If I remember correctly, (and my memory is spotty for many reasons), I wore eyeliner a handful of times in high school. Once, I was drunk with a bunch of girlfriends, and the notion of it being silly was precariously balanced with the whisperings of a shared feeling that it was “kinda hot.” It was an exceptional moment, and was collectively exciting in its obvious transgression. The other moments took place in similar scenarios, perhaps with the routine exception of wearing my mother’s skirts and puckering my lips in red lipstick in the mirror while she was at the grocery store.
At best, these moments revealed a world void of absolutes, full of possibility, that was entirely out of reach. These were jokes and experiments that verged on kink, but the possibility of me-in-makeup was never to be normalized. With this foundation, nobody ever taught me how to properly tone match or actuallyapply foundation (it’s a bad pun, I Know). Brought up in a town and culture with very strict gender guidelines, I was socialized as a boy, and any deviation was met with a forceful reminder that we don’t do that. Girls don’t have short hair, boys don’t wear sparkles, and that is the end of discussion.
After I moved to New York and actually met and became friends with trans, gender-nonconforming, and other people that generally did not adhere to gender roles, those feelings about makeup began to flutter around again. In tandem with so much other stuff going on inside of me, everything began to point to the ownership of my body, and who,really, had made the decisions about how it was presented and how it was used.
Part of reclaiming my body involved delving into the incredibly confusing and overwhelming world of makeup.I was not taught anything. One of my first purchases was a random black eyeliner (which, by chance, ended up becoming my most trusted tool in my bag) and a four-color eye-shadow palette. That was it. When I began doing my eyeliner, I was basically shoving the pencil under my top eyelid to “line” my “eyes.” With a little bit of sparkly black eye shadow somewhere below my eyebrow, voila, I was done. Looking back, I used to do my makeup the way I see 7-year-olds do theirs: a little clownish, definitely messy, but charming in its naïveté. I am eternally grateful that that phase was short lived, but in hindsight, it felt like a rite of passage.
There is a duality to makeup: it is simultaneously both a shared public experience and a very personal ritual.The time I spend in front of my mirror, sitting cross-legged on my rug, figuring out what look I need to turn to finish my outfit, is mine. It is so much mine. But sharing this part of myself with others, and in turn hearing their analogous routines, has become a profound point of connection with others, particularly with other queers.I cannot speak for all, but my experience with others has never been competitive; we share tips and unconditionally encourage each other. There is no wrong way to do your makeup – that’s the point.