Give me your fearsome ghouls and your flaming gays, your slutty zombies and your zany queens, for it is time for Halloween.
Halloween isn’t just a holiday for LGBTQ people — it’s an institution. But why? Sure, there are the obvious parallels. Many queer and trans kids grew up having to wear a mask, and to many of us, every day was Halloween until we opened those closet doors. We are highly trained at hiding our true selves, so the celebration of costume and disguise is a natural marriage for us. But for today’s generation, where “queer” is hardly the horrifying pronunciation that it once was, this explanation may no longer carry much weight.
Still, many LGBTQ folks delight in the chance to express themselves in ways that society usually deems lewd, weird, or inappropriate. This holiday is one that praises all the frights and fetishes that we are told to cover up. But then again, that is what Pride (not to mention leather festivals like San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair) is all about. The queer community is itself a celebration of sexual liberation, so for many, Halloween is just another Saturday night at the club.
The main reason Halloween is a national LGBTQ holiday is the fact that being queer or trans is an extension of expressing who you want to be, in spite of who fears it. Regardless of how liberal the community you live in may be, the global reality is that being any part of the LGBTQ community is still considered a perversion, a subversion, and even an abomination. Some of us may rarely have to address this reality, living in progressive hubs where queer is practically the norm. Others know all too well that a disturbingly large number of people in the U.S. still think our “lifestyle” is to blame for all that’s wrong with the world.
Living in Dallas, Texas, I easily forget how odd I am to some people simply because I am gay. And for a minute here and there, I might even convince myself that my life, my marriage, and my sex life are now just part of the boring norm. But if I travel even a few miles outside of my bubble, the sometimes-painful realization that I am still considered an “other” swiftly sinks in and reminds me of my alternative position in society.
And that’s a good thing.
Being queer isn’t a fetish. But for many, it is a fantasy. For those who are out, facing the fear of exploring our fantasies, which in turn become reality, can almost be second nature. When Halloween comes around, many of us on the LGBTQ spectrum aren’t afraid to revel in our proclivities, whether they are ghoulish, garish, or slutty as hell, because in the eyes of the judgmental peanut gallery, we already represent those things every day.
But Halloween is the one time of year when everyone is allowed to be whoever they wants to be. Even boring straight cisgender folks go queer for a night and walk on the wild side. Those who feel they have to be in a closet the rest of the time can bust out in all their glory on Halloween. And anyone questioning their current identity has the chance to try another out in public without fear of reprisal. When dawn breaks, some of those folks will have to turn back into pumpkins while we fairy godmothers get to keep being fabulous.
But at some point in a queer person’s life comes the realization that we will always be a freak to some. Regardless of how good we are at donning costumes, eventually we figure out changing ourselves into someone else is impossible, so we might as well relish in our freakdom and celebrate Halloween as the one time of year onlookers creep closer to our side of the line. (If we show those ghouls a good time, you never know who might just stay in gay town permanently.)
So throw on those hooker heels and paint those faces a fright, because soon, very soon, it will be Halloween night!
Contributing editor Tyler Curry is also editor at large at Plus magazine, the author of A Peacock Among Pigeons, and a gay man living with HIV. (@IamTylerCurry)