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Give Us a Mask and We’ll Tell You the Truth: An Ode to Halloween

This is the night we celebrate the divine, the beautiful, the messy, the legendary in ourselves.

Halloween has passed and chances are that just because you were a little too old to go trick-or-treating, (all the brave souls are now insisting there’s no age limit on fun), doesn’t mean that you’ve forgone celebration altogether. The staple of the grown-up Halloween, whether at University or in the city, is the costume party. No matter how old we get, no matter the season, the concept of donning a disguise always seems to delight and herald a successful party.

From the earliest days of my young queer life to the present, Halloween has been a secular but sacred holiday for me, specifically the focus on costumes. Apparently, I am not alone, as the most prominent queer community in Los Angeles saw fit to throw a mile-long street party where an estimated 500,000 attendees are present.

In the queer experience, there is something of personal significance in the idea of wearing a costume. For the LGBTQ community, who face oppression for displaying their authentic selves in a daily capacity, Halloween is the night where freaks are welcome. People dress as monsters, mythical beings, heroes, and villains.

This is the night we celebrate the divine, the beautiful, the messy, the legendary in ourselves.

Celebration and unapologetic flamboyance is normalized for one night and beauty comes from unlikely places, just as it always has throughout queer history.

Queer Halloween is as much a Pride event as any parade. For one night, we don’t censor ourselves to fit into the prescribed gender roles and expressions placed upon us by the heterosexist, gender essentialist society we live in. Assimilationists would argue that we are all the same and given our full rights and freedoms, we should behave just as the straight, cisgendered community does. But that is just a story we tell in order to gain empathy from people who are frightened about the ‘nature’ of queers: our flamboyance, our sexuality, our radical love, our history, our culture, our subversion.

For the LGBTQ community, who face oppression for displaying their authentic selves in a daily capacity, Halloween is the night where freaks are welcome.

Halloween is a holiday of authentic expression for the queer community at heart, not disguise. This is the day we are safe to be ourselves wherever we please; where the mask is our truth. The choices we make in how we dress ourselves is a question of presentation, an issue many of us have faced when we’ve looked in the mirror:

Too gay or acceptable gay? Am I safe? Do I pass? Do I care?

On a more internal level, we ask ourselves how we shall express ourselves that day:

Will I hold my partner’s hand in public? Are my mannerisms ‘too much’? Do I want people to know who I really am today? Do I want to have that conversation?

So, with that in mind, I wanted to reach out to the queer community at UCLA and ask some of our self-identified members why they chose the costumes they did and how it functions as personal expression.

AUSTIN

1) Why did you choose your costume?

I chose my costume because I wanted something that was scandalous but still work-appropriate.

2) What does it represent to you?

My costume is saying that people need to watch out because I am a fierce, self-advocating diva 😉

MELANIE

1) Why did you choose your costume?

Because In The Flesh is an amazing show and Amy is the queen of everything.

2) What does it represent to you?

In the Flesh is an amazing meditation on mob mentality, forgiveness, guilt, bigotry and fear, but it doesn’t stop at metaphor — it features canon out queer characters, victims of abuse, and PTSD sufferers, and treats them with the nuance and respect they deserve in a town that refuses to accept or understand them. Amy is the sunshine of the group, desperate to be loved and eager to give love… she’s an amazing ray of sunshine for someone who feels little guilt over having eaten brains.

 KIM

1) Why did you choose your costume?

I chose my Russell costume because I thought that I could pull him off, I was Asian, with short hair, and had all the parts to his costume anyway.

2) What does it represent to you?

He is this character that is adorable and not taken super seriously and finds himself in many gullible situations. And I used to fall for the joke that “the word gullible isn’t in the dictionary” joke. He is kind of like me growing up. Out of the loop half the time and without parental supervision.

Kathryn's friend costume pic

1) Why did you choose your costume?

Every year I kind of don’t know what to do for Halloween costume-wise because I feel like I should be something scary, but this time I was just looking through a website and saw a costume for Lumpy Space Princess from the cartoon show Adventure Time. In that split second I
just knew that I related to this character so much that I was already her, and I just needed this costume to unleash my final form.

2) What does it represent to you?

Lumpy Space Princess represents unconventional femininity to me—her lumpiness, her general unpopularity, her deep voice—and despite this she sort of just goes with everything and has mountains of (somewhat blind) self confidence in the things she does. I might be reading too much into it, but she also redefines what it means to be a princess with her being kicked out and living on her own (which sort of holds hands with the unconventional femininity bit). I just relate to her more than most live-action female characters in my life.

Shannon's pic

1) Why did you choose your costume?

I chose my costume because cosplaying is really fun to me!

2) What does it represent to you?

I chose Captain Marvel for the next few Halloweens and comic cons because she is a great female character who is written extremely well which is sometimes difficult to find in comics.

Megan

1) Why did you choose your costume?

For Halloween I chose to cosplay as Sarah Manning from Orphan Black as a way to participate in Orphan Black’s very active fan culture and fandom #cloneclub #closebians. Orphan Black quickly became my favorite show after it premiered last year due to its great writing, acting tour de force, and inclusive queer and feminist ethos.

2) What does it represent to you?

Even though I chose to cosplay as the character from the show who was easiest for me to pull off rather than the character who is my favorite on the show, the ability to engage in fan communities is really what cosplay is about for me. Not to mention dressing up as a character for Halloween helped me recruit other folks to watch the best show on television!

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1) Why did you choose your costume and what does it represent to you?

Every year, I try to dress up as people who have defied boundaries and been influential social change agents and positive troublemakers. I chose Cleopatra for her role in creating one of the most powerful empires in the word and challenging social norms for women. Also, she was just fabulous!

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