"Building my gender—my anything—around desirability or beauty is not just an ableist notion of what’s important, but will always keep me chasing what doesn’t want me. Will always keep me hurling swords at the very core of me.

There is only the illusion of solace in beauty. If age and disability teach us anything, it is that investing in beauty will never set us free. Beauty has always been hurled as a weapon. It has always taken the form of an exclusive club; and supposed protection against violence, isolation and pain, but this is a myth. It is not true, even for those accepted in to the club. I don’t think we can reclaim beauty.

Magnificence has always been with us. Always been there in the freak shows—staring back at the gawking crowd, in the back rooms of the brothels, in the fields fresh with cotton, on the street corners in the middle of the night, as the bombs drop, in our breaths after surviving the doctor’s office, crossing the border, in the first quiet moments of a bloody face after the attack is done. Magnificence was there.

Magnificence was with me in the car rides home after long days being dehumanized, abused and steeled in the medical industrial complex. It was there with me when I took my first breaths in my mother’s arms in Korea, and a week later those first days alone without her realizing I wasn’t going home.

Magnificence has always been with us.

If we are ever unsure about what femme should be or how to be femme, we must move toward the ugly. Not just the ugly in ourselves, but the people and communities that are ugly, undesirable, unwanted, disposable, hidden, displaced. This is the only way that we will ever create a femme-ness that can hold physically disabled folks, dark skinned people, trans and gender non-conforming folks, poor and working class folks, HIV positive folks, people living in the global south and so many more of us who are the freaks, monsters, criminals, villains of our fairytales, movies, news stories, neighborhoods and world. This is our work as femmes of color: to take the notion of beauty (and most importantly the value placed upon it) and dismantle it (challenge it), not just in gender, but wherever it is being used to harm people, to exclude people, to shame people; as a justification for violence, colonization and genocide."

  • Mia Mingus, “Moving Toward the Ugly: A Politic Beyond Desirability”