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It’s hard to believe that the end of Pride Month is upon us. Undoubtedly, some of our readers are breathing a sigh of relief as they read this…if they read this.

For the last month, however, I’ve done my very best to more clearly define the intersection of horror and the LGBTQ community and to celebrate our community’s involvement in the genre.

To say I’ve learned a lot and met some of the most talented, hard-working people in the horror making business over the course of this series would be the understatement of the decade, and I thought that as this celebration came to a close, it would be a good time to reflect on some of the lessons learned.

Lesson #1 Homophobia is alive and well in the horror community…

I held my breath as I hit publish on the article that announced iHorror’s Horror Pride Month. I held my breath as I posted it to our Facebook page.

I had just started to breathe a sigh of relief after the first couple of positive comments and was thinking, “Maybe people will be cool with this…” before the vitriol, homophobia, transphobia, etc. began to show up in the feed.

For 12 hours that first day, I monitored the comments on the article, deleting abuse, and paying close attention to “debates” if one can call them that. That entire day was an internal war between resolve to continue and utter defeat.

It reminded me, however, of where the seeds for this Pride Month celebration were first planted.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I attended one of the largest horror conventions in the southwest in the course of my duties as a reporter for iHorror. While on a much needed smoke break outside, a dude standing next to us suddenly turned and said, “Is that a man or a woman?”

At first I wasn’t sure who he was talking to or about but I looked first to him and then turned to see where he was looking. There was a dude in full Vamp drag, and he was rocking it!

I turned back to the guy and said that it was, in fact, a man. He shook his head and I’ll never forget it what he said next.

“I nearly didn’t come this year because these freaks are always infesting the place,” and he turned and walked away before I could respond.

Now, mind you, there were a whole host of people in full costume, and not a few of them were women cross-dressed and putting their own campy slant on Freddy Kreuger, Michael Myers, and any other number of horror villains, but the guy zeroed in on the one man in drag because THAT was repulsive.

Undoubtedly, his remarks were made because he did not realize that Bill and I were a couple. We’ve been told before that we don’t “give off that vibe” whatever the hell that means.

I failed to address the homophobia that day, but I have been on a mission ever since, and no matter how many hateful comments I read during this Pride Month, no matter how many nasty direct messages I received, I knew that this time I could not and would not be silent.

As Horror Pride Month went on, there were fewer and fewer of these comments. I don’t know if they finally realized that it wasn’t going to stop the articles from coming or if they just ran out of ways to ask when “Straight Pride Month” was going to happen.

I personally like to think that one or two of them might have spent some time actually reading the articles and were positively affected by them. (A guy can dream, can’t he?)

If I inspired empathy in the mind of one person, then I’ll have counted this work a success. I’ve certainly spent a lot of time wondering how many times someone can post “I don’t care” on a set of articles before they realize that they do care, that they are uncomfortable with the topic, and maybe it’s time to consider why.

Either way, I’d like to take a moment to let all the people expressing their hate that we’ll be back next year for another Horror Pride Month series, and every year after that until Pride Celebrations are no longer needed.

Lesson #2 There are a whole lot of LGBTQ horror fans out there who have really loved what we were doing.

While there was plenty of hate to go around, I must say that there were an awful lot of people who expressed their support and their appreciation for Horror Pride Month.

Many wrote me to let me know that regardless of what anyone else said, they were so happy to read articles about their community and to know that iHorror was an open and accepting website.

I read more than one comment on articles expressing shock that LGBTQ writers, directors, authors, etc. had created some of their favorite horror films and written some of their favorite books which ultimately was at the heart of the mission for Horror Pride Month from its inception.

It brought a smile to my face as I began to recognize the names of people who shared or reacted to the articles repeatedly. I can’t list those names here, but know that I saw you, and this celebration was successful because of you.

Lesson #3 We still have a long way to go in the campaign for mainstream genre inclusion…

Odds are, even the most ardent horror fans who have seen every single wide release film of the last year can name maybe a handful of characters who were not cis-gender and straight.

