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.


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