Eyeliner Politics: Refusing to Pass in the Age of Trump

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After Donald Trump was elected president, Desmond Meagley decided to amplify his non-binary gender presentation. Photo Credit: Brett Myers/ Youth Radio

When Trump revoked federal protections allowing trans students to use the bathrooms that match their genders, leaving that decision to states and school districts, my first thought was: I guess it was only a matter of time.  

Since Trump’s election, I’ve felt a loss of control over who I’m allowed to be. My gut tells me, I need to push back, somehow.

All year, I’ve been on the verge of tears (and I’m not alone; crisis hotlines reported a spike in LGBTQ callers after the election). But instead of crying, these days, I reach for a tube of liquid eyeliner.

Until very recently, this was unusual for me. I came out as transgender at 14 and have spent years terrified of not passing as male. I used to bind my chest so tightly it hurt my ribs. I wore layers of clothing to disguise my body shape and shoes with huge lifts hidden in them to make me look taller. I avoided make-up and ‘girly’ outfits even if I thought they looked nice. And I laughed when my straight cis friends made sexist or transphobic jokes.

I believed that being totally stealth and assimilating into masculinity would allow me to lead a normal and happy life. But all it did was force me to keep hiding. I was holding myself to a standard I didn’t actually believe in. Coloring within lines that don’t exist.

Make-up used to make me feel dysphoric. Today, I stare at the black war paint around my eyes and I feel strong, defiant, and free.

Being stealth kept me safe. But a few months ago, I began to question what my life would be like without the privilege that passing as cisgender afforded. So many people just like me are visible whether they like it or not. How much do I really value a construct that is designed to punish them?

Now I want my queerness to be seen, or else discrimination will go unseen. I don’t care if my nonbinary identity isn’t “normal” enough for people to easily understand. “Normal” in our society is misogyny and queerphobia; the new administration makes that more apparent than ever.

During the presidential campaign, the Republican Party’s official platform took some of the most anti-LGBTQ positions in its historyincluding ending same-sex marriage, legalizing taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and families, and alluding to a parental right to use conversion therapy to “cure” their queer kids. That platform represents the agenda of the party that now controls the House, Senate, and the White House.

I can’t predict exactly what the Trump presidency has in store for me. But I am preparing for battle. And eyeliner is just the beginning.


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