Clair Farley is a transgender advocate, actress and the director of economic development at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center. She loves beauty products — especially if they’re Chanel — but she won’t pass up a good drugstore buy. “My femininity isn’t tied to makeup, but with it, the world sees me the way that I see myself,” she says. Clair and her husband, Jim, who is also transgender, live in Oakland, California, with their cats, Bert and Ernie. Here, we chat about her work, the best nude lipstick and the role makeup has played in her life…
Where are you from originally?
I grew up in Montana with an identical twin, Mark, and an older brother. My twin and I both came out as gay when we were 13 — our older brother came out later. As kids, Mark and I were inseparable and always had each other for support, which was so important at that time.
Was there a moment growing up when you realized you were a woman?
My first boyfriend and I went to a queer prom — which was surprising that they even had in Montana. It was a costume party, so I went in drag, which was a first for me. I had this bad wig — it wasn’t the best look — and my date said I looked like his mother. I remember thinking, ‘I want to be prettier than your mother!’
When did you start transitioning?
I came out as trans to my family during high school, but I didn’t start my transition until I graduated. My mom was not comfortable with my living as ‘Clair’ in Montana. It was before there was much transgender visibility in the media, and she thought we would be judged. So I moved to New York in hopes of finding a more accepting community. There, I started living full-time as Clair. It took a while to feel comfortable in my own skin, but as I met other trans folks, it got much easier.
Was your family supportive?
My dad was super supportive, but it took my mom longer to come around. She’d gotten used to my being gay, and it took time for her to readjust. Many parents with trans kids go through this. You have all these memories of someone, but in my advocacy work I try to remind families that you’re not losing anyone. The person you love is still the same, they just haven’t been able to fully represent themselves in the way they want to the world.