I'm Gay for Horror
Growing up in 80’s southwest Tejas, there were three things to do in my border town: sweep up dust, eat, and watch movies. You could also go to church and the good Catholics were eager to sit on your shoulders and shine a flashlight on your sins. I once asked a priest about sins. The greatest was not murder or adultery but being gay! Early on, I suspected that I might be different because I lingered in the JCPenney men’s interior fashions, my brother told me I held my books like a girl because they were clutched to my chest, and a gorgeous junior high bully, Brad Dunkadonk insisted on calling me faaaag… gettt… as he ran past me in gym class. I got to admire his assets so I guess we both won. I would get home from school and turn on the VCR.
Movies were my constant companion and my window to a Technicolor world. I didn’t know then, but horror movies in particular would help shape my identity in the decade to follow. We were a family who loved movies. In fact, we bonded mainly over movies. My earliest recollection is my father taking us to the palatial old theater, El Regalo, in Juárez, Mexico for a Sunday afternoon double feature. One was usually a thriller, but we rarely stayed for the second feature opting to get a torta de milanesa and agua de melon across the street. This is where I saw my first horror movie, Blood Beach, in which people were sucked into the sand by a monster. We also saw The Changeling since my father loved George C. Scott, and I vowed right there to never live in a house with stairs or red balls.
At home, my older brothers introduced me to Fangoria magazine, and my eyes bulged at the gruesome spectacle of an axe to the head in Friday the 13th. I was so in awe of special effects that I learned how to make blood out of everyday pantry ingredients so that I could permanently stain my mother’s bathroom tile with a grisly scene. Yet, my weary Mamá always encouraged my dark endeavors. She even allowed me to watch the TV-network edit of The Exorcist because she knew horror movies made me happy. I made good grades, never got in trouble, and stayed away from Maria Juana, so Mamá was also happy. This is when I understood that I could be myself and still be loved.
In high school, I finally understood what being gay meant, although I wouldn’t tell my intermittent girlfriend – or another soul – for 5 years. I felt like a misfit. I was soft-spoken, quiet, and yearned for acceptance. Then, suddenly, I made a new friend––and he loved horror movies! This guy had an odd, eggshaped head with puffs of curly hair, and he was markedly heterosexual. We watched so many movies together including Pumpkinhead, argued the merits of Stan Winston, and furiously yelled across the mall parking lot about man-in-a-monster-suit movies.
I was a master of horror movies and would debate them to death. Through this alliance, I finally managed to find a voice. It was a timid, sheepish, and reluctant voice, but I finally felt like I could express myself with a shred of confidence. Sadly, at graduation this friend told me he would kill me if I ever turned out to be gay. It was a real threat and he owned a lot of guns, so I believed him and we never spoke again.
My love of horror movies, introduced to me by parents, ushered by my brothers, and explored with my friends, helped me find my feisty voice. Horror movies instilled a survival instinct in me to overcome the adversity of judgmental strangers who condemn my passion. It’s also very encouraging to discover that a large community of outsiders and misfits devoted to the horror genre are also queer and queer allies. And if horror movies have taught us anything it is that the final girl who keeps her wits and her coif during extreme bloodshed, walks into the warm morning sunlight without a hint of shame.