Outward
Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation

Dec. 15 2017 2:02 PM

In the Age of Instagram Queens, Drag Artists Debate If Performance Is Necessary

There’s no question that social media platforms like Instagram are changing drag: If a queen can adorn herself beautifully and snap a breathtaking photo, she can win fame without even leaving the house. But is the rising popularity of social media queens—who often emphasize garments and makeup in their work—causing trouble for the larger drag community?

On one level, social media has created a new point of entry to the global drag scene, opening doors for a broad spectrum of talented visual artists who might otherwise be excluded—queens isolated in small towns, barred from clubs because of their age, or too shy or unwilling to navigate the jungle of nightlife.

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But for some, the growing presence of Instagram queens seems to be skewing public expectations for drag toward looks and fashion, and away from rich traditions of performance (including lip-synching, stand-up comedy, and dance), activism, community building, and so on. And in an industry where low-pay and high-expenses renders money rarely the object, any threat to long-held tradition is deeply felt.

As a queen myself, I’ve defended both sides of the argument.

But with a new season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All Stars around the corner, the nightlife community is arguing more vehemently than ever about what makes a true queen. So I talked to some girls who made their names on stage, and some girls who made their careers online, searching for insight on drag’s new age of looks and likes.

Aleera Night is a testament to the power of social media in the contemporary drag world, not because Instagram made her famous, but because it gave her the strength to launch a career. A gifted makeup artist based in Montreal, Canada, Ms. Night never had the guts go out in drag—that is, until she began creating online content. “I started doing looks on Instagram because I didn’t have a lot of confidence, and I wanted to do something that would make me proud of myself,” she told me. “So I started studying and getting inspired by other queens that I saw on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram—and my looks got really good feedback.” In a little over a year, Ms. Night amassed a collection of stunning visual creations that expressed her obsession with fantasy films, and won her a supportive pool of fans and friends.

Soon, positive online response gave Ms. Night the confidence she needed to step out. Battling anxiety and panic attacks that reduced her to vomiting, she started with a visit to New York City, where she drew inspiration from the swagger of the queens she met. When she returned home, she felt driven. “I told myself, ‘You can’t go on living like you are right now, doing drag for your cats at home,’” she told me. “I really wanted to express myself in the outside world.”

For over two months now, Ms. Night has been an enthusiastic participant in Montreal’s drag competitions, experiencing new confidence both in and out of drag. And yet without support from the growing community of—and audience for—social media look queens, she might never have had the strength to tell herself, in her words, “Listen, bitch. You can do this.”

But for many performing queens, the growing audience for “look queens” on Instagram is a point of contention. “For the most part, people that aren’t in nightlife only see Instagram queens,” Pixie Aventura, a top queen in New York City, told me. “And that may have given the general public, people who don’t have the chance to go out and about, the idea that that’s what drag is.”

As a performing queen myself, I know what Aventura is talking about. Sometimes people wander into drag bars expecting extravagant, polished looks, and if they don’t see something they like, they won’t wait around for a performance. They don’t understand that there’s much more to drag than image-making, and that sometimes an outfit has to be simple in order to survive the kicks and splits of a high energy show.

Yes, sometimes, a great performing queen can look a little “crunchy” in person—but that doesn’t mean she’s not a great queen. And, in any case, even Instagram queens fall short of the standards they set. “I see a lot of makeup transformation artists who do these amazing transformations on Instagram, but you find out that it only works in a picture,” Aventura told me. “Because you see them out and it doesn’t work in real life. They just angled themselves in the picture so that it looked just right.” In short, the doctored images produced by social media queens sometimes push images of drag that are impractical if not impossible.

Still, Aventura doesn’t have a problem with social media drag so long as audiences learn to remain open to “the total package” that exists beyond couture garments and high-end makeup, even beyond the queen herself. “I feel now that people are trying to make rules about what drag is supposed to be, but drag defies definition,” Aventura says, “It’s not just a look. It’s being out in that bar, at that moment, with the most random people, where the most random events occur. Live theater happens with the audience—and that moment is drag.”

But though drag has a rich history as an “in your face” performance art, as Aventura puts it, social media is clearly pushing the genre in new directions. Ellis Atlantis, a queen and makeup artist with a broad reaching influence on Instagram, suggests that drag now requires simply being true to your “drag life.” “If you want to be an all-rounder then you’re going to have to perform or have some sort of act,” she says, “But I don’t think you have to perform and I don’t think a queen who doesn’t perform is any less of a drag queen.

