Regardless of how happy I am being out – and this is “holding conversations with family members about my partner” happy, or “I’m excited for my life” happy – I have cold, harsh realities to face.
A few years ago, I was perfectly fine missing the holidays. I worked through those days as if they were any other. I called my sisters to catch up, and I called my mother because that was the one obligation I still felt I had.
With this arrangement, I believed I was happy. Maybe it was true for a while.
Coming out was swift, but messy. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I think if I had waited, I probably never would’ve done anything. Admittedly, this doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s fine. There are no two gay people alike. There is no right or wrong way to come out.
But I’m getting off the subject.
I’ve been so fucking happy. Life has felt so much better than it did a year ago. I know what I want from myself and I have more direction. I have plans and a vision.
And I think… that’s what makes moments like this so blindsiding.
I looked forward to Christmas this year because I was home. I had extra money to spend on my family, and I appreciated the opportunity considering the times. We gathered at my mother’s house and I cooked a full meal. We watched movies, my nephew opened the first Christmas gifts of his life, and there weren’t any petty family dramas to sigh over.
After my sister and brother-in-law decided to head home and put the baby to sleep, I asked my mom for a ride so I could pick up clothes and toiletries (I share the car with my sister and brother-in-law since we stay together for cheaper rent). Mom – of course – loves when I stay over, because it reminds her of the old days. She won’t say it, but my sisters and I all know. Ever since our dad died, she’s struggled to stand on her own.
On the way back, she warned me that she recently started drinking again. Nothing heavy, but a single beer while she watches the football game. Of course I wasn’t happy, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not my business. I’ve done all I can to help her, and whatever choices she makes, she has to live with what comes from them. Besides, a single beer wasn’t as bad as the full case she could knock out daily.
But she insisted on projecting.
She’s always been paranoid, and she accused me of making faces in response to her talking about alcohol. I told her it was all in her head, and if I made faces, it was due to her comments on things like her boyfriends (because no one wants to hear what their mom thinks of men; truly I’d rather lose my hearing). Almost instantly, I knew she was offended by how I raised my voice and basically told her to never again tell me about her love life.
She refuses to make friends she could actually discuss that subject with – which I imagine is difficult when you’re fifty – so I almost feel bad, but my sanity can’t handle it. And I know better than to raise my voice, but she won’t listen if I don’t. As she climbs up in age, I have to remind her that I’m also older, and she needs to listen to me equally.
So she said, “I know you’re uncomfortable with my drinking, you’d prefer I didn’t. Just like I’d prefer you didn’t hang out with your girlfriend, and instead found a nice man.”
I couldn’t stop myself. I argued, “The difference is, you have a choice.”
“And so do you.”
I chose to stop after that. I let her talk, and for the first time in a long time, I sent myself somewhere far in my head. This used to be my coping when I was a teenager that couldn’t do much else. I ran through elaborate fantasies of a better life. Of happiness.
She seemed to figure out that if she wanted me to keep visiting, and not turn into a seldom caller again, she’d drop the subject. No matter what she did, however, I was rattled. For a split second, I thought I could cry.
Ultimately I didn’t.
We got home, and she started telling me about a strange animal she saw running through her yard. She swore up and down that it was a beaver mixed with a weasel and raccoon. When we pulled into the driveway, I saw two of them. Ferrets.
Naturally, I told my other sister (who still lives with our mom), and we all had a good laugh. I was relieved, because the earlier hiccup started to fade on the backburner.
We put on Hell’s Kitchen just to mindlessly watch something and let our dinner settle. The wind is going crazy outside, so I think about making a few repairs to the house in the morning. My sister got a stand mixer for Christmas, and she was most likely going to bake treats for us – I figured doing some outside work and stuffing my face was the bread and butter of a decent day.
Being lost in thought, I almost missed what was going on in the show.
God, I wish I had.
One of the guys was a little extra chummy with his teammate – who just so happened to be another guy. It wasn’t a big deal in the slightest.
My mom said it with such ease, and I suppose that’s what bothered me the most.
“He looks like a faggot.”
