is America’s gay holiday.
In the words of the
lesbian poet and scholar Judy Grahn, Halloween is "the great gay
And this weekend of lavish costumed
theatricality will attract everyone, but especially lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) revelers.
the day Halloween, the night before All Hallows Day (All Saints Day),
was linked to the ancient Celtic festival "Samhain" in the
British Isles, meaning "summer’s end." And because
the celebration is associated with mystery, magic, superstition,
witches and ghost, the festivity, not surprisingly, was limited in
colonial New England because of its Puritanical belief system.
today it’s an LGBTQ extravaganza that rivals -- if not
out-showcases -- Pride festivals.
Long before June
officially became Gay Pride Month, and October "Coming Out
Month" for the LGBTQ community, Halloween was unofficially our
yearly celebrated "holiday," dating as far back at the
1970s when it was a massive annual street party in San Francisco’s
By the 1980s, gay enclaves like Key
West, West Hollywood, and Greenwich Village were holding their annual
Halloween street parties. And the parades the night of Halloween did
and still do draw straights and gay spectators out to watch.
cultural influence on Halloween has become such an unstoppable
phenomenon here and abroad that anthropologist Jerry Kugelmass of
University of Florida published a book in 1994 on the new trend,
titled "Masked Culture,"
describing Halloween as an emerging gay "high holiday."
’masked culture’ first developed by the gays of San
Francisco has reached across the lines of orientation -- and now
jumped across the boundaries between nations and languages. It’s
not just a party. It’s an ideal of personal emancipation,
self-expression and self-fulfillment -- an ideal that loses none of
its power when it takes the form of a sexy nurse’s outfit,"
CNN contributor David Frum wrote last year in "Halloween craze
started in gay culture."
Nicholas Rogers, author of
"Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to
Party Night," points out that
while Halloween is enjoyed by everyone, "it has been the Gay
community that has most flamboyantly exploited Halloween’s
potential as a transgressive festival, as one that operates outside
or on the margins of orthodox time, space, and hierarchy. Indeed, it
is the Gay community that has been arguably most responsible for
Halloween’s adult rejuvenation."
allows many LGBTQ Americans at least one night annually, Oct. 31, of
safely being out and "unmasked" while remaining closeted.
The community revels the entire night like there is no tomorrow, and
for many there isn’t. Like its pagan roots, Halloween provided
an outlet for us cross-dressing and gender-bending LGBTQ outsiders
who are ostracized by mainstream society.
flourishes as a gay cultural phenomenon, so too flourished a backlash
by the fundamentalist Christians with their "Hell Houses."
these Christians targeted our children.
Houses are no longer up and running in 2016, I’ll speak of them
in the past tense.)
Hell Houses were a contemporary form
of both anti-gay bullying and witch-hunting. Created in the late
1970s by deceased fundamentalist pastor, the Reverend Jerry Farwell,
Hell Houses were religious alternatives to traditional haunted
houses. They were tours given by evangelical churches across the
country design to scare and bully people away from myriad sins. And
one of those sins is homosexuality.
In 2006 the National
Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) put out a report titled
"Homophobia at ’Hell House’: Literally Demonizing
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth" explaining how
hell houses specifically targeted youth.
spooking youth with ghosts and monsters, Hell House tour guides
direct them through rooms where violent scenes of damnation for a
variety of ’sins’ are performed, including scenes where a
teenage lesbian is brought to hell after committing suicide and a gay
man dying of AIDS is taunted by a demon who screams that the man will
be separated from God forever in hell," the NGLTF stated.
study published in the "Journal
of Psychology "stated that a
strong belief in Satan is directly related to intolerance of LGBTQ
Religious leaders who supported Hell Houses
believed that by scaring LGBTQ youth into "heterosexual"
behavior they are saving their souls.
message that "homosexuals" are going to hell can have a
deleterious impact on our youth. But with Halloween flourishing as a
gay cultural phenomenon our children, too, can joyfully go
Our influence on culture
is being acknowledged and celebrated more as we come out.
Kwanzaa is a black holiday, and St. Patrick’s Day is an Irish
holiday, maybe someday soon Halloween will be officially acknowledged
as a gay holiday.
Editorial Board member and Columnist, The Reverend Monroe is an
ordained minister, motivational speaker and she speaks for a sector of
society that is frequently invisible. Rev. Monroe does a weekly Monday
segment, “All Revved Up!” on WGBH (89.7 FM), on Boston Public Radio and
a weekly Friday segment “The Take” on New England Channel NEWS (NECN).
She’s a Huffington Post blogger and a syndicated religion columnist.
Her columns appear in cities across the country and in the U.K, and
Canada. Also she writes a column in the Boston home LGBTQ newspaper
Baywindows and Cambridge Chronicle. A native of Brooklyn, NY, Rev.
Monroe graduated from Wellesley College and Union Theological Seminary
at Columbia University, and served as a pastor at an African-American
church in New Jersey before coming to Harvard Divinity School to do her
doctorate. She has received the Harvard University Certificate of
Distinction in Teaching several times while being the head teaching
fellow of the Rev. Peter Gomes, the Pusey Minister in the Memorial
Church at Harvard who is the author of the best seller, THE GOOD BOOK.
She appears in the film For the Bible Tells Me So and was profiled in
the Gay Pride episode of In the Life, an Emmy-nominated segment.
Monroe’s coming out story is profiled in “CRISIS: 40 Stories
Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of
Growing up Gay in America" and in "Youth in Crisis." In 1997 Boston
Magazine cited her as one of Boston's 50 Most Intriguing Women, and was
profiled twice in the Boston Globe, In the Living Arts and The
Spiritual Life sections for her LGBT activism. Her papers are at the
Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College's research library on the
history of women in America. Her website is irenemonroe.com. Contact the Rev. Monroe and BC.