For Atlantis, drag has been important not because of her growing audience, but because of what she has discovered through her work. “Originally I thought I was transgender and that’s why I started drag and putting myself out into the social media world—to explore, gain an understanding of myself,” she says. “Now my Instagram is my portfolio of looks, my way of saying This is my style, this is my creation.” Today, Atlantis creates looks not so much to explore gender identity, but for the sake of artistic expression: “I do Instagram to show the world who I am and to leave my creative mark.”

For Chicago-based Soju, who thrives both online and on the ground, surviving contemporary drag is all about balancing two challenges: real-world skill and visual, social media prowess.

Queens who depend primarily on social media often meet with ugly practical problems. “Having a large amount of Instagram followers is not going to pay your bills,” Soju says, “Having followers can lead you to a booking, but when you get the gig, are you a good performer? Are you going to get asked back?” Every city and venue has its own expectations for nightlife queens—but no matter where you go, a look is rarely enough. In most New York City clubs, girls are expected to do stand-up, perform high energy lip-sync numbers and—for better or worse—dance. In Chicago, parties like Queen! at Smart Bar celebrate extravagant looks, but still require girls to mix and mingle skillfully, keeping guests entertained, tipsy, and coming back for more every week.

But queens who want to survive entirely on these kinds of performance and party-hosting gigs will also meet with challenges. “If you want to make it in this industry, and you’re not a RuPaul’s Drag Race star, you can’t just stay in one lane,” Soju says, “Even if a queen says she doesn’t care about social media, even if she says she’s not a look queen, she’ll inevitably try different looks and trends. Because social media drag has influenced all queens, forced them to try new things to be seen.”

I laughed with Soju about one of the ongoing beefs between our hometowns—Chicago girls hate when New York City queens step onto the stage without elegant nails on their fingertips. “For you New York girls it’s all about, ‘How can quickly can I change out of this outfit and get to my next gig? What’s going to be comfortable on the train?’” Soju laughs. “That’s what we think when we see you without nails.” I roll my eyes—it’s always a pain to figure out what audiences and fellow queens require when you perform in a new setting.

But talking with Soju made me realize that queens are in a constant state of adjustment—trying to read the room in a new bar or a new town, trying to watch their sisters for new makeup trends. Now that social media queens have changed the drag landscape when it comes to standards of style, beauty, and engagement, we’ll just have to adjust yet again.

Dec. 14 2017 2:33 PM

The Hawaii Supreme Court Must Affirm the Equality of Same-Sex Parents

On Thursday, the Hawaii Supreme Court will hear arguments in a significant LGBTQ rights case—a first of its kind—that applies marriage equality to legal parenthood. At the heart of the litigation is a question of what makes a parent. The Hawaii justices will have to decide whether a married lesbian can escape parental responsibilities toward the child to whom her then-wife gave birth. To uphold LGBTQ equality, the justices should rule that parental obligations attach equally to same-sex and opposite-sex spouses.

The couple, C.C. and D.D., married in Washington, D.C., in 2013. Shortly thereafter, the two women moved to Hawaii, where C.C. had been called on military orders. During the course of their marriage, they considered having a child together. While C.C. was deployed between January and September 2015, D.D. sought out a sperm donor and became pregnant. A month after C.C.’s return from deployment, she filed for divorce. The child was born before the divorce’s finalization.

As a general principle in family law, when a married woman gives birth to a child, the birthmother and her spouse are presumed to be the child’s parents. The biological relationship of her spouse to the child is irrelevant. This is true of a same-sex couple or a married heterosexual couple. If a birthmother is married to a man at either the time the child was conceived or between conception and birth, her husband’s name is placed on the child’s birth certificate. The presumption of parentage does not necessarily mean he is the biological father. Indeed, presumptive paternity requires no evidence that her husband is the biological father.

The theory behind this presumption is that it advances children’s best interests, keeps children off public assistance, and promotes stronger families. The presumption, however, is rebuttable if the nonbirth parent shows clear and convincing evidence that parental rights should not be imputed on them. In the context of opposite-sex couples, the presumption can be overcome with proof that the husband was away from the wife during the time of conception; that the husband is infertile, sterile, or impotent; or that the couple did not have sexual relations.

