December 29, 2007

On Makeup

Posted in makeup, transgender at 7:32 am by Michael

Kate T. posted the following comment, and I started to write a reply, it got long, and I thought it might be interesting enough to put in the main stream. Here it is:

Hi Megan,

Thank you for sharing your story via the auspices of the internet. I’ve followed your blog nearly since its inception. It’s always interesting, and at times riveting–particularly when you candidly speak to the specifics of your/the trans experience. I do fall behind periodically, and since it can take some effort to catch up, perhaps I’ve missed discussion on the point about which I’m finding myself very curious. If so, pardon me, and perhaps please point me to the appropriate post/s to bring me up to speed. If not, I hope you’ll decide to respond to my question.

In your pre-op days, I remember a post in which you expressed a strong desire to present convincingly as your true gender. This seemed so basic as to preempt a credible counterpoint, and I understood it to be a/the primary reason to undergo facial feminization surgery. All completely understandable–and also the basis for my question. Why go to the surgical extreme—the time and expense and inconvenience and stress and pain and healing—then draw the line at what seems would be the comparatively minor step of wearing makeup, even as you seem to indicate that this would help mitigate the remaining challenges in your non-birth-gender presentation?

Thanks for taking the time to share, and best to you and your family.

Kate

Hi Kate – I’m glad that you enjoy reading my crazy long blog, what nice compliments! I’ve tried to keep the posts a bit shorter lately, so hopefully it will be easier to read overall.

As for why I had FFS, you did nail it, my goals were two – both to pass, but also to “look better”. I don’t think I really explained the “no makeup” thing well, so here we go.

Passing was important to both me and Anh so that as we moved through life the first thing that people would see wouldn’t be “that’s a guy wearing women’s clothes”. We were both concerned that if that was how life encountered us that we might face considerable discrimination. Some might say “Why does that matter?” People do face discrimination all the time. However, we both felt that if there was a way to minimize that first-impression issue, and at the same time help me to feel more comfortable in my skin, then we’d do it.

Let me be clear up front that I’m very glad that I had FFS. Yes, expensive. Yes, painful. Yes, my nose still hurts. Yes, I still can’t feel parts of my face (and when the nerves that have been “sleeping” wake up, boy are they PISSED!).

But, while I can’t see huge changes – Anh and other folks really do.

Last night she was going through some pictures and said “I saw some pictures of us from 2005. You looked like a man. Now, you look like a woman.”

I’m not sure I’d go that far yet, but certainly my face is much more feminine and softer than before. (And I love the fact that my ears aren’t spinnaker-like anymore!)

Two things have happened repeatedly though that have made me question one of the fundamental tenets of “why” I started my “fulltime transition” with FFS (the whole “passing” idea). The first is that I constantly get called “sir”, and get read as male. Everywhere. I give people my license “Megan Jenna Wallent” – still – “Sir”. (It will be fascinating to see what happens when I get the “F” on my license – to see how that impacts people who otherwise would “Sir” me…)

People come to our house to do work (we moved in in June, and it needed work – and we are getting a lot done now…) – they see me – they see our wedding pictures, right in the entryway – and you know what? Its no biggie. Never once has anyone said or acted odd. Even sitters (from a local service), which we use often (and is usually a different, older (late 50’s, early 60’s) woman), never a weird look.

So, even though I’m constantly “read”, we haven’t faced anything other than the five, documented crappy looks. (People have asked – “What’s a crappy look?” Think of it as a semi-sneer, associated with the head to toe stare-down. Staring for a long time also counts – as said on the Crappy Look Counter page “Don’t stare, I know I’m beautiful!” 🙂 )

So, I get “read” (thing one), but it’s not a “problem” (thing two).

(I get that living in Seattle, that my/our experience may be different than others, especially in different parts of the country/world. I can’t comment, since I don’t live there!)

To really “get” the makeup question, I need to first explain a bit of my/our overall style. As I’ve said before, we are a very active family. We run and exercise just about daily, travel, are on the go, and generally live a very casual lifestyle. Before June of this year, I didn’t comb or brush my hair (it was short) – so I just ran my fingers through it, and that was enough. Daily ritual – shower, dry off, hair “fixing”, deodorant, toothbrush, shave – done! 15-20 minutes from alarm to door (w/o Samwich – he’s a whole other deal).

Anh’s style isn’t a lot different. She generally doesn’t wear makeup unless we are going someplace fancy and get dressed up (rare – and that’s lipstick, and maybe a little eyeliner), or maybe 2-3x a month, she’ll put on some lipstick in the morning.

Fundamentally, I didn’t want my “style” to change post-transition. And, I don’t want to take the required time daily+ to do the whole makeup deal “right”. I didn’t want to go from relatively low maintenance to relatively high maintenance. More than 30 minutes getting ready wasn’t going to cut it.

Also, I’m constantly running my hand through my hair, and touching my face. MTMS (mean time to makeup smear) would be probably 15 minutes or less.

