Normalizing Queerness through Vampirism
As I was growing up, there was a confluence of media and experiences that normalized queerness, upended gender roles, and showed me that my all around weirdness was OK at a very young age. When I was 8 I discovered “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and begged my parents and aunt over and over and over for them to let me watch it. I was so enamoured by those lips on the VHS tape. RHPS sorta gave me an idea of what different people could be like, I was eight and confused about everything so I took it all in stride. It was the only musical I’d seen so I thought that was just how they were done and that this was your normal run of the mill musical. It didn’t occur to me until an embarrassing amount of years later that it was as queer as it is.
It was just normal to me.
For as long as I can remember my parents would read to me before bed, every single night. I got to choose the books. It gave me my love of reading. As I got older the books that I chose for them to read became more adult. I guess their thinking was that if I was old enough to pick it out and ask for it, I was old enough to read/hear it. One day at a thrift shop I saw a copy of “Interview with the Vampire” for 29 cents and got it.
So here I am this nine year old confused queerby who knows nothing about these weird feelings going on and I was asking my Dad to read me this tale of these obviously queer vampires. I don’t even know how my parents didn’t realize I was trans and a lesbian. How could they not see this?! Just based on my favorite media alone, you could tell my preferences and identity. I mean, I couldn’t even tell what was going on but they had more life experience and still didn’t see it. This is why Pride Month is so important, you need to bring this kind of stuff up, raise the awareness. If parents don’t have experiences with gay people or trans people they won’t see certain traits and actions in a child and it makes it harder for the queerios like me growing up not knowing what I even was, I didn’t have any guidance. I felt like a monster, a vampire. I clung so hard to Anne’s series because there wasn’t anything else like it.
The prose is like a painting with each chapter filling in more and more space like paint on a canvas. It makes a very vivid picture of this world just like ours, but with added vampires. Somehow everyone is gay and/or genderqueer. It’s never brought up explicitly, it’s just shown as it is. It’s not Othered. Everyone is already Othered by being vampires. They have to do certain things to hide, or keep the Masquerade up if you will. You watch them live their lives through the centuries. The two Daddies: Lestat (Total top and you know it!) and Louis (The bottomiest of bottoms) and their “daughter” Claudia. A girl who would have died from the plague turned by both Louis and Lestat. She becomes an adult woman stuck forever in the body of a five year old a large chunk of the story deals with their gay little family and Claudia wanting to physically grow up too, wanting to change how she looks. They’re portrayed like any “regular family.” This further normalized homosexual families in my brain as a normal thing. In the book it may not be a healthy relationship, but it still showed it without being in big red letters, ‘HEY LOOK AT THIS GAY FAMILY! SEE?! WE GOT GAYS AND BIs HERE!” It just existed. No need to explain.
After Interview, I needed more. That’s when it got even gayer and queerer. In “The Vampire Lestat” the second book in “The Vampire Chronicles,” Lestat has a “best friend” that he turns whom he is obviously in love with, they have discussions for hours, and play violin for each other. It’s just soooooooooooooooooooooooo gay. Lestat also turns his mother, they have an interesting relationship to say the least, almost as if they were lovers. There are many genderqueer characters throughout the series but even in life before Gabrielle was turned she had genuine gender issues, and was unable to express herself the way she felt inside. She was stuck in this decaying manor and was expected to be a 16th Century baby maker for a dying aristocratic family. She was the only educated person in the family and spent all her time reading books in her library. She lives the male side of her through Lestat, having these talks with him about everything, she lives her life through his experiences. Out of all her children, the only one she truly loved was Lestat.
Once he turns her, it’s as if she is freed, she immediately kills a man, takes his clothing, and discards the dresses. She then cuts her hair short and closer in style to that of a man. Lestat is surprised, but never really brings it up after the first time. She only puts on a dress to appease Lestat once in a long while. Keep in mind there are times where they don’t see each other for 200 years. Gabrielle lives her genderqueer life exploring everything she can, with that endless drive to learn. Again, this normalized people wearing clothes that fit closer to their gender identity and deciding to live their life differently to the fullest, going against the grain.
I was talking with a friend recently and we were talking about vampires as vessels for queerness, which also extends to transness. They transform, just like I have. You can consider me sorta like vampire-lite. Instead of drinking the blood from a bite like Lestat’s arm, I get a two in one deal. I get the teeth like stabbing when I put the needle in my body, and then the fluid exchange when I inject the hormones into me. Then the changes happen. Even now.
Just like how the vampires are able to blend in very well, so can I but if you look close enough you can see the differences between them and the rest of the world. It’s the same with me, especially if you knew me in that past life. I look slightly different, my face rounded out, my hips, and my breasts filled out, my skin became softer, as did my hair. A complete transformation. Over time naturally, you have cells throughout your body die, around the seven year mark every single one of your cells have been completely replaced with new ones.
I’ve been on Hormone Replacement Therapy for 11 years, I now have a body MOSTLY free of testosterone (Everybody needs a little, even women. You gotta have that good hormone balance!) My body is like a new person now, completely changed from what it was once ravaged by, now its main hormone is estrogen and it is changing and adapting my body to the way it was supposed to be the first time around. Side-note: Second puberty sucks, but it eventually ends and you learn and become yourself even more. That’s why you transition. To become more you. You’re already in there, it’s just the expression that changes.
Rocky Horror and The Vampire Chronicles normalized so much queerness for me that I never saw it as strange, unusual, or out of the ordinary. Kids can understand what gay means. Kids can understand what transgender means. It’s not a hard concept to describe. My whole life I’ve been confused as to why people feel the need to take away other people's rights just because they’re different and not the status quo. Why is it even a battle to accept people? I still don’t get it. Show some love, not hate. Much love!
Your Horror Tran,
Alice is first and foremost a horror fanatic but overall a fan of the "lesser" genres. She's a staff writer at Infinite Frontiers, Columnist/Horror Host at Bloody-Disgusting, contributor at Film and Fishnets, and has a monthly segment in The Collinsport Historical Society podcast. She's also a musician of 25 years, Your Horror Tran, and all around general weirdo.