Get out and party on Halloween

  • by Heklina
  • Wednesday October 29, 2014
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Heklina as the Bride of Frankenstein. Photo: Jose Guzman-Colon<br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
Heklina as the Bride of Frankenstein. Photo: Jose Guzman-Colon

Halloween plans? No? Girl, what's your excuse for not going out this year?

Sure, they say that sending a drag queen out on Halloween is like sending a politician out on Election Day. There is a ring of truth to this of course " I mean, what's the point, and what else is there to be said, when everyone is dressing up?

I could also toss out the weak "Oh, it's amateur night" excuse that many queens use for staying in on October 31. But that doesn't seem quite true in San Francisco, a city stuffed with creative people falling over themselves to out-do one another with the most topical (expect lots of AHS Freakshow and Ebola references this year. Miley Cyrus from the VMAs and Orange is the New Black? So 2013), shocking, and creative looks.

The real reason many choose to stay in on Halloween night? Well, it can be scary out there, and not in a good way.

To say that Halloween has always resonated with the gay community (and in particular, gay men) is like saying bread can be sliced, or that Britney Spears is auto-tuned. It's obvious, and the reasons why are numerous. The Wikipedia page on Halloween in the Castro just scratches the surface: There are differing ideas on why LGBT communities are attracted to the holiday. Throughout the 1980s, Halloween street events in gay villages Key West, FloridaChristopher Street in New York,  Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and the Castro in San Francisco evolved from informal parades into Mardi Gras-like events with "drinking and dancing and carrying on in the streets." In addition to stereotypes about why LGBT people are attracted to fashion, theatricality, and dressing up there are cultural reasons why the events became "the major holiday" for LGBT people.

Looking at the holiday's pagan roots, which were attractive to those who had been shunned by mainstream religions, many LGBT people were able to be outrageous and flamboyant even if they remained closeted. In the days before gay liberation, wearing masks symbolized that most gays were in the closet " if gays were interviewed on TV before 1969, they often wore masks so no one would know their real identity.

By the time I moved to San Francisco in 1991, Halloween in the Castro had evolved (or maybe mutated is a better word) into a massive, unwieldy street party that was becoming increasingly difficult to manage. I was then just dipping my heels in the drag world, and that night in 1991 I hobbled around the event in my poorly fitting dress and heels, marveling at the sheer size of the crowd. For sure, there were some amazing looks, but there was also an unwelcome element I noticed immediately. The next day, I heard scary stories of bashings and muggings, and I was spooked.

As the years went on, things got worse, but now I'm stating the obvious and preaching to the choir. We all know this. The breaking point for me? It was 2005 and I was by then a full-fledged drag "star," hosting the Halloween stage in the Castro with Sister Roma in front of hundreds of thousands of people. But what kind of people? Seared into my brain is the moment that night when I was speaking on the microphone, introducing the next act, and there was a man pressed up against the fence in front of the stage, screaming "fag" at me. I had had it. I was throwing pearls before swine. The ultimate insult? This idiot wasn't even dressed up! Who doesn't dress up on Halloween? I just don't get it.

The next year of course was the death knell for Halloween in the Castro, when a shooter wounded nine people at the event. The city of San Francisco had had enough, the mob had won.

Do heterosexual people ruin everything? Of course not. Put in super simple terms, there are REALLY cool straight and gay people, and there are REALLY tired ones. The straight people who ruined Halloween in the Castro were of the tired variety, but then, again, we all know this. They won't let us have nice things, and are also hell-bent on destroying Pink Saturday, but now I digress " why New York City and Los Angeles can have these kind of celebrations and San Francisco lacks the political will to control them is a question best left with the politicians, not yours truly.

So, what's a girl to do? Let the mob win? I just can't, sorry. Halloween just means too much to me to stay in, and always has since I was a child who never fit in. I was the "weird kid" who loved horror movies, fantasy, sci-fi, rock and roll, you name it, and it was the one time every year to celebrate all that without fear. Now, I'm the weird drag queen who still loves all of those things, and refuses to grow up. Why should I?

Halloween may be an adult holiday in San Francisco, but it's still for the child in all of us. If you're reading this you can probably relate, so get out there this Friday night and express yourself. Put a sheet over yourself and say you're a ghost, draw on whiskers and say you�re a kitty cat; hell, I don't even care if you do Miley from the VMAs, just GET OUT THERE. Happy Halloween!


Heklina hosts Trannyshack Halloween (A Party) at Beatbox, 314 11th Street, Friday, October 31. Doors open at 9 p.m., show at 11. Online ticket sales have closed, but tickets available at the door.