These Mesmerizing Glow-Ups Are Bringing Queer Joy To The Internet

Pride Month is a time for celebrating how far the LGBTQ+ community has come despite living in a world that still has a long way to go to ensure the safety and comfort of all people. Although June is traditionally known as Pride Month, learning about queer history and uplifting queer love is not limited to one month out of the year. Truly, it is an all day, every day way of life.

So how and where does a glow-up fit into all of this? And what is a glow-up anyway?

Social media allows users to share a proverbial highlight reel of their lives, celebrating accomplishments and achievements. According to Later, “A ‘glow-up’ is a slang term used to describe a significant transformation, typically in physical appearance, that is perceived as an improvement. It’s the process of turning yourself into a better version of yourself and becoming more confident, attractive, and successful.”

Or, to put it in the words of the immortal queer icon David Bowie, aging “is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person that you always should have been.”

Historically speaking, members of the LGBTQ+ community have not always been allowed the time and space for such a transformation. Far too many individuals have lost their lives to senseless violence fueled by irrational hatred and discriminatory practices, suicide and self-harm, government negligence and other circumstances. It is indeed a blessing to see influencers like The Old Gays gaining a steady and dedicated fan base on social media because they are living proof of the resilience and courage of the LGBTQ+ community.

For those who had and still have to fight to live their lives authentically, a glow-up on social media transcends the confines of a short video to remind those watching that, in the words of the late, great Stephen Sondheim, “I’m still here.”

It was an honor to interview a diverse group of bright and beautiful souls to learn about each of their personal journeys of self-discovery.

Tea Miller

Courtesy Tea Miller/Heidi Calvert Photography

Social media handles: @Mermaidcultsalon (Instagram), @teacupmermaid (Instagram) and @teacupmermaid (TikTok)

How do you identify on the gender spectrum? Non-binary

How do you identify on the sexuality spectrum? Demi-sexual panromantic

Growing up, did you know you were queer? How/when did you discover this?

I always knew I was at the very least bisexual. I’ve liked anime since I can remember, so it was pretty telling when I was (respectfully) into both the waifus AND husbandos.

What was your personal coming out experience? Were you met with any adversity in the process?

I’ve always been very loudly out. My family is very conservative and religious, so I was met with a lot of pushback. I think they just assumed it was a phase for the longest time, but now they’re starting to come around to the realization that this is just who I am. They’ve recently told me they just want me to be happy, so that’s a step forward that I can appreciate.

How do you utilize the mediums of style, fashion and beauty to live as the most authentic version of yourself?

It changes pretty frequently for me, but I’m currently utilizing a wardrobe and jewelry that is more masc-presenting to make me feel like my most authentic self. Lately, I’ve been wearing a lot of comfy streetwear and anime shirts with a binder underneath. And in the last few years, I’ve gotten back into cosplay! I believe that fashion can be a sign of protest, and that pieces of cloth don’t have a gender.

Your TikTok glow-up video

Dylan Merrett

Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Courtesy Dylan Merrett

Social media handles: @mr.skippsmcgee (Instagram)

How do you identify on the gender spectrum? Transmasculine genderqueer

How do you identify on the sexuality spectrum? Bisexual

Growing up, did you know you were queer? How/when did you discover this?

I had a girlfriend when I was 3 years old and my mom thought I was a lesbian. Then, I kissed a neighbor boy under the table when I was 5 years old. I didn’t know I could be queer until I was 13!

When I was 14, the year was 2010 and I’d heard offhandedly about trans women on Oprah and, of course, characterizations in movies and TV shows. I got on Tumblr at some point (around 2011), which was when I learned a lot more about the community. I then realized I was non-binary. I was still dressing completely feminine though. In fact, hyperfemme: Retro outfits and red lipstick every day. Every night, I slept in curlers and a scarf.

At 17, I went to a Youth Queer Group. We were filling out forms for the list of attendees and it asked for pronouns. I said to someone, “I want to put he/him. But I’m wearing a dress,” and whoever it was said, “Boys can wear dresses!” I put He/Him and the rest is history.

