I love makeup. I didn’t grow up loving makeup. I still don’t have any particular makeup-applying skills; I don’t own fancy makeup brushes or complicated sets of things; I don’t know how to put a “face” on; I don’t know what contouring is or how to apply eyeliner without ending up looking like a sad, sooty-eyed Bucky Barnes. But I love lipstick. I love the shape of it, and I love the textures, and I love experimenting with weird and unexpected lip colours like blue and green and orange.
This was a source of great anxiety to me for a very long time.
It sounds ridiculous, but my love of lipstick prevented me from realising my gender identity. I knew that non-binary people existed – heck, I lusted after non-binary-hood, it made sense to me, it felt like home – but I assumed that I had to be a cis woman if I still felt even the most tenuous connection with femininity. Because that’s what androgyny looks like, right? Androgyny for AFAB people can’t include lipstick and dresses and high heels because AFAB androgyny always looks masculine. Binders, bow ties, short scruffy hair.
I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with binders or bow ties – binders are a life saver and bow ties are the raddest item of clothing there is. It’s just that there shouldn’t be a presentation requirement for any kind of identity. You shouldn’t have to look “masculine ENOUGH” to “PASS” as a man if you’re AFAB, and trans women shouldn’t have to be femme all the time, and non-binary people of any flavour should not have to occupy a perfect middle space of androgyny in order to have our identities validated. For AFAB people – for me – masculinity should not be synonymous with androgyny, because masculinity is not neutral.
And where did the rules about lipstick come from, anyway? Why is lipstick feminine? Why are lips feminine when everyone has them? Why is it that masculine people can wear eyeliner, but not if they flick it up into wings? Why is it that eyeliner is androgynous but eyeshadow and mascara aren’t? Why is it that nail polish can be unisex, but only if it’s black?
Gender is fragile and strange and nonsensical, and trying to figure out how to find a form of non-binary performativity should not be as difficult as it is. Androgyny shouldn’t always be assumed to be white and AFAB and skinny and masculine. Androgyny shouldn’t always be Tilda Swinton and David Bowie. Androgyny should be black and brown and fat and laced with stretch marks, it should be lipstick-stained and curly-long-haired and high-heeled. Androgyny should be wearing a moustache. Androgyny should have armpit hair. Androgyny should be shaved and primped and perfumed, and muddy and unkempt. Androgyny shouldn’t look like any one thing.
Dear fellow lipstick-lovers: you are real, and your identity is valid, and the chemical substances that you apply to specific parts of your face should not say a single prescriptive thing about your gender identity.