Queering the Body | Makeup Musings with Che Gossett
Che Gossett is a trans femme writer, an archivist at the Barnard Center for Research on Women and a PhD candidate in trans/gender studies at Rutgers. They are the recipient of the 2014 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award from the American Studies Association, a Radcliffe research grant from Harvard University and the 2014 Sylvia Rivera Award in Transgender Studies from the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies at the City University of New York, and the 2014 Martin Duberman Research Scholar Award from the New York Public Library. Most recently, they received a Palestinian American Research Committee grant and are currently serving as a 2017-2018 Queer Arts Mentor. They are working on a book project titled Blackness, the Beast and the Non Sovereign. You can find Che here.
Makeup for me is part of relationality, a way of being in and sharing, contributing to but also partaking of—in a communist sense—the aesthetic sociality of makeup and stylization.
It is also a way of queering the body and moving as close as I can to being bioluminescent, the shock and vibrancy and bursting of color, its explosive force, its confrontational beauty.
I grew up in Boston which in general feels cold in all the ways imaginable—in its affective climate, social climate and political climate. I always appreciate queer and trans poc and Black queer and trans sociality that blooms in places like Boston which are sites of white heteronormative power. As James Baldwin said, "we forged ourselves in this fire" and that certainly rings true in terms of living under duress in that city.
While that felt like the general atmosphere, I also went to a high school where I had queer and trans femme friends and I did HIV/AIDS prevention work as a youth and met fellow Black trans femme and queer folks—this was in the late 1990s—and that really opened up more space for cruising and for trans femme aesthetic sociality.
My experience with makeup has actually happened really belatedly for the most part, though I actually do remember painting my nails in high school. At that moment,it felt like I was transgressing and queering masculinity since I didn't really have the language and political vernacular of trans femme at the time.