What was your personal coming out experience? Were you met with any adversity in the process?

Coming out to my mom as bi was easy, as she herself is bi. Coming out as trans was a lot more complex and still is. By age 19, I had completely stopped wearing feminine clothing. I decided I wanted to be taken seriously as a transmasculine person. I started identifying as a trans man so that I could be called by my proper pronouns. That was July 2016. In July 2017 I got on hormones and in July 2018 I got my top surgery. I had to come out at work (a grocery store) to about 60 people. There were very mixed reactions. When I started HRT, I started using the men’s room. At one point one of my leads came up to me to ask about it and that was one of the scariest moments I’d had up until that point.

Nowadays I “pass” as a cisgender male. When I tell people I’m trans, they’re surprised. A lot of straight men decide they’re interested in me at that moment as an “experiment” of sorts, which isn’t cool. I don’t tell most people.

How do you utilize the mediums of style, fashion and beauty to live as the most authentic version of yourself?

I’ve been dressing up in costumes as long as I can remember. I used to wear a Dorothy dress from “The Wizard of Oz” every day. I was homeschooled, so that wasn’t a problem. I’ve always been into fashion, picking my own outfits since I could communicate about it. Life is a stage for me. I used to read a lot of fashion blogs and now I’m on Instagram and YouTube a lot!

Edith Head and Colleen Atwood are two of my biggest inspirations for my costumes. I also sew! I like to wear button-ups a lot, with my shirt tucked in. I usually have my shirt tucked in, whatever I’m wearing. I’ve been into business casual since I was 9 years old (not sure why). Nowadays, my outfits are more ’70s than ever. I’ve been doing drag consistently since June 2021. I was a part of the “Rocky Horror” community from the age of 11, which has also been a huge influence on me as a person altogether. It gave me a reason to practice my makeup skills and I am now a certified makeup artist. I also perform original poetry and music, do drag and sing karaoke. Self-expression is very important to me!

Jeffrey Xerxes Brice

Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Courtesy Jeffrey Xerxes Brice/Lee Worthington

Social media handles: @jxb_jxb_jxb (Instagram) @jxb_jxb_jxb (TikTok)

How do you identify on the gender spectrum? Transmasc non-binary

How do you identify on the sexuality spectrum? Queer

Growing up, did you know you were queer? How/when did you discover this?

I didn’t have a word for it until I was a teenager. Nonetheless, I’ll give two separate anecdotes on the matter:

1) Disney. Specifically Lulubelle from the short film “Bongo,” and Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” Four-year-old me would daydream a lot wishing I was Bongo and/or Eric. The scene where Ariel turned into a human and shoots out of the water is definitely a core memory for me. I’m pretty sure I wore out my VHS copy watching that movie.

2) I don’t have any recollection of this, but my mom told me a story that when I was very young, I was upset I wasn’t born a boy. I asked her if she could go to the store to buy me a penis so she can sew it onto me. When she explained it doesn’t work that way, I proceeded to grab an empty toilet paper roll and stuff it into my underwear. I didn’t really hear the words gay, lesbian or bisexual until I was in my teens. I was out to my friends at a relatively young age, but I didn’t tell my family until about a year later.

What was your personal coming out experience? Were you met with any adversity in the process?

I came out at 14, which was terrifying at the time because Matthew Shepard was murdered the year before. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember giving my mom a handwritten letter. I left it in front of her bedroom door before I rushed off to school. I remembered being a nervous wreck the entire day. I was worried because my best friend had a terrible experience coming out. Their mom disowned them, and they were sent to live with their grandmother. Coming from a Catholic upbringing, I thought this was a real possibility. After school, I went to hang out at their house. Eventually, my sister did pick me up, and I immediately ran to my room the moment we got home. My mom sensed how terrified I was, and decided to email me saying that she loves me and that I’ll always be her daughter. I’m incredibly lucky to have the loving and accepting family that I have. I’ve heard a lot of stories where that isn’t the case. I never came out to my dad; my sibling outed me by accident. It was several years later, and they asked him, “Dad you know (civilian name) is gay, right?” To which he replied, “Well, duh. ”

How do you utilize the mediums of style, fashion and beauty to live as the most authentic version of yourself?

