"Makeup seemed like the magical key to... the pandora's box of my (imposed) wildest dreams." | Makeup Musings with Hart Hanson
Hart Hanson is a nonbinary trans femme living in west Philadelphia. They love dogs, vintage clothing, and spending time with their partner and their three wonderful fur babies!
Loving makeup seemed to be something that was always expected of me from a very young age. Being born with conventionally corresponding genitals, I was forced into the role of “girl” from six months of age when my mother pierced my ears at the mall for fear I’d be confused for a boy.
I wore makeup for my dance recitals, which really just seemed like rehearsal for the real world: smile, look pretty, and keep in time. Slowly, throughout my childhood, my collection of makeup grew as my mother gave me hand-me-downs of old eyeshadows and lipsticks. Makeup was always paired with my favorite game: dress-up, which was exclusively in the house. I went to Catholic grade school, so I also wasn’t allowed to wear any at school.
As I grew older I got an allowance. The first piece of makeup I remember buying myself and cherishing to death was this AWFUL shade of blue eyeliner. I think it was Maybelline. I remember this piece of makeup specifically because I wore it the first time my mom let me wear makeup to a party. I was probably eleven or twelve years old. It was a Christmas party at my Dad’s coworker’s house, so I didn’t really know anyone. I remember my brother mocking me for the blue smeared along the top and bottom of my eyes, meeting in a very unflattering smudgy “wing” on the ends. I didn’t care what he thought; in my heart I truly believed I was channeling a late 90’s Cleopatra-esque look. I think it was the first time I really felt cool, and it was all thanks to makeup.
I grew up in a house that supported conventional gender roles, like most white kids in upper-middle class suburban families on the east coast raised by baby boomers. Although my parents claimed to be open-minded and accepting of differences, homophobia and transphobia ran rampant in the media in the ‘90s and our lives reflected that. My mother projected all the trauma one endures being a woman in this country onto me by way of teaching me that the only things that mattered were to be skinny, pretty, and have a man who loves you.
Makeup seemed like the magical key to open up the pandora's box of my (imposed) wildest dreams. I think my relationship with makeup has evolved over the years, even within the past few years, especially in my transition from presenting as a cis-woman to a trans-masc non-binary femme. Before my transition, I felt obligated to wear makeup every day. I felt I needed to appeal to the male gaze. Sure, I didn’t shave my legs and there were a lot of gay things about me, but I never really got over a tinge of shame or the feeling I was doing something *wrong* by not putting on a face before leaving the house for the day. Now, makeup is for ME. It’s a means of expression of my identity. Sometimes I’ll feel super femme and do a classically “clean-face” look, or sometimes I’ll feel really loud and like putting together a color-blocked masterpiece complete with matching eyeshadow, and sometimes I’ll skip all of the makeup except for some eyebrows and darken my mustache with the same brow gel a bit.
As my identity has become more fluid and dynamic, so has my relationship with makeup. My mother really never taught me much, she mostly just gave me things. It kind of went the same way with makeup. I taught myself. I definitely feel like I have a natural talent for it, along with an inherent flair for the color wheel. There have been some looks along the way that I will look back at and laugh, sure, but mostly I’ll look at a picture from that time and remember how good I felt, even if I wouldn’t be caught dead looking like that today!
Specific example: As I am AFAB and taking Testosterone right now, my mustache has been growing in at a slow and steady pace. Lately I have been darkening it a bit with my brow gel. Being out in the world with a mustache is something I have always wanted! But it is something I worry will not be received well by strangers who read me as a cis-woman. As a person who desperately wants approval from most people, this is a conflicting and complicated experience. I feel validated if people can look at me and understand that I am not cis-gendered, but it hurts to think they might not fully *get* me, which is a lot to put on a stranger and on myself!
In general: In “safe” spaces with other queers/femmes/friends who dabble with makeup as a hobby, makeup is a bonding tool. I love giving compliments to other people about their makeup and asking questions about what products they use, and I love to return the favor. I love doing my makeup with friends before we go out! I am also on message boards/facebook groups with queers where we JUST talk about and share makeup pictures!