Dec. 13 2017 9:53 AM

Masterpiece Cakeshop’s Defenders Are Reviving Arguments Used to Justify Racial Apartheid

Even if the United States Supreme Court does the right thing in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission and comes to the doctrinally easy conclusion that it is not a violation of the First Amendment for government to require places of public accommodation to provide services without discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, it will remain unfortunate that by agreeing to hear the case in the first place, the court provided a prominent public platform to arguments that have as much moral foundation as racial apartheid and less intellectual depth than phrenology.

From the earliest days of marriage equality litigation, opponents argued in court that equal marriage rights for same-sex couples would harm three constituencies: society at large, the individuals involved in same-sex unions, and children raised in these households. The argument that same-sex marriage posed a threat to social order rested on the notion that same-sex married couples would weaken one of the most important social tools for transmitting community values and promoting public good, thereby deinstitutionalizing marriage and stripping it of all intrinsic worth. The claim that same-sex relationships were damaging to the individuals depended on the commonly held belief that same-sex relationships are by their very nature purely sexual, and consecrating them with marriage rights would give individuals free reign to indulge in their base instincts and worst appetites. The proposition that same-sex unions were harmful to children raised the specter that these children would be ostracized by the outside world for belonging to a homosexual household and would be pressured inside the home to develop putatively homosexual interests and behaviors, resulting in all manner of calamities, including, among other things, mental illness, criminal behavior, substance abuse, promiscuity, depression, and suicide.

If these arguments seemed tiresome in their repetitiveness, it was in part because in court after court the same cadre of lawyers and organizations filed the very same briefs. But their appalling familiarity was also due to their ancient provenance: They had first been rehearsed at the end of the Civil War, when the taboo of sex between black men and white women could no longer be effectively policed by the institution of slavery, and had been rehashed over generations until the United States Supreme Court finally put an end to them in Loving v. Virginia. So, beginning with one of the early marriage cases in California Supreme Court, through the Iowa litigation, and subsequent federal cases, a number of amicus briefs—most prominently from the Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of law—showed in exhausting detail that the very same arguments that were raised against interracial sex, marriage, and parenting, had been dug up, dusted off, and were now being revived against same-sex marriage.

Indeed, so clear were the parallels that in many instances, anti-marriage equality briefs relied on the very same biblical verses, the very same sexualized images, and virtually the very same eugenics theories as had first been used in anti-miscegenation cases. But perhaps no brief made the point more succinctly than the one the California NAACP filed in 2007, in which they simply cut and pasted virtually verbatim the words of the majority and dissenting opinions in Perez v. Sharp, the 1948 California case that preceded Loving by nearly two decades in outlawing a ban against interracial marriage. The only change the brief made was to replace words and phrases such as “race,” “different races,” “ancestry,” and “intermarriage” with “same-sex,” “gender,” and “sexual orientation.”

Dec. 13 2017 8:35 AM

How the Places We Live Can Shape Our Queer Identities

Adapted from How Places Make Us: Novel LBQ Identities in Four Small Cities by Japonica Brown-Saracino, out now from the University of Chicago Press.

When Sam—a petite, tattooed woman in her early thirties with a degree from an Ivy League university—decided to move from Boston, to Portland, Maine, for graduate school, she knew her new daily life would be significantly different than the bustle of her twenty-something world in Boston; but what she didn’t anticipate was how her very sense of self would change. On moving, she found that the cities share a number of traits: a cityscape marked by antique homes and proximity to water, and pockets of both gentrification and poverty. However, something unexpected occurred after her move. After years of thinking of herself as lesbian, as a woman who loved other women but who did not devote much thought to what kind of a lesbian she might be, she came to think about and speak of herself as “stone butch.” Not only did the way she thought about herself change, but her ties—and the basis on which she forged them—changed, too. She cofounded an online and off-line meet-up group for butch individuals, which, via bowling nights, dance parties, and conversation over coffee, celebrated the diverse forms butch identity can take—spanning the gamut from the “tea-drinking-fairy-butch” to the “preggers butch” to the “survivor butch”—and immersed herself in a network of individuals committed to polyamory.

