Monster Empathy

Kicking off Gay Pride Month with a little something I wrote last year.

I always pitied  monsters.  The Frankenstein Monster, shuffling about looking for acceptance; vampires, driven by an unquenchable thirst, never allowed to walk in the sunlight; werewolves, cursed to morph into savage beasts; even the lowly zombie, denied a final rest and made to just shamble about craving human flesh.
The empathy I felt towards these fantastic creatures, was that, through no fault of their own, they were scorned, hated and hunted.

Growing up gay, I related to that.

Through no fault of my own, I happened to be sexually attracted to members of my own sex.  Therefore, much like other monsters, I had to hide who I really was and put on a mask so that I could blend in with society .  I was made to question my self worth when I overheard kids in my high school make "fag" jokes.  I was lucky, in that my mask rarely slipped in those days, and most people were pretty clueless as to who I really was.

I searched for acceptance, I looked high and low for someone or something that would tell me that I was not a monster.  Unfortunately, I was a teenager in the mid 1970's - and since I was not living in San Francisco at the time, acceptance of anything out of the ordinary was not the norm - I don't think that younger generations realize what it really was like back then - they seem to have been sold a romanticized version of the disco decade.  Trust me, it was not one long party at Studio 54.

I found solace in two things back in those days.  The Village Voice ( a  New York City weekly newspaper that was sold at a local store), and horror films.  That might seem an odd combination to a burgeoning gay man, but trust me, those two things saved my sanity.

The Village Voice, covered a lot of gay and lesbian events and stories, and did it in a non-judgmental, even celebratory style - I would dream that someday I would be living a Care Free Gay Life in Greenwich Village, far from the shackles and expectations of suburban South Jersey.

Meanwhile, I'd spend a lot of time seeking out horror films; and since this was in the pre-cable, pre-vcr, pre-dvd, pre-internet days - you really had to seek out films, and then go to theaters or drive-ins to see them.  And I did!

While my gay Brethren might have been worshiping at the altar of Bette Midler or Liza Minnelli, I was taking communion at the Churches of George A Romero, Brian DePalma and David Cronenberg - my bibles consisted of the early works of Stephen King and a magazine called, Famous Monsters of Filmland.  

I'd always enjoyed horror movies, even as a kid, but when I got older I was addicted.  I can clearly recall seeing more than six or seven films in a given week some times.  Carrie really blew me away.  I must have seen it ten times when it first came out - and it was easy to understand the draw (a put upon high school student achieves bloody revenge on her tormentors).  In short, horror films and literature afforded me the escape (and the occasional cathartic experience) from the world I found myself trapped in.

As I grew older (and more comfortable in my skin), and started dating - I had one prerequisite: Must Love Horror Films.  Really, I mean if I was seeing someone and he could not understand the joy of being terrified at a mall full of shuffling zombies, or watching Jamie Lee Curtis fight off a masked mad man with a set of knitting needles, then what was the point? Everything else was just gravy.

These days, I still love horror films, but my partner of these past 13 years can't abide them (go figure), I guess that just proves that true love conquers all.  But imagine my surprise when I started this blog and found hundreds of other gay guys who love the horror genre - it's nice to know that there are so many of us out there; all of those beautiful monsters, no longer hiding in the dark, no longer lurking in the shadows...now if we could only have the right to marry - but that's another story.


Unknown said...

I've always felt like a monster too. I was always "different." Later in life I found out that my different-ness had a name: mental illness.
I always related to the story by H.P. Lovecraft, "The Outsider."
I don't know if I'll ever learn to like myself. But while I'm here in this world I'm trying to do what I can to try and change things so people aren't ostracized just for being different.

Anonymous said...

Nice! And thanks for reminding me what month it is...I feel some themed shenanigans coming on...*ahem*JackWrangler*ahem*

Have you read the book Monsters in the Closet? It's cool. It's very much in the vein of your post. My used copy has a little note in the inside page that says "Dear [someoneorother], You might find some of your ex-boyfriends in here."

God I love notes in old books.

Prospero said...

My God. I never realized how much we had in common until I read this post.

Cant wait to see what you have in store for the rest of the month!

Toon said...

Wow. Very well done! I hadn't made the connection before, but it makes total sense.

Spooky Sean said...

Powerful stuff man. Bravo.

Jack Veasey said...

Thanks, Pax, for an eloquent expression of something I've always felt myself.

forestofthedead said...

You are not a monster. I am not a monster, all good people are not monsters.

We are beautiful, we just need to work on remembering and believing that.