Halloween is our chance to tap into our inner fantasies. Once a year, instead of simply thinking about that princess, superhero, or zombie, we can become one. The holiday is a chance to exhibit an alternate persona in a socially accepted way. Halloween isn’t just about fishnet stockings, tight pants, or drag. This dress-up can also be a tentative exploration of gender identity on a day when everyone dons a costume.
For LGBTQ people, Halloween is a chance—annually—to wear a “disguise” that might actually be closer to the truth than the pretenses of daily life. As lesbian poet Judy Grahn said, Halloween is “the great gay holiday.”
Two books on our shelves at Nashville Public Library (NPL) explore Halloween and LGBTQ issues through the costume lens.
Trevor by James Lecesne
Trevor is a thirteen-year-old boy who can’t wait to transform himself into his idol, Diana Ross. Trevor first appeared during the early ‘90s as a character in Lecesne’s one-man standup show, Word of Mouth.
Trevor loves Diana’s crystal voice, and her individuality and sense of personal style speak deeply to him. Halloween is Trevor’s chance to honor Diana by dressing in a beautiful, flamboyant dress. However, Trevor’s excited planning is cut short when a friend dismisses his idea as “gay.”
Fast forward to 2012, when Lecesne updated Trevor into a novella: instead of Diana Ross, Trevor now plans to go as Lady Gaga. He explains to his friend, Zac, that his idea is not gay. Anyone who knows anything about Lady Gaga knows she has overcome plenty of obstacles to become the artist she is today, Trevor declares. He knows he’ll have to do the same to be his true self and achieve his own goals.
We never learn whether Trevor executes his big Halloween plan. Lecesne is not clear about whether Zac’s teasing is enough to discourage Trevor. Instead, readers wonder: Have times changed enough—since Lecesne’s stand-up comedy days—for a boy to be Lady Gaga safely for Halloween?
Openly Straight by Bill Konisgsberg
This wonderful young adult novel explores another costume angle. Rafe is an openly gay freshman, and he goes to school with two senior football players who dress up as Shakira and Beyonce for Halloween. The kids at Rafe’s school find this hysterically funny.
Inspired, Rafe decides the following Halloween to go for the “eighties rocker chick” look with a leather miniskirt and a plastic guitar. But when he gets to school, people don’t laugh—they avert their eyes.
All you need is your free library card to check out these and other Halloween reading picks. At Halloween, a great costume—and a great book—can be the real treats.
Diane Colson has worked in youth services for fifteen years. She’s a member of the American Libraries Association’s Young Adults Division. Her favorite book is always the one she’s reading right now. Find her on Twitter @recklessread