I'm traveling this week, happily in San Francisco for a mix of meetings, a conference and some fun, of course. And ridiculous things like amazingly delicious wacky cocktails featuring Absinthe Spray. I have no idea what that looks like but I'm imagining a tall aerosol can a la Aquanet. Can't you just hear the bb getting poetry-stoned as you shake the can?
It turned into a pilgrimage to the birthplace of America's Halloween.
I love how mainstream the adult Halloween scene has become, but I never forget that the trend is deeply inspired by LGBT culture. The gay community is often a trendsetter, and that is certainly true in how Halloween has grown to become an epic coast-to-coast celebration of identity, playfulness and decadence.
Tiny history lesson: when gay communities adopted Halloween as our Christmas in the '70s, it was almost exclusively focused on the simple children's activity of early evening Trick-or-Treating. But the holiday was perfect for queer celebrants. Costumes that allowed everyone to express their drag dreams or deepest selves? Monster motifs (which are evocative symbols of feeling like an outsider?) Art explosions (campy horror films! theater-inspired haunted houses! epic themed midnight parties!) A holiday free of (sometimes strained) family-of-origin expectations? A festival dedicated to the expression of lost, fragmented or hidden parts of our identities, to being finally seen and safely masked and hidden at the same time. Freedom, love, art, self and lust...of course this is so gay.
This CNN article from 2010 describes the history very well.
The Castro Halloween party spread to other gay neighborhoods in the 1980s: Greenwich Village, West Hollywood, Key West, Florida. In 1994, University of Florida anthropologist Jerry Kugelmass published a book on the new trend, "Masked Culture," describing Halloween as an emerging gay "high holiday."
And after a while -- the straights imitated.
From the spread of disco in the 1970s -- to the habit of paying money for sparkling waters such as Perrier -- culminating in Halloween, gays have incubated and developed major cultural trends.
The inspiration of the gay community doesn't mean that participating Halloween is in an of itself gay, nor Satanic, nor any of the other craziness you might hear extremists suggest. If fundie haters want to take it away from kids for this reason, more power to their assholery...because those kids will grow up and get it someday. It will get better for them. The rest of the world can give LGBT folks a nod for inspiring this massive cultural creative festival, and just enjoy ourselves.
So a pilgrimage to San Francisco on Halloween it was. So gay, everywhere. And Castro Street was obscene and decadent and alive. Wickedly alive. If you go, prepare to sneeze glitter and boa feathers the next day. It can be alarming, but I don't think I really snorted Tinkerbell. It was probably just the happiness. The gay, gay happiness.