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Boys Who Wear Makeup

DISCLAIMER: 4/20/2022

Hey there! It’s been about five years since I wrote Boys Who Wear Makeup and it has made its way around the virtual world. Lots of things have changed during that time. Erik headed off to college and subsequently came out as transgender. Her pronouns have changed as has her happiness. She kept her name but moves through the world as a woman. I have been concerned that this post still exists with the wrong pronouns and gender references. I don’t want to disrespect her at all. And I understand that this post has helped a lot of people, especially parents, understand that it’s OK that some boys like to wear makeup. So I talked with Erik and she suggested that I add a disclaimer but leave the post as is.

I also wanted to say that my feelings have changed a bit since I wrote this. I still believe that it’s fantastic that some boys wear makeup. And that it doesn’t usually mean that they are transgender. I also believe that some boys who wear makeup eventually come out as transgender. And that’s fantastic too! I’m a HUGE believer that everyone should find a way to be the best version of themselves, whatever that looks like. For Erik, the best version of herself is an intelligent, beautiful, kind, somewhat unorganized, motivated, honest, funny, fabulous woman.

In the past year I’ve found that there’s power in vulnerability as well as getting out of my comfort zone (even though my comfort zone is cozy and warm and makes me really happy). This post has been rattling around in my brain for the last week and I feel like it wants to come out and I need to share it. Often we fear what we don’t understand. I hope the vulnerability and discomfort of this post brings more understanding and kindness into the world.

Last week I was made aware of a negative tweet that a conservative vocal blogger Matt Walsh made about Manny Gutierrez, a Youtuber and Makeup artist eluding to the idea that the reason Manny wears makeup is because he doesn’t have a father figure/male role model.

“Dads, this is why you need to be there to raise your sons.” Matt Walsh

Normally I don’t give this type of negativity much energy in my attempt to look for the good in the world. But this story really hit home and has been marinating in my head all week.

My husband and I have been married for almost 24 years. We have 4 kids. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and part time photographer throughout their growing up years. My husband works during the week and is home every weekend. We have dinner together every night. We’re weekly church goers. We love watching movies together, playing board games, going on family vacations, taking the dog for walks together. I don’t believe there is a “typical American family” but as far as families go, we’re pretty ordinary and involved in our kids’ everyday lives.

This is Erik. He’s our third kid. As a sophomore at an academically competitive high school, he works hard all day, comes home and does homework for a few hours, spends an hour or two on his internship for a software company, practices the piano, does his household chores, and on the days he doesn’t have a Youth & Government meeting or a youth group meeting, he has an hour or two of free time to spend doing what he loves to do.

What he loves to do is makeup. Just like Manny.

I’ve always told my kids, “Find something you love, get really good at it, and someday someone will pay you for it.” Well, this kid took my advice to heart. He found his passion, is extremely talented at it, and is starting to make money doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, when Erik first confided in me that he wanted to wear makeup, I was super uncomfortable. I freaked out a little inside. “But he’s a boy. He can’t wear makeup! Boys don’t wear makeup. Boy George does but he’s not Boy George. Why does he want to wear makeup? Is he transgender? Does he want to be a girl? If he wears makeup he’ll get bullied and teased and it’s my job to protect him.” So many things were going through my head and some of them were coming out of my mouth. Luckily Erik was patient with me and my lack of understanding and my strict conformity to gender roles and societal expectations. He assured me that he was happy and confident being a boy. He was gay (which we already knew) and not transgender. This was his creative outlet. He loved the idea that we can transform ourselves into something completely different just with makeup, that no two looks are ever the same, and that he could express himself through the art of makeup with his own face being the canvas. He assured me that men have been wearing makeup since the 17th century, it was nothing new, in fact almost every actor on television wore some sort of makeup. Why should makeup be limited to women? He’d been watching makeup tutorials for a long time and really really wanted to play around with makeup.

If I was uncomfortable, you can imagine how uncomfortable this idea made my husband who had never embraced even the tiniest part of metrosexuality when it was trending. He’s a “guy’s guy”. Well, it’s amazing how much empathy and understanding can take place when you try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a bit. My husband really wanted to understand this interest of Erik’s. He really wanted to be supportive but he just didn’t “get” it. So, I suggested they take a few hours on a Saturday and head to our local Sephora so Erik could share his knowledge of makeup with my husband and so my husband could begin to understand this passion of Erik’s. So they did.

That day Erik ended up with a new eye shadow palette and my husband ended up with a greater appreciation for and understanding of Erik’s love of makeup (along with a few tips on taming his own errant eyebrow hairs).

It’s been a few months and now we no longer gasp when Erik comes down the stairs with a face full of glamorous makeup but rather appreciate what amazing new look he’s come up with. I happily photograph and edit his looks so he can post them to Instagram. He then removes his makeup, gets ready for bed, and prepares for another full day at school doing what needs to be done so he can eventually pursue his interest in brand management, merchandising, and marketing for the beauty industry.

Manny’s father recently responded to Matt Walsh’s bigoted tweet. I loved his choice of words.

Matt’s tweet made me very sad. And angry. It was ignorant, judgmental and unkind. He obviously doesn’t know the first thing about Manny. He made an erroneous and hurtful assumption simply because of the way Manny looks. There was nothing good about his tweet. Everyone goes through life wearing a “costume” of one kind or another. That costume may look like a bun-wearing millennial, or a yoga-pants-and-Uggs-wearing soccer mom, or a tattooed-mustachioed-biker. Our costumes have very little to do with who we are on the inside. Erik is the same intelligent, kind, somewhat unorganized, motivated, honest, funny, fabulous kid with a face full of beautiful makeup as he is after he wipes it all off, and at the end of the day, that’s essentially what counts the most.

Matt Walsh, anyone can sit behind their phone or computer and tweet negativity into the world. It takes a good person to take the time to walk in someone else’s shoes and make the effort to understand them. Luckily, our family knows many good people who have taken the time to get to know Erik. I hope we can all be less judgmental, more responsible, compassionate and understanding instead of making assumptions about one another based simply on our outward appearances.

Now I’m off to restock our household supply of makeup remover wipes!

This post was originally posted 1/19/2017

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