Horror, Fear & Identity
The opportunity I have been given to discuss LGBTQ+ issues in this forum is something that I am incredibly honored to have. These themes are so important to those of us that so often don’t have a voice whether it be because we can’t express ourselves due to oppression or because we are afraid to in fear of how others might react. Getting a chance to speak with my peers on this subject and how it relates to the art we love makes a huge difference to those that need to feel like they aren’t so alone in this crazy world.
I’d like to briefly introduce myself. My name is Chrystal. I am 27 and I am a Transgender Woman. I absolutely love horror and I am a self-described cinephile. Horror is a genre that has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. It is the catalyst genre that made me want to become a filmmaker. I have very distinct memories of seeing the Evil Dead series when I was probably too young to see them and instead of just simply enjoying them I found myself captivated with how they made everything work on such a small scale production. That passion for filmmaking was ignited and horror has been the genre I find myself coming back to consistently. I’ve even stepped into the director’s chair by making some horror shorts of my own in the past. When you are a fan of a certain genre most of the time you don’t analyze why this is the case. You just keep on enjoying said entertainment and move forward with that. With me I had a grasp of why for quite some time.
At first I didn’t really realize it, but it has become increasingly more prominent the more I absorb it. I mentioned I was 27 for a particular reason and that reason was I didn’t admit to myself I was Trans until I was 25 years old. I grew up in a household and a family that had major issues with anyone being different and that especially included those of us in the LGBTQ community. This understanding of who I was came with a lot of internalized hatred. This hatred is still a tiny part inside of me and this comes to the self-analysis of why I adore horror. It isn’t for the monsters or the gore even though it is part of it. It isn’t for the cool characters and atmosphere. It is for the understanding that horror taps into the most basic and most common human emotion. Fear.
Fear is an incredibly intense emotion. It holds the power to hate others. It holds the power to make you hate yourself. Fear is an all controlling presence and admittedly the LGBTQ community is very well accustomed to fear. In a much more personal connection the fear I face comes from the fact that I am not out as Trans. I’ve yet to begin transitioning. I’ve yet to really dress accordingly. My existence is hidden and that is because of my environment. At this time it is not safe to move forward with any of the steps to realize my true identity. This is certainly unhealthy for mental health. This hiding is the direct result of the fears that I have of my own safety when coming forward with the truth. I live a life centered around this intense emotion of fear.It controls my being and it is all I really know, which makes it all incredibly painful.
I’ve lived with this fear for my whole life, but I never really got a grasp of it until more recently. This fear has dictated my existence, but it has also shaped the types of media I consume and it has lead me to my fondness of horror, which has always been there as a major emotional outlet for me. My love of horror isn’t simply because I fear. My love of horror comes from the fact that it has allowed me to experience the emotion of fear in a way that is significantly healthier for me. Whenever these overwhelming emotions takes control a horror film is a perfect distraction to experience said emotions without turning it into hatred of myself, of others, or the world. It is a contained vacuum of safely experiencing negative emotions.
One of my all time favorite horror films that I have revisited several times over and that has inspired my own work is John Carpenter’s horror masterpiece, Halloween. The film while very simple in approach works on multiple layers. It plays off the fear of the outside. It plays on fears of your own home not being as safe a place as you think. Michael Myers stalks his victims with an unending viciousness that never waivers. His persistence in moving forward regardless of what you do in a sense is what it is like for someone like me.
The fears I have of my family abusing me and of the world abusing me is reflected in a scenario of a serial killer being near supernatural in his goal to harm you. That pressure is something I live with on a daily basis and the fear of it never wavering is constant, but when I experience it in media it takes some of that raw tension and fear away from me. The experience that Laurie Strode goes through is indicative of what I feel and there is a calming and healing nature about experiencing those feelings in something other than reality. It gives my brain a space to feel what I need to feel and then continue on past those feeling once that experience is over.
I adore the adrenaline rush that horror gives you. It’s unlike anything else in film. It has the ability to get into you and make you feel uncomfortable, but this uncomfort is layered in the safety that this is just fiction as well as the great physical sensation of adrenaline. A great example of the adrenaline rush of horror is seen beautifully in the horror masterpiece, The Shining. The film uses the horrific imagery to consistently build up tension throughout the narrative. Each visual element ratchets up the severity of the situation until it reaches the boiling point in the final act of the film where the tension is at an all time high. It is a similar feeling to being thrust onto a scary rollercoaster. That adrenaline rush is addictive and it fills your body with excitement. While those feelings gained from horror are valid responses to that tension that I experience I also end up appreciating the genre much more for the safety that it brings. The safety comes in the silencing of my own loud and negative experiences.
While I have my own fear of society, family, and friends I also have a lot of Transgender specific issues that bring me true dread. I know who I am on the inside, but the pain that comes from looking in the mirror and not seeing that individual is indescribable. I have to pretend to be something I am not constantly. I have to suck up being misgendered and when I do get my own private spaces I often have to deal with ignorant people who insult me simply because they refuse to understand my identity and it makes them uncomfortable. These experiences are not unique to me, but they are unique to the transgender and gender non-conforming communities. We have to deal with this pain and the fact that I can’t express my truth eats away at me constantly. That is why when I dive into horror it is comforting because nothing in those films, books, or any other medium can harm me anywhere near to those other things I already deal with. This art beautifully allows for me to keep on moving daily. It has saved me more times than I can count.
Horror as a genre is a place that I can go to to experience a wide range of tones, ideas, and concepts without having to feel inundated with the severity of my own living situation. I can sit back and look at fear as a reality and by comparison the fictional monsters, ghosts, and demons look tame. They can’t compare to what I feel, but they can reflect those feelings. As a filmmaker myself who has produced my own art I find myself keep going back to making horror films. I feel that as an artist I can best express myself through the horror that I produce. It perfectly encapsulates my own emotions and creating that really does help. With this being said the genre has definitely brought me back from really bad places at times. It has quite literally saved me more times than I can count.
It has allowed me to keep living and hopefully keep spreading a positive message to those that need it. Horror is a genre that can spread positivity through reflecting on the negativity of human existence. I am certain I am not alone in feeling like the genre has saved my life. I am also glad to see a more resilient presence in the horror fandom of brave LGBTQ+ individuals. All with their own loves, fears, desires, and hopes. The fear I have as a closeted Trans woman is made a little bit lighter by this genre that I love so much and I’m so proud to be surrounded with people who do so much good for others.
Thank you for taking the time to read my contribution to this wonderful project. I’m so proud to call myself a writer and to do so along with all of these incredible voices using our gift of our unique perspectives to benefit those that really do need help. I hope that my own experiences have been relatable to some of you out there. You all aren’t alone and deserve to be treated like your experiences are valid because they are. I love you all so much.
Chrystal is a Geeky Trans Filmmaker and Writer from Los Angeles,CA. She has written hundreds of articles for various Geeky News sites and continues on furthering her filmmaking career.
You should follow her on Twitter.