by Sarah Weinstock
I hated Halloween growing up. I never wanted to be the traditional “girly things,” like a princess, cheerleader, fairy, etc. But I did, so I did not stick out. I was anxious and thought everyone was judging me, so I tried to conform in every way possible. As I was trying to “fit in,” I always felt uncomfortable. I was jealous of the tomboys because I wanted to dress like them but was still too afraid to express myself in that way. However, in fifth grade, I was the Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, and it was the most excited I had ever been to get dressed up. Nobody except my friend Mikaela understood my costume, and I was so embarrassed that I eventually took off my mask and told everyone I was a vampire. For almost 10 years after that, I again hated Halloween. In the back of my head, I never wanted to be embarrassed by looking like an outsider. When Mean Girls came out, the push to feel sexy and “slutty” was amplified, but I still never felt comfortable. I was jealous of the girls who just felt natural dressed like that. I either stopped dressing up or when I did, there was an invisible mask that was suffocating me.
Anyone who has talked to me for five minutes will know I am a HUGE RuPaul’s Drag Race and drag queen/king fan. When I watched RuPaul’s Drag Race for the first time, I heard one contestant ask, ‘so did you just start one day, or are you a Halloween drag queen?’ (I don’t remember the queen or season; otherwise, I would mention her) Halloween is a holiday where drag queens and kings can get their first chance to dress in drag. That moment made me realize the significance of Halloween. It gives people the ability to become gender non-conforming or switch genders altogether, just to try it out. Growing up I was never allowed to wear all black. The day I was the Phantom I was able to take a break from the traditional elementary school girl clothes of bright colors, skirts, and sparkles and wear all black and I was finally happy. It was not until I bought my first pair of men’s apparel as an adult that I ever felt really comfortable in clothes. Now I understand that my little baby gender non-conforming, closet gay, fifth-grade self felt at her best because it was the first time she got to dress the way she wanted to.
I’ve now started to love Halloween because I have come to terms with how I want to dress every day. I’m no longer waiting for Halloween to dress as my true self and then to be horribly let down when I can’t dress like it for the rest of the year. I cannot speak for every gender non-conforming person, but Halloween can be a chance to try out who we want to be without being judged. Halloween is a night where we are not judged by a societal standard, and we can use the excuse that “oh it’s just for Halloween.” Halloween is not just a time for someone to cover their face with a mask and pretend to be someone else, it can be a time where people can be true to themselves for a night when they believe they cannot do it daily. We are essentially able to take off the mask that we wear every day until we come to terms with ourselves.
Sarah Weinstock is a first-year Women’s history graduate student. She is a gender non-conforming lesbian intersectional feminist interested in how body image and clothes shape people’s conception, particularly in feminist movements. She finds it unfair that men’s clothes have more pocket space, and women’s shoes usually never go past size 10. She plans on being a pumpkin for Halloween per her nephew’s orders.