When I first discovered the word, “drag king,” it became the catalyst for both exploring my gender identity and strengthening my skillset as a stage performer. In the early days, I would wait until my family was asleep, then use hair gel to adhere hair to my face. Over time, I did gain the confidence to perform as my alter ego out in public. The first time was in my college theater class, then working with a local nonprofit’s annual drag fundraiser, then eventually getting the attention of various drag and burlesque producers all throughout the city.

I didn’t come out as a trans person until I was in my mid-20s. Before that, I was identifying as a “butch lesbian.” At the time, I thought being a transgender person was limited to a binary (only FTM or MTF). Learning the word non-binary was a lightbulb moment for me. For as long as I could remember, I never thought of myself as exclusively feminine or masculine. Dressing masculine when I was younger was used as a shield to protect myself from getting hit on by men. These days, dressing masculine is paying homage to my grandfather, who ran a haberdashery after he returned home from WWII. In every photo I ever saw of him, he was always impeccably dressed.

Your TikTok glow-up video

Landon Reid

Illustration: HuffPost; Photos: Courtesy Landon Reid

Social media handles: @and_mayhem_ensued_ (TikTok) @and_mayhem_ensued (Instagram) @andmayhemensued (YouTube)

Pronouns: He/him, they/them, she/her. I don’t care as long as you are respectful

How do you identify on the gender spectrum? I don’t care

How do you identify on the sexuality spectrum? Gay

Growing up, did you know you were queer? How/when did you discover this?

The world seemed to know I was gay before I did. The first time someone told me I was gay was when I was 3 years old. It was a grown man and he was using it as an insult, which is funny given all the conservatives now who are claiming “children don’t know if they’re gay or straight, so stop pushing your agendas” are the same people who were labeling me as gay when I was 3.

What was your personal coming out experience? Were you met with any adversity in the process?

My coming out was not a surprise to anyone. My mother was very accepting, which did surprise me given her religious upbringing and my religious upbringing. There’s a lot that I am still dealing with and deconstructing from childhood.

How do you utilize the mediums of style, fashion and beauty to live as the most authentic version of yourself?

I just like what I like and I try not to let anyone else’s opinion stop me. Clothes and makeup are powerful things. They have long been used to express individuality or conformity. I’ve never been someone interested in conforming. What’s masculine and feminine changes so dramatically over region, era and socioeconomic level. It’s ridiculous to let what section of a store something is put in determine whether or not you like it. I do not wear men’s clothes and I do not wear women’s clothes. I wear my clothes.

Sadly, I still live in north Texas. I have to tone down who I am somewhat every time I step outside. Clothes and makeup have never harmed anyone, but people have definitely been harmed because of their clothes and makeup, personalities, voices and mannerisms.

Your TikTok glow-up video

Erik David

Illustration: HuffPost; Photo: Courtesy Erik David

Social media handle: @Theglamjew (Instagram) @Theglamjew (TikTok)

How do you identify on the gender spectrum? Non binary

How do you identify on the sexuality spectrum? Gay

Growing up, did you know you were queer? How/when did you discover this?

Yes, my eyes would tend to follow men and I only looked at women as friends. I knew I was gay around 9 years old and came out at 13.

What was your personal coming out experience? Were you met with any adversity in the process?

My brother and my father tried everything they could to make me not gay. My mom was accepting but I pretty much learned what it was to be gay from the internet.

How do you utilize the mediums of style, fashion and beauty to live as the most authentic version of yourself?

I love to wear bright colors and don’t really care what other people think about it. I’m still getting used to wearing dresses in public. I like sticking to my first instinct for my “look” for each day.