It’s not like I haven’t tried makeup. My friend Jenny brought me to Barney’s to get “made up” right after we got back from SFO.

(Ok, here’s the part that may not make sense…)

After getting made-up, I felt “fake”. I didn’t feel like “me”. As I documented that day (December 10), I ended up taking it off pretty quickly (after passport pictures were taken).

(I get that people might be saying – “Wow, what a weird thing… She has FFS, Breast Implants, and some makeup makes her feel “Fake”. Wow!” Yeah, that’s how I feel. My face and chest feel like a vital part of me – the lipstick, not so much).

I’m not saying that I don’t want to “pass”. I do. However, I think right now it has more to do with my ‘stache and rest of my beard than adding makeup (and voice, and posture, etc).  I could not deal with the whole foundation/powder thing to use as a cover for my beard (time and MTMS issues).

Yes, I do think that I will eventually, on occasion, use some light makeup (lipstick, eye liner?). Right now, it kind of feels like it would be (and wow, this is self-pejorative, and I’m only partially serious 🙂 ) “lipstick on a pig”.

Thanks Kate for reading, and also for the really good question – hope this makes at least a little sense!

Happy New Year!

– Megan

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4 Comments »

  1. KymPossible said,

    Megan –
    when i was in jr. high/high school my mom sold cosmetics and as a result i’ve worn a lot of different types and styles of makeup in my 29 (again!) years. so if you’ll forgive me for an unsolicited opinion, make up is one of those things where less is more – unless you are doing something borderline costume-like that is very arty, like cirque du soleil. eyeshadow? blush? concealer? foundation? ugh. most everything i’ve ever had put on me at a makeup counter at a department store has just made me feel artificial and goopy.

    when and if you do decide to try makeup again, you can get good* results with nothing more than mascara and lip gloss or a sheer lipstick.

    KP

    *pretty/feminine without feeling artificial, painted, or overly made up

  2. anon said,

    I second the previous comment. I followed your link from jezebel.com and my own unsolicited opinion of your ‘after’ pic is this:

    Find a great Lipgloss and if you feel like it, mascara. Try one that’s not so sparkly and who’s colour is similar to your natural lip colour. Most women don’t wear a full face of makeup but lipgloss is always in thier purse.

    P.S.
    Get better shoes (a good sleek black boot should do). You can get away with a lot as a woman, shoes are non-negotiable.

    Good luck!

    Megan>> Interesting comment re the gloss… I do have to wear some sort of chapstick all the time now (dry lips – surgery complication?)… maybe I’ll try that!

    As for shoes, I do have some nice ones – those yesterday were Tod’s loafers we got in Italy this summer — not nice? 🙂 Also, hard to find super cool shoes in 13 (I’m 6ft 2in after all!) I have a couple pairs of shoes w/heels that the Nordy’s lady found for me… but I havent’ been brave enough to wear those to work yet (and the weather SUX here right now)

  3. Wendy said,

    You might consider a light application of foundation (I would suggest MAC Cosmetics visiting the MAC Cosmetics counter if one is near you to get a suggestion as towhich shade is best for you). Then a couple swipes of blush on the apple of each cheek to give your cheeks a bit of color (you will need to try different shades to see which looks best on you), and then pat yourself with powder.

    Sally Hansen 24 Hour Lip Treatment in place of lipstick.

    You should be able to do it all in a couple of minutes, while your coffee is heating up, as that is what it takes me if I am in a hurry. A bit more expense and trouble, but does look better from a distance than no makeup at all.

    A lipstick in a neutral or nude shade would be useful for before meetings or going out and about and meeting people, when putting pigmented grease and wax on your lips is worth the sacrifice for the extra plus in appearance. Some people go for the lip gloss – makes your lips look nice but like lipstick doesn’t feel natural to me.

    I don’t use mascara, as I always wind up looking like Alice Cooper (I always rub my eyes and it looks like I have two black eyes).

    For “women who leave a larger footprint” – DesignerShoes.com (http://www.designershoes.com/designer/)

    Also Payless Shoes (http://www.payless.com/). Though most of their shoes are cheap (I mean more affordable to value minded shoppers”) I do like and wear their “Service Sport Oxford with safeTstep Technology” shoes in to work, and I think they don’t look too bad. I work in a shop / garage environment, so nothing but safety type shoes are allowed.

  4. morgan said,

    Been reading your entire blog backwards, very interesting.

    I’m born a woman and I feel equally silly with makeup on…although very occasionally i will wear SOME mascara and other tiny bits of almost-indisitnguishable makeup….but it makes me feel wierd.

    I think that part of the reason is that whatever your gender, you are still a nerd. You aren’t transitioning into a normal female, but into a female nerd. Women who are computer programmers or other types of computer geeks often don’t wear a lot of makeup. Which might be why it feels inauthentic to your new personality.


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