I have a “glitter closet” that lives on its own clothing rack next to my bed, separate from my everyday wardrobe. It’s the first thing I see when I wake up and the last thing I see before I turn out the lights. My glitter closet houses important pieces of my queer identity, like a rose-gold sequin romper, a crushed velvet neon glittery rainbow dress, business-casual sparkly pants and seven pairs of shiny shoes. I keep the sparkles separate because it serves as a reminder that no matter what the day is going to bring, I get to begin and end my day seeing glitter.
Next to my bed, my dresser has a giant mirror that’s covered in specks of rainbow glitter. My makeup bag includes 15 different shades of sparkles, and I top my look off with extra-hold glitter hairspray. My cozy bachelor apartment has glitter in most of its nooks and crannies–no vacuum is going to clean that up. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Today, when I wear glitter, I feel like my most authentic self. But I wasn’t always the glittery person I am now. Before I came out as queer, I held a lot of shame about my body, the clothes I wore and the way I presented myself to the world. When I came out in 2006, at 22, glitter was an occasional accessory for me. But now, it’s a staple in my wardrobe, especially as a genderqueer and femme person, two identities that I have recently come to use.
For me, being genderqueer means that gendered terms like “female,” “male,” “man” and “woman” do not describe the way I feel about my gender identity and how I outwardly present it. I use “they” and “them” pronouns because these make me feel the most comfortable with myself, physically and emotionally. Femme, in my eyes, does not mean“feminine;” femme means visibility, fierceness, connection, sensitivity, strength, expression—essentially, it “queers” the idea of femininity.
When I came out, I was read as straight thanks to my long hair, dresses and makeup, and it was isolating to feel invisible. It took several years for me to become comfortable with my queerness and gender identity, and the first step I took toward self-love and self-acceptance was wearing glitter. I picked up on this beauty and style tip from other femmes.
In 2012, a group of my femme friends and I decided we would embark on a road trip to a conference for our community in Baltimore, so we piled into a car, and made the 10-hour drive from Toronto, not knowing what we were about to get ourselves into. Up until that point, my queer women role models were butch-femme couples or the cast of The L Word. I had my queer style icons, like Peaches, Beth Ditto and Joan Jett, and I was highly influenced by zines, riot grrrl and queer and trans public figures. But when I entered the hotel hosting the Femme Conference, there they were–a sea of femme-identifying queer people of varying genders, many of them wearing glitter. This is my most vivid memory, and it felt like validation. I found a space where I felt confident wearing glitter not just as a way to express myself, but to actually define my queerness, and eventually my gender identity.
The connections I made and the experiences I had at the Femme Conference changed something in me. After the conference, I came back to Toronto and wanted to wear glitter all the time. It started with makeup. I found my go-to glitter eyeshadow, which I still swear by today, and a brown glitter eyeliner. I began building my glitter closet slowly, searching for unique pieces in vintage stores and at clothing swaps. My first and favourite pieces, which are still with me, include a sequin blazer with different shades of aquamarine patches, my rose gold sequin romper, and a black and silver sparkly referee-inspired shirt.
As Cleveland-based writer Laura Dorwart points out in her story on the history of glitter in the LGBTQ community, “glitter makeup still goes far beyond whimsy for queer folks who defy or transcend sexual and gender norms. In fact, for many, it’s an integral piece of gender presentation and queer identity. Wearing glitter is a way to signal our queer identities not only to ourselves but also to each other.”
I believe that glitter is genderless, which is why anyone can use or wear it. When I was teaching an elementary Sunday School class, every student wanted to use the glitter glue and sparkly pipe cleaners to add some pop to their art projects. These kids didn’t see glitter as something “girly.”
When I apply glitter shadow up to my eyebrows for a night out, go all-out in sequin shorts for Pride or put on glitter-covered shoes to make a professional outfit more fun, I feel like I’m stepping into my second skin. Glitter makes me feel fierce, fun and empowered—and it reminds me of how far I’ve come to reach this point of self-acceptance and self-love with my queerness, gender identity and expression.