I need Halloween — a.k.a. Gay Christmas — more than ever this year
“Spooky season has often felt like the one time of year that the world loves us too.”
Before I was queer, I had another label. As a child, I was weird and awkward and melancholic in ways that other children didn’t have words for, so they borrowed a word they knew from the circus — freak. I think it started when I was about eight. Don’t worry: This isn’t a sob story about childhood bullying. Sure, yes, that was a part of my experience, but I was honestly never phased by this particular kind of name calling. Freak, after all, has a nice ring to it.
Later on, in my teen years, it became obvious that I’m just a fairly typical big gay goth, but as a child I embraced being a strange carnivalesque outsider. I lived for the time of year when everyone else embraced it, too. Summer, Spring, and Winter, I felt like a weirdo, but for Halloween, I felt like prepubescent royalty.
Halloween wasn’t just a single day, either, it was a whole season. The weeks leading up to the big day were full of curiosity from other kids, the very same children who actively avoided me the rest of the year. At recess — which I usually spent in deep conversation with a Garfield the Cat figurine — I would find myself in a circle of kids, all asking for my advice. “What is the scariest thing you can think of?” they’d ask. Or, “Do you know any ghost stories?”
Yes. Yes I do, peasants.
I always had compelling answers to these little kid queries because not only was I actually weird by nature, but it was also a trait that my parents actively encouraged. The first two movies I remember seeing are “The Fly,” and “Alien,” which made me not just a fount of knowledge about scary things but also extra cool because my parents let me stay up late to watch R-rated movies on cable.
For the whole month of October, I reveled in my freakish eight-year-old glory. I doodled spiderwebs everywhere. At school, I read haikus about my black cat eating my mom’s pet cockatiel on Friday the 13th (true story). At home I listened to records of “spooky sounds” and begged my parents to make the front yard into a haunted house. They did, and my fondest family memory to this day is helping my father dish dry ice into the cauldrons sitting next to two witch mannequins on motorcycles that greeted people at the top of our driveway.
All of this is to say: I have always loved Halloween and it has often felt like it was the one time of year that the world loved me back. Once I got older (and gother and gayer), I found other people who loved Halloween too. But, I don’t just mean goths. For queer people, Halloween is known as Gay Christmas. There are a lot of really obvious reasons why — costuming is second nature to us, we throw really good parties, and it is the one day a year when everyone unanimously agrees that gender is bullshit.
Last year Halloween was canceled. Of course I dressed up anyway — as a Karen in a wrap dress holding a latte — and danced in my living room with my friends via Zoom. It was fun and I loved posting the pics on Instagram, but like so many pandemic celebrations, it just wasn’t the same. Not just because there were no parties with my queer kin or children trick-or-treating, but because it felt like it only gave me a precious few hours respite from a year so hellish that even my parents probably would have wondered if it was safe for children.
So this year, on September 30th, when I saw a chintzy scarecrow on my neighbor’s porch as I jogged by at dawn, I stopped and stared. And then I sobbed. I snapped a blurry picture and kept jogging, but I also kept crying. It wasn’t sad crying, these were tears of relief. It was the first sign, for me, that a world I know that I have a place in might be coming back to life.
This Halloween may not be like many of my favorites of years past, but it’s also returned to being a season, or at least October. Already I have creepy crafting dates with friends and an invitation to a spooky art market. I have started getting the, “what are you wearing” texts from my queer fam, who know I often have up to ten costumes a season. Even I still haven’t decided what I will wear on the big day, I am happy to be back in my role as a creepiness consultant.
For freaks like me, Halloween really is the most wonderful time of the year. And even though I know we’ll all be wearing masks this year by default, the sight of KN95s printed with vampire teeth is giving me hope. If we are collectively ready to celebrate the bizarre and the macabre again, maybe we are ready to move forward.