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Gender Expression Class Teaches Haligonians Make-up Tips

DalOUT and Dal Allies host make-up class that spans the gender spectrum

by Hilary Beaumont

Make up class explores best techniques for the feminine or masculine look. [Photo: Samson Photography]
Make up class explores best techniques for the feminine or masculine look. [Photo: Samson Photography]

Can’t stipple a convincing beard? Having trouble covering those coarse, dark chin hairs? Want to learn how to apply lipstick for the first time?


On March 12, DalOUT and Dal Allies hosted a makeup class in the Dalhousie Student Union Building to teach people from across the gender spectrum how to look masculine or feminine. (Further down, HMC gathered the best tips to help gender-queer and trans-identified readers buy and apply makeup.)

Two models volunteered their faces, and licensed cosmetologist and executive member of DalOUT Samantha Spencer taught the 20 or so people in attendance some simple tricks to help match their identities to their outer appearance.

Organizer Laura MacIntosh (who identifies as gender-queer and prefers the pronoun “they”) said they heard many requests from the DalOUT community for a makeup class for a variety of reasons—some people wanted to try drag or cross-play, and some wanted to match their gender expression to their identity. Trans women, for example, don’t often grow up in an environment that would allow them to learn makeup tips, MacIntosh said.

“Personally, I find I’m misgendered all the time since I’m gender-queer,” MacIntosh said. “Folks will often assume I’m either female or male. The giveaway to that is they’ll often try to look down and see if I have a chest. Everyday I have people looking down at my chest, and I’m like, this is not OK.”

On days when MacIntosh feels not fully comfortable with their chest, and they don’t want to use binders, which can be painful, they use masculine makeup to bring attention to their face.

MacIntosh wanted to teach these skills to the community, and bring in a professional makeup artist to teach feminine techniques, too.

Below is the promo video created by Samson Photography for Tuesday’s makeup workshop. MacIntosh models in this video and the photo provided. (Story continues after video.)

The feminine look: To prepare your face for makeup, wash your face and apply moisturizer with SPF, Spencer said.

You can also use primer, a clear and sometimes tinted base that allows foundation to glide on smoothly. (While Spencer recommended Sephora as a welcoming space for LGBTQ folks, she advises against buying their green-tinted primer.)

If you have uneven skin and want a smooth complexion, you may want to use foundation. Spencer recommended liquid foundation for younger folks, and cream foundation for mature users. Powder foundation is best for normal to oily skin.

If you have coarse or dark stubble, Spencer recommended using a panstick—a thicker foundation. “For feminine makeup, you want to match the skin tone with the makeup so it looks natural,” she said.

Working more quickly, Spencer applied a light shade of purple eye shadow across the model’s eyelid and into the crease. Brown eyes look good in any shade, especially pink, she explained.

People with blue eyes should choose brown, bronze and copper toned eye shadow, Spencer said, while those with hazel or green eyes, will look best in purple. These shades are opposites on the colour wheel, so the contrast will emphasize your eye colour.

When she finished, Spencer passed the model a mirror. The model gave herself a seductive look of approval, prompting giggles from the room.

“That looks great,” she said, smiling.

The model had her eyebrows professionally waxed, but if you don’t want to pluck or wax your eyebrows, you can cover them instead, and stencil or draw eyebrows on top. Some drag performers use glue to cover their eyebrows before applying foundation.

The video below shows how to cover eyebrows using a gluestick, and provides other tips on creating a feminine look. (Story continues below video)

The masculine look Spencer applied foundation to the second model’s face, too. Along the jawline, she used darker foundation to give the illusion of a five-O’clock shadow.

She then stippled a dark brown powder under the volunteer’s chin and along the neck to emphasize the shadow. If it looks unpolished, that’s a good thing, Spencer said.

Next, she stippled black gel eyeliner in areas where facial hair usually grows—the jawline, lower cheeks and upper lip.

The makeup wasn’t heavy; Spencer was going for a more natural look. From about 20 feet away, it looked as if the model had grown stubble.

The model, who prefers the pronoun “they,” had dark brown, almost black hair.

Spencer then took a smaller brush and used it to push the dark brown powder into the model’s eyebrows to give a fuller effect.

Spencer passed the second model a mirror and they nodded and blushed.

An audience member with experience performing as a drag king said squaring off the sideburns is a masculine trait people often overlook. Spencer tried this suggestion on the volunteer and filled in their sideburns, too.

Both MacIntosh and Spencer suggested using a light hairspray or makeup spray to hold the beard in place. Otherwise, MacIntosh said, it tends to rub off on shirt collars that fit close to the neck.

Check out the video MacIntosh used to learn basic masculine makeup tips. (Story continues below.)

Finding safe spaces to try or buy makeup Spencer recommended Sephora as the closest thing a makeup store could be to a safe space. They tend to treat everyone equally, she said.

MacIntosh’s advice was to call ahead to makeup stores to ask if they are gender-queer or trans-friendly. If the employee doesn’t know what that means, MacIntosh knows not to go there. If they do have allies or LGBTQ-identified employees on hand, though, MacIntosh usually books an appointment in advance with a specific person.

MacIntosh recommends against trying on makeup at drugstores. People stare.

When buying or applying makeup, do what makes you feel comfortable, Spencer said.

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