Ipsy Celebrates Pride Month By Declaring Trans Women Inauthentic
UPDATE: The model featured in the Ipsy campaign has come forward making a statement with regard to the video and the public response to it. While I will leave judgement to your discretion, I ask that you listen. I believe her, and found her candor, her willingness to engage with the community and eagerness to understand, learn and most importantly, listen to those willing to teach is an unusual response that we typically don’t receive from an individual, much less a brand. This is something valuable, and I can only hope a growing trend in media.
California based company Ipsy founded by ex-youtube make-up expert (And one of the first YouTube Millionaires) Michelle Phan, sells its customers a box of five make-up samples a month for a small subscription fee. It is used by both women and men, alike. I personally know Drag Queens, gender fluid, non binary and transgender women who anxiously await their Ipsy delivery to see what beauty products they can add to their growing collection of products.
It made sense that Ipsy would celebrate Pride month along with their LGBTQIAA customers, and they did so by releasing a short, controversial video featuring a woman emphasizing the difference between “Authentic women” and “Transgender women.”
Immediately the Model opens the video by stating “I’m attracted to women” before going on to assert the difference between Trans women and “Authentic cisgender women.” To most of my readers, it really doesn’t need to be illustrated why the promotional pride video is both problematic and full of prejudice.
For those wondering what the fuss is all about, however, I’ll explain. The video implies that Transgender women — always the target during pride month as TERFs crawl out of the woodwork waggling their fingers in the air to insist Trans women do not belong at Pride events- are not real women at all. Instead, it suggests, as opposed to cisgender women, trans women are masquerading in costume or knock-offs of “real” women. Worse? Potentially not viable candidates for a lesbian to consider dating, as the one in the video makes the distinction clear. “I like women,” only to go on to disqualify transgender women as inauthentic variations of womanhood.
I’m a trans woman. I wear make up. I have male friends who are cisgender that wear cosmetics. The concept of amplifying your appearance and boosting your self confidence is no longer exclusive to cisgender women and hasn’t been for a long time. There are men and boys quite proud to use skin care and beauty products just as much as transgender women and cisgender women. There are drag queens who subscribe to the Ipsy service with the intention of saving hundreds of dollars they might otherwise spend at high end boutiques like Sephora or MAC. The reality is, Ipsy doesn’t seem to know their demographic. Adding insult to injury, they only appear to value one type of customer. That’s what we learned from this video.
Backlash from the LGBT+ community was instantaneous, as allies and Trans customers descended upon the Ipsy social media pages to express their outrage over such a tone deaf advertisement. Ipsy’s social media managers, however, weren’t having it, and earned their overtime pay by diligently deleting any negative or critical posts from detractors yet responding to those participants in the unfolding conversation that, sadly, aligned themselves with the message that transgender women are not women. Whether intentional or not, by silencing those defending transgender women and allowing the venom spewed by our detractors, they created a hotbed of hate that no amount of make-up can make pretty.
As the video itself went viral, it wasn’t long before Ipsy went into damage control and deleted that as well. However, this is the internet. And thanks to users like Kaylee Rain who captured it before it was removed, the internet never forgets.
Making Ipsy’s enormous socially inept faux pas even worse was their initial defense of their anti-trans campaign, going as far as to demand respect for the expression of their creators rather than attempt to understand the point that hundreds of people were trying to make.
Then came the apology. There’s always an apology. Whether motivated by genuine regret or the fact that such a grotesque display of trans exclusion will inevitably hurt their bottom line, they offered up one that seemed, to be completely fair, sincere and accept accountable.
Credit where credit is due. An acceptance of responsibility and a commitment to do better is the most we can hope for. Perhaps they will reach out to their gender variant customers to help them better target future campaigns, especially when they are intended to celebrate pride- an event that we have in thanks to transgender women of color like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major and countless other trans identifying men and women who began the revolution that afforded us, today, the opportunity to express pride in who we are, in spite of our oppressors. Pride was born on the backs of Transgender women of color who suffered abuse by the public, organized crime and the authorities intended to protect them. Their resistance- an absolute refusal to stay on the fringes of society and, for once, fight back is what we know today as the Stonewall Riots.
They were then, and will remain in their legacy, authentic women. In your commitment to “do better,” Ipsy, I implore you to remember that.