all of the blame. Why did I keep walking out in front of him if I didn’t want his attention? I was already conditioned into thinking that his harassment was my own fault. I carried that shame like it was my own.
My perspective of the how sexual abuse is defined has changed over time, and I have access to more of my memories than I used to.
From forced tickling, wrestling, throwing me in the pool, I was physically, sexually, and emotionally abused.
When I started calling into Sexual Incest Anonymous (SIA) meetings, I was given a website of their resources and definitions.
SIA defines incest as an act of power against a child that takes a sexual form. It is the violation and betrayal of the sexual innocence of a child. We define incest to include:
- Suggestive or seductive talk or behavior directed at a child
- Any unwanted, invasive touching, including kissing, wrestling & tickling
- Non-medical enemas
- Showing a child pornography or nudity
- Sexual fondling, oral sex, sodomy and/or intercourse
As a child, I have experienced nearly all of these things from different family members. Tickling to the point of crying, orgasm, or sensory overload is considered rape. As much as I wish this wasn’t true, that is what happened to me.
Once I could unpack the shame surrounding these memories, I realized that this was not my fault. I was abused. I was a victim. I am a survivor.
Now only was the abuse not my fault, but it was more overt that I had allowed myself to admit. My mother and grandparents witnessed hundreds of abusive encounters between me and my uncle, and did nothing.
They enabled him with their silence. My family would not stick up for me because it was easier for them to appease this adult child rather than confront him.
My mother even dressed me up for him. I wore bikinis since I was a baby, and yet made to feel like I was a slut just for existing in my own skin. I was somehow asking for this treatment by my outfit, but my mom chose all of my clothes.
I wasn’t even allowed to be pale if my uncle wouldn’t like it.
Body autonomy is more than letting your kid say “no” to a hug or letting them dye their hair. Children also have to be allowed to choose who they interact with. Forcing a child to love their family unconditionally and do anything for them opens them up to abuse.
Allowing ourselves and our children to have boundaries is essential to our sense of safety and self. If that means letting them get a nose ring, so be it.
Please feel free to check out the SIA website for these resources.