Sephora Keeps Making Space For Transgender Folks — Let’s Hope Society Gets It Together Too

by Amber Leventry
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and Sephora/Twitter

Beauty is defined in so many ways, shapes, sizes, and colors. For some, a sense of feeling beautiful and confident is enhanced with makeup or fragrances. Sadly, too many people think these products are just for women, specifically cisgender women. For the record, cis women are under zero obligation to wear makeup, and cis men are under zero obligation to avoid it. Anyone can wear makeup, use face creams, spritz cologne, or slather whatever they want onto their bodies to feel good.

Thankfully, Sephora knows that what you wear enriches your identity rather than determines it. For years they have been making room for all genders to feel good in their skin through the products and representation they offer in their stores and online. Most recently, they featured a groundbreaking fragrance campaign highlighting perfumes from the Phluid Project. The models that were front and center were trans and gender nonconforming models, including Devin-Norelle, a black transgender model.

The Phluid Project launched in NYC and online in 2018 and is a gender-free fashion brand. There are no labels, just acceptance and values that affirm the queer and transgender community. These values also support all genders and identities because everyone should be able to wear clothing without fear of binary standards. If your straight, cisgender boy likes nail polish and is accepted for it, thank a queer person who paved the way, because we have been knocking down those barriers for a long time.

In Devin-Norelle’s post, ze wrote how bittersweet the experience has been because the campaign launched on zir grandmother’s birthday; she passed away last year. “A woman born in poverty, a woman born to a former slave, a woman who never graduated from college or high school because she didn’t have the means or the access to graduate, a woman who never traveled abroad, and yet, despite being the least culturally exposed/educated person of my immediate family members, she was the most accepting and loving of me.”

Inclusivity has become an intentional part of Sephora’s business plan, and they continue to put their money where their mouth is. Featuring transgender and gender nonconforming people modeling fragrances from Phluid on their website was a first for perfumes, but not for the makeup they sell.

Sephora has offered beauty classes for trans people called Bold Beauty as part of their Classes for Confidence series. Bold Beauty classes are specifically meant to teach transgender and nonbinary shoppers how to apply makeup. The Sephora YouTube channel also has tutorials led by transgender beauty experts. Makeup can empower a person’s beauty, but when that person is going against what some people consider to be acceptable based on gender stereotypes, a person needs a sensitive and compassionate guide who can cut through the stigma.

I am constantly balancing what I want with what society wants in terms of how I look and express myself. I have talked to other transgender people who feel this way too. While I am a “masculine” presenting transgender person who doesn’t wear makeup or perfume, other masculine transgender and cisgender folks do. Plenty of femme transgender women and men love the look and art of putting on makeup but don’t have the confidence or space to practice this passion.

Nikkie De Jager, a popular beauty YouTuber, came out as transgender after she was blackmailed. While that is some bullshit, her nearly 11 million followers were supportive, and it showed that the ability to put on and wear makeup is not owned by cisgender women alone. De Jager is one of many transgender and gender nonconforming people who are changing minds about who is allowed to wear makeup.

People lost their collective shit when the gorgeous Harry Styles appeared on the cover of Vogue in a dress. And by people I mean dummies like Candace Owens, who equate masculinity and femininity with fabric. She is one of too many people who believe wearing a dress if you identify as a man is reason to turn in your manly gender card. My assigned gender was fucked from the moment of my naked birth, so there is no amount or type of clothing that determines your gender identity. The dress wasn’t the real reason people were upset; the dress simply poked at people’s insecurities about their own gender expression and muddied the mirror of heteronormative bullshit they stare into each day. And didn’t gladiators and Vikings wear skirts? Those folks seem to be pretty “manly.” They also wore war paint, AKA makeup, and still managed to pillage and burn villages.

I have never shopped at a Sephora. I don’t wear makeup and don’t know the first thing about it. This is not a paid post to get you to purchase Sephora’s products, though if you do, let me suggest buying from their Pride line because that money benefits the queer community. My thoughts about Sephora are biased though, because I believe everyone should be able to access products they want without feeling shamed or more marginalized about it.

As a nonbinary person who was assigned female and lived as female for many years, I have always felt bad about shopping in the “men’s” section for what I want in terms of clothing, soap, and hair products. I am more confident about it now, but I still feel like I am breaking some code of conduct that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Many people believe that is exactly what I am doing, but all I want are some decent V-neck t-shirts.

Sephora’s inclusivity is great for humanity, but it’s also good for business; marketing to everybody increases your chance for more buyers which increases the bottom line. All genders have the right to feel safe with whatever product they wear to feel good. Some people use camouflage to go to war, others use lipstick and a spritz of fragrance.

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