Immediately, my mind ran through a Rolodex of reasoning. She’s old, that’s just how she talks. She’s drunk, she has no filter.
Except she’s been sober; I haven’t seen a single can of beer because she thinks she has to behave.
And regardless of how much you say, “not to be rude,” whatever you’re about to say is definitely gonna be rude.
At this point, my mind is still racing with: Nobody says that kind of garbage anymore! It’s not real! You’ve glitched out of the matrix and you’re seeing something horribly unreal!
In my head, I was free falling down a terrible black hole, where all I could hear was that one sentence. It didn’t sound like my mother. It never sounded like her when she was being awful and homophobic, or any kind of ignorant. The voice was too ugly; it matched the words.
For a split second, I was completely yanked out of my seat and forced to accept that yes, she really did say those things.
I’ve been happy for a solid year now, but I realized happiness is a lot like sobriety.
I fell off the wagon, and I don’t blame anyone else who struggles through the holidays.
I have to remind myself that this woman isn’t paying my bills (quite frankly, I’m paying hers), nor is she actually as crucial to me anymore.
I enjoy spending time with my family. I do. These days, I typically have a decent relationship with my mother and grandparents. She struggles with making sense, due to her years of drug use and alcohol abuse, but I’ve known her long enough to keep conversation going.
But I left (escaped) the nest despite her desperately wanting the opposite.
This next train of thought seems irrelevant, but I swear there’s a point.
My brother-in-law and I once discussed how men are raised in other countries, or other time periods. Once they’re of age, they leave the village and sometimes they don’t come back. This translated to a modern day article we found that talks about how boys have to metaphorically kill off their mom and start their own life. It sounds ridiculously dramatic, but after growing up the way I did, I understood.
I needed those ties severed so I could live my best life. Obviously, I didn’t have to completely cut her out, but I needed to be my own person. As unfair as it is that my sister can bring her husband over for the holidays, but I can’t bring my girlfriend, I can’t let it drag me down. Eventually, I’ll come over for less time, because I’ve started my own family and traditions. That’s what happens.
I don’t need the permission of my family to be happy.
I’m on track to getting there. I have steady work doing exactly what I want to be doing. For the first time in my life, I know who I am and I don’t care what anyone else has to say. I’m comfortable in my skin, I have a healthy relationship… Life is good.
Since I’m a huge fan of horror, I thought it would be criminal if I didn’t share my personal list of the best LGBT characters in the genre. I do have a controversial opinion to open with, however.
The Babadook is not a gay icon. It never was. It never will be.
I need all of you baby gays to stop this nonsense, because that movie was trash.
Not to say the movies that I’m listing are Oscar worthy, but they’re at least fun and the children in them aren’t making me reconsider adoption.
7.) Jesse Walsh (Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy’s Revenge)
Sure he’s on everyone’s list, but how could he not be? The second installment of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise was loaded with gay subtext (although there was really nothing subtle about it). He had a board game called Probe and a sign on his door reading “No Chicks Allowed” at the age of Not 12. We won’t even talk about his relationship with Grady, or the scene where he finds his coach in a gay bar.
He had a female love interest, but he spent very little time being interested in her (as he was “supposed to”), and more time struggling with the burned monster within himself. Freddy was seen as a metaphor for the self-hatred that unfortunately still runs rampant among queer youth. The screenwriter confessed to the film having gay subtext, as the movie was made post-AIDS crisis, and he realized how terrifying the reality was for a large portion of LGBT people.
I have to have Jesse on my list, because he was not only the first Final Boy I’d ever seen in horror, but also because he wasn’t the villain. Being gay never made him the villain, as it did for a handful of much, much older horror films. He was afraid (as I myself was for several reasons), but he was also kind, and human. He was a regular person, and it was a breath of fresh air to see a potentially gay man portrayed as such.
6.) Richie Tozier & Eddie Kaspbrak (It)
The only thing harder than finding a picture from Andy Muschietti’s film that has good lighting, is the heart boner this pair has for each other.
