heads up: this behind the music covers some heavy topics. numbers for support are listed at the end of the entry. please do not hesitate to reach out if you or someone you know needs help.
hello hi and howdy-do, fam. welcome to the fourth installment of my behind the music series. I think it’s only fitting that the entry for track #4 gets posted during pride month! you may have no idea what the song Fuchsia Lipstick is about, which would make that statement confusing. if that is the case, I’m so glad you’re reading this! I’m here to present some of the backstory of the song. so let’s get into it… Track 4: “Fuchsia Lipstick” (which is actually one of my favorite songs on the album).
the inspiration for this song comes from a dear friend (and former spouse) of mine. her name is Valerie (or Val). early in our marriage, Val came out to me as transgender. this means she does not identify as the gender she was assigned at birth (which was male), and she wanted to begin exploring her gender identity to better understand her true self and what the next steps of her journey needed to be. (is the song starting to make a bit more sense now?) for this behind the music entry, I won’t go into the details of what lead Val to finally express her truth and decide that living her most authentic life would involve transitioning. (though I do share more of this story in my 3-part podcast called “V and Me”, which you can find on my SoundCloud.) what I think is important to share here is the moment that I realized how important and vital this process was to Valerie, which is the same moment that inspired this song.
early on in this journey, when Valerie had just started experimenting with her gender identity and how she expressed it, I offered to put some makeup on her if she wanted to see how it looked and felt. since this was the first time Val was going to see herself in a full face of makeup, I didn’t want to overdo it; I did a simple look and tried to use neutral or muted colors. when it was time to do lips, I wasn't sure if I should do more than just put a dab of chapstick on there for her. sometimes adding color to lips can take a look from dull to daring. my eyes fell onto a particularly bold shade of lipstick. (can you guess what color it was?) I'm not exactly sure why, but something told me to go for it. after a careful application of bright and poppy color, told Val to press her lips together and told her to go look in the mirror.
now, you need to understand that prior to this moment, I had never seen Val look at her own reflection for more than a few moments. even before she came out to me. for Val, it was a painful reminder that she was stuck in a body that did not feel like hers. if she didn't absolutely have to look at herself, she wasn't going to do it.
when I told Val to take a look at herself after I had finished putting her makeup on, I expected her to maybe to a quick glance in the mirror, shrug, maybe make a comment about how it looked pretty okay. what I didn't expect was for that girl to not be able to take her eyes off herself. I had never seen Val so absolutely ecstatic to be looking at her reflection. she made different faces. she examined different angles. and she was grinning from ear to ear the entire time. at that moment, I knew things were going to be changing in a major way, and it was probably going to be very confusing and chaotic. but seeing this person who I loved and cared for so much finally look herself in the eyes with a genuine smile was all that mattered. if this is what it meant for Valerie to find her peace, then how could I not be supportive?
since that day, Valerie has come out publicly. while the nature of our relationship did change, I never stopped caring about her. part of that has meant always cheering her on, even in moments that were difficult for one or both of us. when she wanted to try wearing more feminine clothing. when she was ready to come out to others. when she decided to start HRT (hormone replacement therapy). unfortunately, not everyone in Valerie's life responded to her transition so well.
Valerie grew up in a very conservative, religious household. coming out to her family, especially her father, was going to be one of the most (if not the most) difficult thing she'd ever done in her life. but she knew that if she was going to go forward with transitioning and starting HRT (which she was), she needed to tell them. I recall Valerie setting a personal goal for herself: she wasn't going to start HRT until she had come out to her family. it was a delicate situation, especially coming out to her dad. she spent weeks preparing for that conversation. not just emotionally. she did some digging. she had data, information, studies to share with her father about gender dysphoria. she had practiced with me, reciting what she would say and how she might respond to various possible reactions. the conversation lasted hours and the tension in the air was palpable. after Val had tried to explain herself dozens of times, after she had opened her heart and shared the most vulnerable parts of herself with him, her dad left it at this: "I will always see you as my son."
Valerie tried to be gracious. she stayed in contact with her father. she went to lunches and dinners with him. all the while being faced with constant deadnaming, misgendering, and a complete lack of acknowledgement that she had ever come out in the first place. Valerie thought that maybe, with a little time to process, her dad might come around. in the meantime, she was willing to subject herself to the disrespect and hurt that came along with it, all with hopes that someday she could rebuild a relationship with her dad.
Val doesn't talk much with her family anymore.
she was, unfortunately, put in the difficult position of having to choose between pleasing others or being her most authentic self. I still don't understand how anyone could see a loved one who was once on the brink of self-destruction finally feel so happy, content, and excited for life, then proceed to ostracize them. I think what I've come to understand is that I saw parts of Val's journey that nobody else did. I saw her lowest of low moments. so when I saw her start to really find herself–when I saw her truly light up at the sight of her own reflection for the first time–I knew it was essential for her to see that process through, and for me to accept and support her however I could.
Fuchsia Lipstick is a celebration of Val's determination and bravery. it's an acknowledgement of how messy, chaotic, and unexpected the coming out process can be. it's a warning to the support systems of people in the LGBTQ+ community: you play a vital role in all of this. be accepting. be empathetic. be loving. be nonjudgmental. and remember that accepting your LGBTQ+ friends and family–and I mean truly accepting and respecting them–is suicide prevention.
this installment of behind the music got a little heavy. but that's okay. these are stories we need to share. things we need to talk about. I hope it's helped you better understand Fuchsia Lipstick. (by the way, if you want to look through the lyrics of the song, you can find them on my website!) most importantly, I hope it's helped you better understand the importance of being a supporting and loving ally for our friends and family in the LGBTQ+ community.
happy pride, fam. and thanks for reading.
THE TREVOR PROJECT HOTLINE: 1-866-488-7386 or text "START" to 678-678
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE: 1-800-273-8255