Sam could not put her finger on the source of her personal transformation, but she was certain that it had occurred. She also noted that those around her in Portland approached identity and difference in a manner distinct from that which she had found in other small, Northeastern cities. In Portland, like Sam many celebrated very specific lesbian, bisexual, and/or queer (LBQ) identities, like stone butch, high femme, or queer punk. Sitting on the back patio of her rental in Portland’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood she said, “[In Boston] there’s like a different kind of queer . . . I couldn’t really escape being around, like, student groups and there’s always kind of like an ‘outy’ feeling . . . that feels different than, like, queer here.” In Portland, she said, “there’s more opportunity for people to feel welcome even if they have sort of a particularized identity.”

I met Sam when I was collecting the stories and charting the experiences of LBQ residents of four small, politically progressive U.S. cities: Ithaca, N.Y., San Luis Obispo, Cali., Portland, Maine, and Greenfield, Mass. Like Sam, most of the 170 individuals I interviewed and many of the others whom I observed while collecting field notes are highly educated, white, and mobile individuals, who moved to these cities sometime in the decade before I met them. Moreover, like Sam, nearly all have found that in these new places, they felt a shift both in how they relate to those around them (gay and straight alike) and in how they understood themselves and the group to which they belonged.

Dec. 12 2017 2:53 PM

How Saving the Stud Put Queer Politics Into Practice

Just after midnight, a drag queen in a blue gingham dress named Miss J grabs me on the shoulder. The air in San Francisco smells like smoke; today, a Wednesday in early October, is the fourth day of some of the largest and most destructive fires north of the Bay anyone can remember. Around us, people dance; Luz, a DJ visiting from Berlin, is cuing up wailing divas that have a mix of San Franciscans—bears in red lycra bodysuits, lesbians in fedoras, people of all races and genders and classes—spinning in plumes of artificial fog outlined in lavender light. There is a feeling of freshness, of freedom, of something slightly undiscovered, that can be rare in more homogenous gay scenes. “I want to kick the DJ off the stage and sing sad songs about the fires,” Miss J says. “A friend of mine is fighting them, and it’s awful. But the music is so fucking good I can’t stop dancing.” She spins away.

We’re in the Stud, a gay club located in San Francisco’s South of Market area that’s been open since 1966. Last year, the bar was in danger of closing, its longtime owners preparing to sell and facing an almost-tripling of the monthly rent. Across San Francisco—across urban centers worldwide—gay bars, and especially bars catering to class- and race-diverse crowds, are shutting down due to reasons ranging from economic to cultural, as rents in urban areas rise and dating apps make some queer people (mostly men) feel the need for in-person connection less acutely. Marke Bieschke, a nightlife writer and alt-weekly veteran, called the bar “one of those spaces where I had a death watch. It was a place where I was thinking, ‘okay, when this goes it’s time to leave San Francisco.’” But instead of just watching, Bieschke joined a class-, gender-, and race-diverse group of 18 San Franciscans—people with varying levels of experience in nightlife, business, and community organizing—and formed a collective that bought the bar, negotiated a two-year continuation of its lease, and created one of the first worker-owned nightclubs in the world. They began operations on Jan. 1, 2017.

Dec. 11 2017 3:53 PM

No, the Pentagon Did Not Overrule Trump on the Trans Troops Ban

At 1:07 p.m. on Monday, the Associated Press tweeted a stunning claim:

The tweet seems to contain two pieces of information: First, the Pentagon will permit openly transgender individuals to enlist in the armed forces beginning in January; second, that the Pentagon made this decision in spite of President Trump’s ban on transgender troops. The first claim is uncertain and premature; the second implication is flat-out wrong. There is still a decent chance that the trans troops ban will be in effect come Jan. 1, 2018. And if the ban is not in effect, it will be because of a court order—not because the Pentagon went rogue.

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Here’s where things stand with regard to the trans troops ban. In June 2016, the Department of Defense invited transgender troops already serving in the armed forces to come out, after commissioning and conducting multiple studies on the matter. The DOD concluded that open transgender service posed no threat to military readiness or unit cohesion. A RAND study also found that the health care costs of transgender troops would be negligible. So the DOD let transgender troops serve openly—but it did not allow openly transgender people to enlist in the military. Instead, it decided that the enlistment ban would end in July 2017.

In July, however, Secretary of Defense James Mattis delayed the termination of the enlistment ban once again, pushing it back to Jan. 1, 2018. A few weeks later, Trump tweeted his total ban on transgender service. The announcement was a double defeat for transgender people: Not only did it scrap the termination date for the enlistment ban, meaning trans people were indefinitely barred from joining the armed forces; it also reversed the military’s acceptance of already-serving transgender troops.

