Ever since Claire’s and Restricted Too loomed giant in lots of a late-’90s preteen imaginative and prescient board, wearable sparkle—often within the type of physique glitter, glitter make-up, and glitter physique spray—has been a supply of non-public euphoria for a lot of millennials. Glitter make-up, for me at the very least, was the stuff of fantasy and boundary-crossing—it was a method of straddling the road between prepubescent and full-blown teenager.
I assumed my love of physique glitter and sparkly make-up would fade in favor of nude lips and traditional appears as I bought older, but wearable glitter remained magical for me, carrying with it a kind of witchcraft, a sort of breathless ecstasy. I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone: As a younger grownup, I started to establish as a queer femme, and after attending my first delight parade at 19 (and taking part in queer nightlife a pair years later), I seen that glitter was a magnificence staple for performers and members alike.
Glitter make-up, although too typically culturally relegated to juvenilia and particular events, has an essential place in queer historical past. Glitter is intimately tied to the lengthy legacy of queer nightlife and efficiency artwork, together with the intersecting worlds of drag, burlesque, and cabaret. As glitter makes its method into our bedsheets and onto our carpets, it additionally makes its method throughout generations, connecting queer of us to different communities and to our predecessors.
At the moment, glitter make-up nonetheless goes far past whimsy for queer of us who defy or transcend sexual and gender norms. In reality, for a lot of, it’s an integral piece of gender presentation and queer identification. Simply as non secular symbols (like a cross or a Star of David) sign neighborhood and connection, sporting glitter is a solution to sign our queer identities not solely to ourselves but additionally to one another.
To study extra about what glitter means to different individuals within the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, I interviewed a number of members of the queer neighborhood who take into account glitter to be a key, enriching facet of their queer identification and gender expression. Considered one of these topics was Liat, who considers the wealthy historical past behind glitter cosmetics to be a key facet of their enchantment. Liat says glitter is a part of their identification as a “glitterfutch,” a label derived from “glitterbutch,” which they coined in 2012 whereas making use of glitter make-up in preparation for a trans artwork present. It is a time period that Liat explains finest represents their “particular gender past the umbrella of genderqueer.” “Glitter appears like a traditionally essential connection for my queerness (sexuality) and my genderqueerness,” Liat says. “After I consider my ancestors, they’re glowing with sequins and glitter.”
Trendy glitter was invented in 1934 by American machinist Henry Ruschmann. Earlier than then, glitter was made out of glass, however World Battle II rendered that unavailable. Even earlier than the warfare, nevertheless, early drag queens (unable to afford glass glitter) typically sported in-your-face shiny jewellery and shimmering costumes. Drag queens like LaVerne Cummings, Barbette, and Gene La Marr—a few of whom toured with famed drag troupe The Jewel Field Revue from the late ’30s to the early ’60s—typically labored glitter into their magnificence routines, particularly their eye shadow. Within the ’70s, mainstream glam rockers like David Bowie and his glowing, gender-bending alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, drew partly from the aesthetics of queer nightlife to create their appears. John Cameron Mitchell paid homage to each genres (drag and glam rock) together with his iconic pink lip within the 2001 rock musical Hedwig and the Indignant Inch.
For people like Liat, glitter isn’t solely about euphoria and efficiency. It’s additionally deeply tied to protest and defiance. For many years, glitter has been utilized by queer activists preventing for LGBTQ+ rights. Within the Glitter + Ash motion, for instance, which has been popularized in each New York and Chicago throughout the final a number of years, church buildings present help and solidarity for queer parishioners by mixing Ash Wednesday ashes with purple glitter. Parity, the “faith-based LGBTQ-focused group based mostly in NYC” that popularized the motion, says that glitter is part of this custom as a result of, like love, it’s “irresistible and irrepressible” and “by no means offers up.”
