This February is LGBTQ+ history month. Queerness and beauty are, for me, so intrinsically linked that it’s hard to put into words. I see beauty as a superpower, as armour, as a defence mechanism, and the way I show who I am to the world. Beauty, for queer people, can be our safety and security – both in ourselves and how the world sees us.
Every day I use beauty as armour. I sit down for 30/45 mins doing my skincare, and my makeup as a form of meditation, relaxation and grounding myself – but, crucially, I use it as a part of my gender expression. If “all the world’s a stage and we are simply players” and Judith Butler’s famous description of gender as performative, then beauty plays a key role in my performance. The way I choose to paint my face or do my hair dictate how people perceive me. The confidence that I gain from beauty is unlike anything else – it’s my identity.
The world is a scary place scary for anyone that doesn’t fit into a white/straight/cis, frankly, male mould – and I am none of those things; I like to describe myself as Piers Morgan’s worst nightmare: I am a Jewish non-binary queer person with ADHD. I do not fit this mould. Every day we see stories in the media about people that want to destroy whichever facet of my identity they’ve deemed to be polemic that day. Beauty is my shield to protect me and my sword from fighting back.
People like the (questionable) RuPaul made history with Mac’s original Viva Glam campaign, which sought to raise funds for people living with HIV/AIDS and has – to date – raised over $480 million. Without beauty products, RuPaul would not be able to make the statements that he makes today without 15lbs of pancake makeup and double stacked, teased to the sky wigs or his Zaldy couture. Otherwise, the supermodel of the world would just be a 6’4” transphobe who seriously believes that thoughts and prayers will enact direct change in the world.
This LGBTQ+ history month I implore you, dear reader, every day to take a step back and imagine what life might look like if the world came at you from all angles, telling you that your existence was wrong. People debate queer identities as if we aren’t human. When the world doesn’t seem to accept you, the journey to self-acceptance is the most terrifying thing that one could go through. Hateful vitriol is accepted as a standard in the media. There are people who live on television four days a week mocking our identities and getting away with it because they’re privileged white people whose lives were handed to them on a silver platter.
Yes, some people might think beauty to be nothing less than vapid vanity, but I see it as self-preservation; Aligning how I feel inside with how the world sees me, I know full well that I am not the norm and that is my favourite thing about myself.
I Am What I Am from the iconic musical La Cage aux Folles is one of the most powerful songs ever written. It not only speaks about self-acceptance but also about being unapologetically yourself; you only have one life, live it to the fullest.
All people use some aspect of beauty in their self-expression; queer people, particularly, use, and have used, beauty as power, preservation and performance. Beauty is everything.