Civil rights advocates, fearing an imminent purge, sued to block the ban. In lawsuits filed in different federal courts across the country, they argued that the ban discriminated on the basis of sex and transgender status in violation of equal protection. On Oct. 30, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly agreed, ruling that the government may not implement the proposed policy. Instead, Kollar-Kotelly instructed the government to revert to the status quo with regard to transgender military service. Obviously, that prevented the Pentagon from purging already-serving transgender troops. But the Trump administration wasn’t sure whether the ruling also revived Jan. 1 as the termination date of the enlistment ban. It asked Kollar-Kotelly for a clarification, and she explained that, indeed, the Pentagon must permit trans enlistment on New Year’s Day of 2018. (Meanwhile, a different federal court blocked the trans ban, calling it “capricious,” “arbitrary,” and “outrageous.”)

The Trump administration wasn’t pleased that Kollar-Kotelly revived the Jan. 1 termination date, so it asked her to put this part of her ruling on hold while it appealed her decision. On Monday, she refused to do so. That means that, unless a higher court weighs in, the Pentagon is obligated to follow Kollar-Kotelly’s order on Jan. 1 and allow enlistment of openly transgender individuals. It seems that the AP was trying to express this fact in its tweet. But even then, it leaves out crucial information: A higher court may well put Kollar-Kotelly’s order on hold before the new year arrives. The Trump administration will almost certainly seek a stay; it filed a notice of appeal in both cases, indicating that it plans to fight these rulings aggressively. And there is still ample time for a higher court—perhaps even the Supreme Court—to intervene and stay Kollar-Kotelly’s decision.

To summarize: Trump wants to prohibit all transgender people from serving in the military. The Pentagon is trying to follow his orders. But two federal courts have prohibited the Pentagon from discriminating against transgender people. Their rulings require the armed forces to permit transgender enlistment starting Jan. 1. And even if they aren’t, the uncertainty surrounding trans service may dissuade many trans people from enlisting until the legal questions are resolved.

Dec. 11 2017 12:34 PM

A Case in Mississippi Raises Questions About the Legal Security of Nontraditional Families

Hey, Daddy! is a monthly column exploring the joys and struggles of parenting from a gay father’s perspective. Got a topic idea or question for Daddy? Send your letter along to johnculhane19104@gmail.com.

Are our same-sex-parented families as legally secure today as we imagine them to be? Sadly, no. The 2015 marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges hasn’t stopped some courts and policymakers from trying to diminish the impact of that case, often by trying to fence the nonbiological parent off from any children the couple might have. The situation is sadder—and unforgiveable—when gay and lesbian former spouses try to exploit these outdated views against each other. A case currently before the Mississippi Supreme Court is the latest example of this damnable tactic, which diminishes every nontraditional family—straight and gay alike.

Dec. 8 2017 2:56 PM

By Supporting Roy Moore, Evangelicals Exposed the Hollow Bigotry of Their Homophobia

Watching the religious community from your childhood make a bonfire of its moral authority is a sight to see.

In my case, the community in question was made up of evangelical Christians. I was raised in a deeply conservative church smack in the middle of Missouri. All through the 1980s, I was as active a member as you were likely to find. If the doors were open, chances are good I was there with my family. I attended the vacation Bible school, Christian youth conferences, and I was Camper of the Week at church camp two years running. I memorized all the Bible verses, learned all the hymns, and was a shepherd one year in the live Nativity scene out front.

I was also gay—though I wouldn’t have an understanding of why I felt different from the other boys until I hit puberty. The realization struck me with horrible, nauseating weight.

There was no clearer social message that I absorbed during my time in that church than its opinion of gays, with the exception of its unwavering opposition to abortion. The hatred of gays had its own special heat. Gays were out to deliberately spread disease, I was taught. (This lie still has purchase in the minds of certain famous Christian leaders, lest you think it an unfortunate historical vestige.) Gays belonged on a desert island. Gays were “faggots,” a term I heard used for us in front of a cheering, laughing crowd of evangelical teenagers.

All of those messages I heard at church events, over and over. Eventually, frightened of his possible response but frightened even more for my soul, I confessed my emerging feelings to my youth minister. He was gentle but unambiguous in his reply that this was something I’d need to turn over to God to change. (In the same conversation, he also told me I needed to “stop swishing.”)