A extra confrontational model of glitter activism is the follow of “glitter bombing,” or showering homophobic politicians with the sparkly stuff whereas shouting LGBTQ+ rights slogans (corresponding to “Cease the hate!”) in protest of anti-LGBTQ+ views and laws. Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Mitt Romney have all been focused for protest since 2011, some by a Minnesota queer activist group generally known as the Glitterati. Previous to the 2017 presidential inauguration, a queer road dance celebration was held exterior Mike Pence’s dwelling to protest his homophobic insurance policies—glitter was a outstanding function of many members’ getups.
By way of gender norms, too, glitter is a type of magnificence defiance, permitting those that sport it to cross gender boundaries in sudden methods. How? For one factor, glitter, with all its colours and light-catching capabilities, is nearly celebratory by nature—it’s unimaginable to overlook. Within the case of queer identification and gender expression, that’s precisely the purpose: Political statements typically come within the type of celebrating visibility itself, particularly for marginalized of us who’ve lengthy been instructed to be silent about who we’re (or at the very least to make it extra palatable). Make-up suggestions that function glitter typically warn readers to not do “an excessive amount of,” to maintain issues delicate. However queer expressions of gender and sexual identification push in opposition to these restrictions, defying social expectations of what constitutes “an excessive amount of,” “too daring,” or, typically, “too female.”
Nihm is a glitter-loving member of the LGBTQ+ neighborhood who identifies as a “queer nonbinary Faerie” (an identification that spans throughout quite a lot of gender and sexuality spectrums however is most frequently related to sustainable residing, a connection to nature, inventive spiritualities, and queer consciousness). Just like Liat, Nihm says that “glitter is a really massive half” of faer “life and identification.” “For me, glitter serves as a medium to precise gender euphoria and as a twinkly embodiment of my feelings,” Nihm says.
In different phrases, the usage of glitter make-up is, for a lot of queer of us, a solution to rejoice being “out” in a really public and constant method, particularly after years of proscribing full gender and/or sexual identification expression to sure audiences. For Nihm, extra glitter means extra visibility and a higher sense of self. “Rising up, I used to be very shy and did all the pieces I might to be invisible,” Nihm says, “so most of my glitter and glowing was restricted to the issues I owned, efficiency areas, and my artwork. Since then, I’ve actually gained much more confidence in myself.”
The opposite factor is that for queer of us, glitter doesn’t solely need to be a logo of femininity. That’s to say that sporting glitter doesn’t routinely make you femme, as a result of finally, it’s a logo of queerness in a bigger sense. One other interviewee, Alexis, reflecting on the position of glitter of their private presentation over time, provides, “As an AFAB trans individual, for a very long time, I assumed that embracing any kind of femininity or femme-ness (e.g., glitter) would invalidate my gender, maybe by making it simpler for different individuals to misgender me as a lady. Ultimately, although, I used to be capable of re-embrace the features of myself which can be femme as features that don’t invalidate my gender and don’t mark me as feminine.”
As Alexis suggests, queerness as an idea disrupts, challenges, and reclaims our collective conventions and expectations about gender—thus, glitter, which methods the attention with its multifaceted shimmer, is the proper illustration of that. Glitter decides the place your gaze stops and begins, the place your line of imaginative and prescient lands and the place it sneaks off to. It takes up visible house and tells you the place to look. It takes our fears of being an excessive amount of, too seen, or too out and explodes them into one thing stunning. Glitter, like many queer(ed) expressions of sexuality and gender, attracts consideration to its personal artificiality, making no try and be “pure” or something however constructed, simply as queerness attracts consideration to the roles we play and social norms we regularly observe when it comes to gender expression, sexuality, and relationships.
Glitter make-up has gained a substantial amount of mainstream reputation over the previous a number of years and has even been projected to be one of many major 2018 magnificence developments. In fact, its excessive drama makes it endlessly Instagrammable. However I’d wish to suppose its rising reputation (and the growing consideration to eco-friendly variations of it, like biodegradable Eco Stardust), is only a contact extra political than that. Celebrated make-up artist Pat McGrath lately instructed GQ Fashion, “The world of make-up is changing into more and more extra numerous and fewer about guidelines, which is totally divine.” In any case, isn’t the defiance of guidelines, partly, what glitter, and queer identification itself, is all about?
This publish was initially revealed at an earlier date and has since been up to date.