Editor’s note: The Gay Agenda is a column about LGBTQ experiences and issues.
Glitter, wigs, and drinking. “Heads Will Roll” is playing as you do complicated makeup in clothes you’ve bought specifically for this occasion. You end up puking on the side of the road in front of people you’ve never met. Is it Halloween or a Pride parade?
Halloween has been called “Gay Christmas,” or “Christmas for drag queens.”
On their surfaces, these sayings mean that Halloween is a time for LGBTQ people to freely express themselves. A time where being avant-garde is expected and even celebrated. Halloween is a cloak of safety that allows LGBTQ people to shine.
But Halloween itself is also a little gay.
If you celebrate Halloween, you’re literally pretending to be someone else, something most LGBTQ people are unfortunately very familiar with. You might even dress up as someone of a different gender, a notion that has prevailed in the LGBTQ community for decades in the form of drag.
For many people who want to try drag, they start with Halloween.
Cross-dressing, wearing clothes typical of a different gender, on Halloween is safer and more accepted than cross-dressing any other day of the year. It’s a discrete way to gauge friends’ and families’ reactions to the idea of you dressed as another gender.
Drag on Halloween is also a refuge from the harsh critiques of drag circles. If it’s seen as a costume, the makeup, clothing, and details don’t need to be perfect. It’s more about having fun than looking good.
Halloween also makes cross-dressing much more accessible. Female-coded costumes for male-assigned bodies, and vice versa, are readily available and often cheap in general stores.
“Halloween is the day where straight people pretend to be someone else and where gay people finally get to be themselves,” Alexie Walker, a member of the UW club Gal Palz (and someone followed by Trixie Mattel on Instagram), said in an email.
Halloween started thousands of years ago as a Celtic holiday to mark the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. The Celts would dress up as animals, burn crops in sacrifice to deities, and try to predict the future.
In America, the holiday was slow to gain traction due to the strict Protestant colonies, but by the 19th century, harvest festivals and parties were common. The nationwide spread of Halloween practices was thanks to the Irish immigrants who came to America while fleeing the Irish potato famine.
As Halloween became more popular in America, it also became more sterilized. Gone were the sacrifices, druids, and demons; trick-or-treating was adopted and Halloween parties became community gatherings based on games and seasonal foods.
But that mystical element is not totally lost as young adults (and adults) go to Halloween parties with a mindset that “it’s Halloween, anything can happen.” This is most likely due to the continuation of Halloween masks and costumes. Having a sense of anonymity allows people to partake in things they normally wouldn’t. Maybe even gay things.
“Halloween is honestly one of the gayest days of the year,” Walker said. “The drama. The costumes. The inherent freedom to get away with things that aren’t typically status quo.”
So don’t be afraid to experiment with your gender presentation, whether with clothes, makeup, or accessories, and kiss your best bud. It’s Halloween.
Reach columnist Miranda Milton at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @mirandamilton99
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