Hallowe'en is a fun night to dress up for many people. Patrick Campbell explains why Hallowe'en is particularly important to LGBTQ+ people for the opportunity to express their true selves by pretending to be someone else!
Other than Pride, there is only one event particularly cemented in the queer calendar, attracting LGBTQ+ people to its rituals and revelries, and even becoming the honourary “Gay Christmas:” that fantastic night of Hallowe’en. Every October, the mask is one particularly queer phenomenon which reappears in supermarket aisles and gift shops year after year.
Dressing up is an integral part of Hallowe’en. Weeks of planning can go into the craftsmanship (or when that is lacking, wit) of a Hallowe’en showstopper. One girl I knew used the night as a project deadline for her needlework practice! The holiday revolves around the ability to dress up, forget your day job, and become someone new.
For the mainstream Hallowe’en market, this act seems fairly innocuous. Whether it be a witch, a video game character, or simply a pair of mouse ears (“Duh!”), this opportunity to dress up is just that for many merry-makers on the 31st of October. To them, the Hallowe’en mask is an unremarkable affair: a stock character, a costume from Tesco, an outfit that won’t be missed once that fifth shot is spilled.
This interpretation is not so careless for the queer members of the party. It’s a cliché that queer people must come out every day of their lives to every new person they meet, but this cliché happens to be true. Whether one “passes” as straight, lives in the closet for now, or wears their pride on their sleeve, every queer person wears a mask of some form. We have to negotiate and construct our face to the world, so deciding what we wear to work in February can take more thought than a range of Hallowe’en costumes.
What happens when a person who wears a mask every day dresses for Hallowe’en? When we see outfits ranging from Disney witches to drag queens or more scandalous options like the leather-covered bondage pup or scantily-clad gladiators, someone has opened up their closet- and it is magical!
October 31st in the pagan calendar was the night that the wall between this world and the beyond was at its thinnest, and the demons and fairies walked among us. Fear emerged when people were forced to remember their misdeeds, sins and inner desires, and so the haunting began.
Those of us living in queerdom have a different approach. For one night of the year, taking the mask off on Hallowe’en allows us to live those hidden desires and celebrate them. That witch has the same inner power that you possess, but you have to keep it down in the office. That soft cat or bunny has always crouched behind the pressures to assert your masculinity. And, although surrounded by every other guy on the dancefloor who finds those hotpants just hilarious, this is the night that you can flaunt your sexuality in the club, and be met with a ghoulish chorus of ‘yaaaaaas. (Side note: No matter how much of a Mexican fantasy you are feeling, please take those hats off if you're not from that ethnic group. That’s just racist.)
There is power to be found in Hallowe’en. On a night where everyone is in drag, when everyone is walking with the dead, we can come out and walk with the fairies. We are given the opportunity to take off the masks we wear day-in and day-out and remove the costume like we have always wanted. We can all show off those hidden desires and dirty little secrets we keep private- sometimes we just have to look for them at Party City.