Halloween to the gay community is like the Holy Grail to Christianity. Christians believe the Grail to have miraculous magical powers, and Gay Halloween is a miraculous tonic that allows one to magically transform oneself and freely embrace frivolity, madness, magic, mirth, and mayhem.
Halloween is a night when you can let go and immerse yourself in abandon and fantasy. It's like moving through an altered state, travelling the light fantastic, where everything seems beautifully dreamlike. There's every colour imaginable: sparkling rhinestones galore, encrusted jewels, and intricate beading on lavish ball gowns worn by bewitching boys, with feathers here, there, and everywhere.
Gay Halloween has it all. It's a showcase of how our lost souls are no longer lost. Moreover, there is no evidence of indignity, disrespect, shame, prejudice, hate, or oppression on this truly special and magical night.
I've had many a closeted transgender individual breathlessly whisper in my ear that this is the night they have chosen to first venture out in public. Feeling safe while showing off in their new-found frillies and not fearing rejection is empowering. A night of unconstrained bliss, feeling blessed, setting oneself free, and being free: does it get any better than this?
If you want to experience the indulgences of Hollywood, this is also the night to make believe.
Gay Halloween would not be complete without characterizations of famous actresses of a bygone era: La Streisand, Judy Garland, Tallulah Bankhead, Marilyn Monroe, Kate Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich”¦ On this spectacular night, boys will be girls and girls will be boys.
The gay community has forever embraced Hollywood icons. We had to. They have eased our pain and, in many cases, provided us comfort. Growing up, many of us–feeling alone and isolated–lost ourselves in the land of make-believe. We went to the movies, finding comfort in watching torrid love scenes and escaping for a few hours the real-life pain many of us experienced.
Travel the yellow brick road through gay Davie Village and marvel at the pink bus shelters. You'll probably see many Dorothys in their ruby slippers with Totos in their arms, and lots of bearded nuns stomping about. Our Halloween spectacle is truly shock and awe. On this incredible night, hedonism reigns supreme. Chances are you'll see the Supremes, or at least a campy version of them. And superheroes and supervillains rule the night on the club dance floors. Exhibitionists party with voyeurs, and everyone is competing for the best-costume prize money.
Celebrating Halloween in the gay community is about making a statement, being able to let loose, and not bending to conformity. It's truly about freedom. The gay community prides itself on revelry and over-the-top expressions of our lives. We've had to. This is never more evident than on this special night, when we throw caution to the wind and crank it up. We want to be remembered for our colourfulness, playfulness, unorthodox ways, and even our zaniness.
Stories will be passed on through queer generations about Halloween being our night. It's an opportunity to seize the moment, embrace our lives, and demonstrate that we will never allow homo-lessness.
Halloween ranks right up there with the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City as a vital marker of our community strength, liberation, and pride. When really out-there citizens, tired of the police's boorish and bullying ways, fought back after the city's finest trashed them and their Stonewall club, several days of rioting ensued. Queer citizens fought back against the police, and the tranny girls and drag queens who were on the front lines of the riot kicked it up a notch and threw their high heels and whatever they could find in their makeup bags. Stonewall prevailed. The liberation of the gay community from that night forward is forever etched in history. It is the Halloween of Halloweens.
Mainstream society, for some reason, hasn't quite embraced Halloween at the level the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community has. Perhaps heterosexual society tends to be more conservative in nature and less likely to partake in frivolity or wild abandon. But heterosexuality hasn't been imprisoned like homosexuality. Being heterosexual isn't usually accompanied by oppressive acts of the state for being who you are.
Yet mainstream society seems to have more hang-ups than queer folks, which I find perplexing, since it hasn't endured ostracism that comes with being different. Straight men still appear uneasy dressing up as women, and their flair still doesn't match that of gay men on Halloween night. I suspect, though, that straight men fear rejection or being made fun of if they dare be different.
Never realizing the necessity of setting oneself free has certain disadvantages. This is likely why mainstream Halloween is so, well, mainstream while Gay Halloween is quite another world. Can you imagine the Santa Claus parade looking anything like Halloween, when bare breasts and bouncing penises abound? But I digress.
Mainstream society is making an effort, though, to capture the essence of gay Halloween. East Vancouver's Parade of Lost Souls is a procession of men, women, and children wearing colourful costumes and making lots of noise to ward off the negative energy and evil spirits before All Saints' Day arrives on November 1.
This is a good thing, especially with evil men in the world such as U.S. president George W. Bush and U.S. senator Larry Craig, who continuously send out messages of intolerance and hate.
So, to all those lost souls out there, and those feeling constrained by society's morals, my Halloween message is simple. Take a look in the mirror, inhale and exhale, attend a gay Halloween event or two, participate in the Parade of Lost Souls, and just let yourself go. Listen to your spirit. It will never fail you. It's a place where you will find community, acceptance, respect, and love.
Halloween is a night when our expressive nature sends a clear message that goodness and love trump all evil.
And isn't that what life is about? Goodness triumphant over evil? Halloween on, everyone.