Dec. 8 2017 11:40 AM

How Clueless Straight White Guys Excuse Religious Homophobia

Why does it seem that, every time a national debate erupts about the place of minorities in American life, a gaggle of Straight White Guys with little connection to or understanding of these minorities holds forth on how they should or shouldn’t resolve their grievance about unequal treatment? This week’s version came in response to Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Supreme Court case of Jack Phillips, a Christian baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. Phillips is seeking a license to discriminate based on artistic and religious freedom.

This week’s featured culprits: David Brooks writing in the New York Times, and George Will and political scientist Greg Weiner in the Washington Post. Each of their pieces made some reasonable points. But each betrayed a galling inability or unwillingness to truly consider what it might feel like to be a disfavored minority in modern America—to enter a store and be stamped for rejection based on a stigma you’ve already endured your entire life. In other words, they refused to let empathy shape their thinking.

If you write, opine, make policy or rulings or otherwise hold power over others, you can’t do your job well if you don’t practice empathy. This appeal to empathy is not a plea for powerful men to feel sorry for minorities; it’s about creating the moral habits of mind that involve putting yourself in others’ shoes so you can better understand the many sides of an issue that disproportionately affects people who aren’t you. If decent white men should have learned anything from the Trump election, Charlottesville, the police killings of unarmed black men, and the nationwide sexual harassment scandal, it’s that we have a special responsibility to better learn and practice empathy so we can make more informed decisions and wreak less havoc across the world.

With that in mind, I present five arguments advanced by Clueless Straight White Guys about religious-based anti-LGBTQ discrimination, and explain why they’re clueless:

Argument #1: It’s just cake; buy it somewhere else.

 

Dec. 7 2017 3:53 PM

Why Do Some Trans Men Freak Out When Other Trans Men Wear Makeup?

Is a man wearing makeup still really a man? While it seems irrational to think a bit of face goo would negate someone’s manhood, no other question is as contentious in the community of trans men. It’s gotten to be such a problem that some Facebook groups for trans men address it directly in their rules for membership. “If a man is wearing makeup, LEAVE HIM BE” is the third rule for one such group with over 15,000 members. Other FTM groups, particularly those with very few rules, host near-daily flame wars between makeup-wearers and trans guys who attempt to enforce a masculine aesthetic through insults and mockery. Dyed hair and feminine clothing can sometimes prompt a similar reaction, but nothing seems to trigger a backlash to the same extent as trans guys who wear makeup.

Lukas Pareika is one of the transgender men who has posted pictures of himself in makeup. When I asked him to describe his makeup wearing, and if he’d been hassled for it online he wrote:

I tend to mainly go for eye and lip makeup when I’m just doing it regularly, nothing too intense. Off the clock, I’ll throw on some foundation and contour if I feel like, and on special occasions I do a full face/get a full face done. I never realized what an art makeup was and being an artistic type, I was instantly drawn to it. I love everything about it, from the application, to the end result, to the occasional compliment. It just feels good to do. In my life outside of the internet, I hardly receive any negative comments. Online however, I’ve had many trans men on pages I follow on Facebook tell me that I’m not a real trans guy for wearing makeup and looking feminine. One guy even told me I couldn’t possibly be trans, because I didn’t look like a guy.

Outside of the trans community, many people still insist on definitions of “man” and “woman” that arbitrarily exclude every single trans person from their post-transition gender, and hurl insults when our appearances are deemed too feminine or masculine for the gender we identify with. So as a trans guy myself, I just don’t go there. If a trans guy wants to wear makeup he has every right—I won’t say a thing about it. Deep down in some cold, conservative part of my soul, however, I have to admit I understand where these particular haters are coming from. I don’t say it; I wish I didn’t feel it; but when a transgender man shares a very feminine looking picture, particularly one in which the femininity of his facial features is enhanced by makeup, it makes me uncomfortable. It reminds me of an earlier time in my life when I’d look into the mirror and see a girl who could never be anything but a girl, a particularly intense form of what’s called gender dysphoria. Damien, a New Jersey trans man who has participated in some of the online dust-ups, described his own similar reaction:

I feel dysphoric since we’re both lumped in under the same label, and it reminds me of how hard I fought to NOT have to look like that, [and of] all the trans guys in unsupportive households who are forced to wear makeup and perform femininity.
It also reminds me of the feminine features I still have that I’m waiting to change. I wonder if the person posting even understands dysphoria the way that I and many other non-makeup-wearing trans guys experience it.

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