Note: this post originally appeared on In Our Words.
David Chastity: David Chastity here with Thing Two this morning to talk about the best holiday ever, Gay Christmas. Not just ‘cause it’s our anniversary-
Eugene Cain: Eww.
DC: I know right? Relationships are gross. But Gay Christmas, known by lesser mortals as Hallowe’en, is objectively the best holiday. When did you first realize this fact, Eugene? Was it about the same time you figured out you were queer?
EC: Hallowe’en for me has always been the best holiday. Something about being able to put on another identity and try it out for a while has always been a soul-searching experience for me. I think some people find themselves more honest while wearing a mask. Upon discovering my queerness years ago, October became ever greater. Which tradition is your favorite in the month of October?
DC: Why would you make me pick? First off, we should explain how Hallowe’en bleeds out past the edges of the month- it’s way too big to be contained. Just like how boring Christmas really starts right after Thanksgiving, Gay Christmas starts with my birthday in late September, and doesn’t end until you wake up sometime in early November with face paint in bizarre places.
EC: Penn Station in Manhattan is my favorite place post-party. Seeing the various stages of costume removal. Witnessing all the tired, sobering up and “wanting to get home on LIRR or NJ Transit” people always makes me feel better about most parts of my life. No one is going to blink if I walk into work still face painted, but lawyers and CEOs will need to put away this part of their life. I hear you celebrate “Gay Advent”. What’s up with that, David?
DC:Yes! Because I’m in seminary, I make extra holidays and rituals out of everything. But this one dates back farther than that. When I showed up at Queer Hippie College in 2006, I promptly made best friends some other queer nerds. We started celebrating Oscar Wilde’s birthday on October 16, which means wearing velvet and ruffles and eating cucumber sandwiches. This led right into Hallowe’en, the party of the year at QHC for obvious reasons. We were all Gay Icons for Hallowe’en, Shakespeare and Elton John and I think our other friend was a drag queen because he’s lazy. The next year we discovered LGBT History Month, which is very properly placed in October. We started dressing up as Queer Historical Figures and taking pictures and making up elaborate stories on Facebook, sometimes related to the Icons and sometimes, well, we got creative. It took until seminary for me to realize it was an advent calendar, but the tradition is well entrenched now.
EC: Costumes and stories and pictures is so Hallowe’en. Ritual is the natural way to express holiday cheer.
DC: Exactly! Ritual and performance. One year me and my Comrade spent most of the Hallowe’en festivities in our room making YouTube videos because we were dressed up as YouTube stars. Hallowe’en is a really performative holiday for me, which is a huge element of my queerness- so much of my gender and sexuality is a conscious choice I make to act out something, for myself or for someone else.
EC: For me, while I was making more strident attempts at being an upright citizen, working hard jobs or well-paying jobs, Hallowe’en kept being more and more of a cancerous growth on my calendar spiraling out of control. These days, I’ve embraced the part of my identity that’s a hooligan. You’d more likely find me stealing candy and pumpkins than working for them. I usually start celebrating when the first pumpkins show up at the grocery store.
DC: Except now you know me, so you start celebrating with my birthday.
EC: I like to think that we’re writing history. I like to imagine that in a few decades, everyone will be starting mid-September like Christmas seems to. I think we can start edging up on November times as well. People are already consuming the entrails of dead pumpkins for Thanksgiving, why not usurp that?
DC: Thanksgiving is a pretty useless holiday, although I love pies. But let’s focus on what we came here for.
EC: Did you have any particularly outlandish costumes or reactions from coworkers while you represented your calendar?
DC: I work with Quakers, they’re a little confused when you wear a tie, but mostly non-plussed. I’ve been kind of disappointed with the costuming potential of the Gay Advent lineup this year, although RuPaul’s yet to come, so it’s gonna get better.
EC: RuPaul does slake your need for theatrics, for sure. RuPaul and the gender non-conforming community reminded me to look up which figure got the honor of representing us. This year’s calendar celebrates trans activist and “first nationally known transgender American” Christine Jorgensen.
DC: The calendar definitely focuses more on picking really important people, and less on theatrics. Fortunately, it’s easy for me to invent theatrics when I have enough free time and pliant friends. I think my favorite Gay Advent story is the time me and my Comrade’s now-fiancee pretended to be action stars and ran all over Western Massachusetts leaping over rocks and barrel rolling and crap, in honor of actress Cherry Jones. Spirit of Hallowe’en, right there. Speaking of: Hallowe’en movies.
EC: Linus is all I really need. “Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”
DC: You’re not even going to try to traumatize anyone with the Grinch?
EC: Lovely of you to bring up my favorite little bit of childhood. I bet the jury’s out on Seuss, like Shakespeare. I think “Hallowe’en is Grinch Night” speaks to the same things as Linus. The main character is repeatedly told to face his fears and to own his perspective and actions. Even by the villain. Do you have a favorite bit of October fiction?
DC: Other than the ones I’ve made up? I have to go back to the wider focus on Gay Advent, which encompasses the celebration of Saint and Martyr Oscar Wilde. I usually squeeze in a reading of the Importance of Being Earnest, which also deals with these themes of honesty in artifice that we keep coming back to.The movie with Colin Firth and Rupert Everett is pretty great, too.
EC: Harvey Milk’s not on the calendar this year-
DC: He was in the past- icons don’t repeat, for greater education!
EC: Sure. Anyway, Milk urged all of his friends and supporters to use their most powerful weapon, their own true identity, to usher in an era of human rights that we are in the wake of still. But my final quote will be from today’s figure. Federico Garcia Lorca said “To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves.”
DC: And if I’ve learned anything from half-memorizing the greater works of Oscar Wilde, it’s that “man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” There’s safety in pretending to be someone else, and what we choose to pretend reveals more about us than it does about them.
EC: All of the Hallowe’en dogma and myth can be summed up in this: sincerity is the reason for the season.