These two are probably the most popular subject among fans of the It movies and book. Across each version, their characters seem to naturally gravitate towards one another. In the source material, Eddie is heavily gay coded – he fixates a lot on the AIDS crisis, and is written as desperate to cure and cleanse a disease he believes is inside him. Growing up gay, and with an equally as tense of a relationship with my mother, I connected to Eddie more than I had any other character in all the media I’ve consumed.
The monster known as It manifests as a leper, riddled with diseases, that offers Eddie a blowjob whenever they meet. It’s referred to with either gender neutral or masculine pronouns, leading us to assume the leper is a homeless man. Eddie’s fear could easily be looked at as disease, but it definitely goes deeper – especially when It turns his mother into the leper that’s trying to eat him.
He marries a woman that reminds him of his mother, and continues to hide himself in this uncomfortably suffocating comfort he’s been conditioned to “need.” He marries her, not out of love, but because she can keep him from becoming who he really is. There’s a point in the novel where he tries to talk himself out of it, but ultimately gives in to the familiarity.
As a child, he and Richie speak little in the way of religion, but Eddie most vividly remembers stories he’s been told where the protagonist is banished to Hell for “misdeeds.” He has every possible external factor working against his queerness, which is why he’s unable to know peace until he’s dying and the “window is washed clean.”
As for Richie, his fear is the werewolf from the 1950’s I Was a Teenage Werewolf. He fears the monster being within himself, as the theme of that film was in fact, man versus himself. In the source material, he has a moment with Bill where they hug each other and cry together (coincidentally after being chased by It as the werewolf), and he thinks about what people passing them will think. He’s conscious of what others perceive him as, until he’s with his very best friends. Only then is he openly flirty with everyone.
Yes, including Beverly, but he’s more bisexual than gay (perhaps leaning more towards men). He mentions that she’s pretty, and it’s a strange thought to have about a guy – but he doesn’t once deny having thoughts about his male friends. He does mental gymnastics to avoid his own truth, and sadly, his character doesn’t show his cards as much as the others.
He and Eddie suffer from an unfortunate disconnect, which in the novel, is due to the time period it’s set in. The actors in the miniseries have spoken about how they played the roles in a specific way to make it clear Richie and Eddie were closer than the others (or at least close in a different way, much how Ben and Beverly were). Then, following the 90s miniseries, Bill Hader has talked about Richie’s queerness and how he would’ve been relieved had Eddie said anything first.
I’m hoping that – maybe 20 years from now – we’ll finally get the version where they can tell their truth to each other.
5.) Charley Brewster (Fright Night)
If Charley was a character today, he’d translate to a regular Hollywood twink. He’s obsessed with vampires, and even more obsessed with his neighbor who he suspects is one. This neighbor – named Jerry – also happens to be an attractive man with a strangely close “roommate.”
Jerry and Billy are the closest to bickering husbands that we could get in American theaters in the 80’s. Their mannerisms and the ease with which they embraced each other was written off as something strange vampires just do – but we knew better.
On top of that, Charley is given a girlfriend character who is mostly forgettable (think back to Jesse Walsh, but somehow less important). By normal standards, she was the “hot” girl that he should’ve been happy to have. Unfortunately for her, he was far more interested in his hunky neighbor.
4.) Glen/Glenda (Seed of Chucky)
While I’m not the biggest fan of this installment in the long line of Chucky movies, I was definitely interested by the conflict presented with Glen/Glenda. I definitely don’t agree with the handling of it, nor the outcome, but for the time period, I have to admit I’m still impressed. The writers kept it real – for serial killer parents, sure they wanted a son/daughter to relate to, but ultimately they didn’t care.
Chucky and Tiffany are both confirmed to have genitals, but Glen/Glenda is revealed to have nothing. He chooses to be a boy, but that was the beauty of it for me: he was able to choose. Yes, he did go on to have a strange “split-personality,” where the female side of him was murderous, while his male side was docile – but up until that moment, I was on board with his character. Finally! A nonbinary character in the killer role!
In one of the following films, the main character (played by Brad Douriff’s daughter) is sent to a psychiatric ward, where she meets a man called Multiple Malcolm. All insensitivity aside, I genuinely thought he would be revealed as Glen/Glenda. There’s allegedly still hope, so let’s cross our fingers his identity is validated and handled better than it was sixteen years ago.
