Sam Brooks on the ways he uses femininity to express himself from the opposite end of the gender spectrum.
A few weeks ago, I was asked what my pronouns were. I was a little bit taken aback, even though it’s not the first time it’s happened. I answered initially with a bad joke (“me/mine!”) before answering with my actual pronouns: he/him.
It was a fair, and kindly meant question from someone I’ve known for a while but haven’t seen a lot recently. To be fair to them, I don’t present as the most masculine person. I’ve been getting my nails done for seven years, I sometimes wear women’s jumpers because they fit me better, and my hands are so soft that I recently cut myself while twisting open a plastic drink bottle. If you were to look up “he/him” in the dictionary, there would not be a picture of me (because dictionaries don’t have pictures).
So that question didn’t throw me. It did, however, make me think about how femininity plays into my gender identity. How the clothes I wear, the way I speak, and the way I express myself, makes up how I exist as a gay cis man.
Before we start, a disclaimer: I feel lucky to be able to identify with the gender assigned to me at birth, to have any of my own idle gender self-questioning answered with “same as yesterday, cool as!”, and to also be aware that gender is a construct and we’re all entitled to whatever safe, secure room we want inside it.
A few weeks ago, I started to curl my eyelashes (with my Trixie Cosmetics lash curler that has a lil’ pink heart on the end of it). I wanted to do something to enhance lashes beyond using a lash serum that I would absolutely get in my eyes, and decided an eyelash curler was the way to go.
It was a fairly simple thought process: I want to have curled lashes because I think curled lashes look nice, I want to look nice, so therefore I curl my lashes. After a week of doing it, I realised that I had started to look ever so slightly more feminine, or at least what my concept of femininity is. I was also starting to feel a little bit more like myself.
Curling my lashes isn’t my first experiment with gender expectations. I get my nails painted, I wear highlighter occasionally, throw on some gold eyeshadow even less occasionally. It feels playful, and fun, to express myself in ways that would generally be coded as feminine, while still sitting super comfortably in the he/him box.
Using cosmetics also makes me look more like my mother. Which is fair, I look a lot more like my mother anyway (when she was alive, obviously) than anybody else. It’s weird to watch myself in the mirror as I make myself look like someone I’ve only seen in photos for close to a decade, but there we are. Without being all Lion King about it, she lives in me, and if she lives in me, I might as well make sure those lashes are curled like hers.
It sometimes feels a bit odd to identify so staunchly as he/him, which is a blame I put less on the gender spectrum, and more on the fact that the past several millennia of he and hims, to put it kindly, have some explaining to do in regards to their actions. Still, whenever I’m asked my pronouns, always politely, I still say, “he/him” and struggle to not make a bad joke, like any stereotypical man would.
I love to be a bit feminine. It brings me closer to my mother, visually and spiritually, It also opens me up to a huge aspect of culture that I’d miss out on if I were to devote myself solely to the cult of masculinity, potentially the most boring cult to ever exist. I also love to be he/him, five letters and a bit of punctuation that, for me, serve as a foundation to come back to when everything else is a little uncertain. There’s room in that he/him for a little femme. Occasionally more than a little.