Lipstick and Binders: Presenting Non-Binary

I’m not particularly androgynous, at least, not as much I’d sometimes like to be. A lot of that has to do with my obsession with makeup and cosmetics. I love the zen time I can indulge in while applying my makeup, and I love the way it can change my face and my attitude and even my mindset. It’s one of the tricks I sometimes use when I’m writing; if I have a particular story or character I need to dig into, I take the extra time to craft a look that puts me in the right head space for that day’s writing session.

But doing my makeup often feels like shooting myself in the foot in terms of how people see me that day. I’m genderfluid, so yes, sometimes I feel like a woman, a woman who wears makeup. However, more often I find myself floating in that nebulous center of the spectrum, where I can’t quite put my finger on how I identify that day. That doesn’t change the fact that I love taking time out of my day to sit down and make my eyes shine a little brighter or my face look a little smoother.

The problem is that the world is quick to spot my lipstick and my mascara and the softer curve of my jaw, and that’s when they ping me as Female. It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m binding my chest so that it’s practically paper-flat or that I’m wearing the shirts and ties I bought in the men’s section. Without some other “masculine” marker on my face, I get filed under “ma’am” and “girl.”

This burns me. Not because I don’t sometimes identify as a woman or that I think being a woman or seen as one is bad. It’s that sense of being labeled by total strangers just on sight that gets under my skin. I’ve heard it compared to how there’s a difference between putting a cat in a box and the cat getting in the box on their own. It’s apt, because I too will be prone to scratching you if you try to box me in.

Still, regardless of the emotional pain and discomfort I knowingly risk when I put on makeup and venture outside, I still do it almost everyday. I suppose it has something to do with me getting to take some control over how I see myself, even if I can’t have that same control over the way strangers see me. When you know that you’re going to feel that uncomfortable sensation of being labeled by strangers regardless of what you wear or how you look, you might as well wear what you like and look how you like. Because, at the end of the day, you’re the person living in your body, not them, and it’s your opinion on your body’s appearance that really counts.

Plus, playing with eye shadow is damn fun.