Seed of Chucky came out in 2004; I was about ten-years-old when I saw it. Glen/Glenda was the closest I’d seen to a transgender character in my entire life, and I was never able to forget. There was so little on the subject, and even less that I could have realistic access to, so I’m always grateful for the (although problematic) exposure.
3.) Angela Baker (Sleepaway Camp)
Another example of my limited exposure to transgender characters as a kid! This time, Angela (born Peter Baker), is the killer – and very decidedly so. I was so excited to see someone who I could connect with in a role like this; I fully understood Octavia Spencer when she spoke about her role in Ma, because that was how I felt with Angela. She wasn’t the one being mercilessly killed off in the first ten minutes because SHE was the whole film.
In later films, she continues to use she/her pronouns, and present as Angela, but I didn’t bother with those particular sequels (so excuse me if my knowledge isn’t as extensive). Now, we have to consider the time period, which is definitely an excuse I’m over – Hollywood still has almost no idea that nonbinary exists. It was definitely problematic in the way Angela becomes herself, as the identity is forced upon her by her aunt, and you have to wonder if she would have snapped had she not been forced into gender roles.
I related a lot to that discomfort; my mother was extremely insistent that I fall into a specific category and follow all the rules of it. No growing facial hair and wearing a dress at the same time! Unheard of! Jail for a thousand years!
Honestly? I enjoyed the twist, and I enjoyed that the film let Angela be who she was without any question. Even after the reveal, she was still Angela, but her genitals hardly mattered for the majority of the movie – as they would (or wouldn’t, rather) for any cis killer in these slasher flicks.
Disclaimer: GOD, HER AUNT WAS F*CKING CRAZY AND THAT ISN’T HOW BEING TRANSGENDER WORKS.
2.) Mitch Downe (ParaNorman)
This marked the first time I was shown a kid-friendly movie that featured a gay character. Again, we’re not told until the end that he’s gay, but it was a pleasant surprise! Through the duration of the film, Courtney is trying to win his affections. His reveal isn’t played for laughs at his expense, nor is he shamed. He simply is, and that’s a huge breath of fresh air for closeted kids (much like I was at the time).
Also, I grew up in South Texas. Of COURSE I wanted the buff jock to be gay. This was the first time I saw a gay jock that wasn’t suffering from violent internalized homophobia (a la Brad, from Perks of Being a Wallflower).
The messages of the movie are simple: don’t judge a book by its’ cover, and accept people for who they are. Norman and his friend – and ultimately the “villain” they face – are all outcasts, perceived as strange for some reason or another. We see them as the protagonists, so we’re automatically on their side. However, we still (to some degree) judge them. We note that Norman is an “I see dead people” freak, and his friend is overweight. We see Courtney and assume she’s a cheerleader type, perfect for the jock-looking Mitch.
There’s no hyper-masculinity from Mitch to make up for his queerness, because he’s unapologetic about it. His sportiness goes hand in hand with his queerness because all of it makes up who he is. He’s gay and that’s all there is to it! He also has a boyfriend, and he’s happy to talk about him.
1.) Billy Loomis/Stu Macher (Scream)
In a deliberate decision from the actors (Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard), their time on set was spent mostly together to achieve a closeness that came across in the film. They were successful with their goal, and the subtext is hard to miss outside of that. Billy and Stu were giant bisexuals, leaning more towards men.
Not only does Stu completely go along with a murder plot for his beloved “friend,” but their weapon of choice is metaphorically phallic. We’ve all seen Criminal Minds – stabbing is a way to penetrate, used mostly by sexual sadists.
While both of them have girlfriends, both of them are quite dramatic in their efforts to kill the ladies. Only us gays are capable of that flair – a whole ghost costume moment as well as voice changers to carry out killings? It takes drama.
Allegedly, Stu was supposed to make a comeback in the third film – presumably to avenge his Billy. However, due to real life events, the producers decided their script would’ve been in poor taste. It’s truly a shame, since the third movie sucked.