In fact, I think most would be hard pressed to name three.

My mantra while crafting this series was: Inclusion. Visibility. Representation. Equality.

These four things mean the world to the LGBTQ community whether we’re talking about governmental decisions or our favorite entertainment.

One of the greatest threats to our freedom as a community of people is the denial of our existence.

If we cannot be seen, then why should anyone care if our needs are being met? If we cannot be heard, then why should anyone care about our grievances?

And yes, that includes the horror genre.

Horror has a massive audience, and presenting normalized LGBTQ characters in the films we love is important. Sure, it might be hard for certain members of the audience to take at first, but we are talking about a group of people who will sit and watch torture, murder, and a host of other atrocities with glee.

Surely, something so innocent as a man who loves another man or woman in transition to become a man is less threatening that those things, and surely they will adjust.

If Jordan Peele taught us anything with Get Out it is that there is a market for minorities in the genre, and I implore producers and studio heads to consider that when making decisions in the future just as I implore screenwriters to continue to include those characters in your scripts.

Lesson #4 …and that includes LGBTQ people of color…

As I spent time researching for Horror Pride Month, one thing became very clear quite early in the process: If queer people are hard to find in the genre, then queer people of color are damn near impossible.

I was determined to find queer horror creators who were black and Latino and Asian.

I honestly began to panic a little as I realized just how little representation exists. I began to scour message boards and filmmakers groups on Facebook desperately trying to find LGBTQ filmmakers, authors, screenwriters who were not white and emerged with only a handful.

While I can only guess at the reasons why, I have begun to believe it is because they feel the genre has no place for them either because of their race or their queerness, and that simply must change.

Regardless of the racist rhetoric we see and hear on the news daily, it is 2018 and there is simply no room for racial bias in the world. Horror has always been about “the other,” and it’s time we embraced the full implications of what that means in the genre.

Lesson #5 …and recognition of the fact that LGBTQ representation can and should include those whose identities are outside of the L & G.

This is something we continue to struggle with inside our own community. Bi-erasure, transphobia, and the not so subtle dismissal of people who are intersex or those who identify as aesexual, pansexual, hetero- and homo-flexible, etc. are common problems within our ranks when we should be welcoming them to the table for all the reasons I named for race issues above.

There, I said it.

Lesson #6 Inclusion is not going to happen all at once.

As much as I’d like to think that suddenly everyone will have the storied “a-ha” moment followed by the “we-should-get-on-this” reaction, I know that is simply not the case.

I do not advocate forcing LGBTQ characters in to every script and story. Doing so would achieve exactly nothing especially if those characters begin to  feel as though they were shoe-horned into a film to fill a quota.

And so, as much as I have trouble doing so, I and the rest of the LGBTQ community must be patient as the genre we love catches up to the time.

However, we must not become complacent in our patience. We should foster conversations on topics of inclusion and representation, not only in horror but in the world at large which leads me to the final lesson learned.

Lesson #7 One person may not be able to change the world, but they can certainly lend their voice to others fighting for the same cause in other arenas.

I didn’t write this series of articles to change the state of LGBTQ rights in the world. They don’t have the power to do that all on their own.

I can, however, help foster change in the world of genre films and fiction just like Dan Reynolds, front man of the band Imagine Dragons, is working to change the Mormon perspective on LGBTQ inclusion in response to Utah’s tragic youth suicide rates much like Dan Savage who started the “It Gets Better” project as an outreach to LGBTQ youth who feel that suicide is their only way out of the torment of bullies and parents who condone medieval practices like conversion therapy.

And then there’s Laverne Cox, the black trans actress and activist who has used her focus and platform to address the devastating murder rates of her fellow trans women.

How about George Takei, who uses his platform as a veteran of one of the most famous sci-fi franchises in history to speak for the rights of LGBTQ people everywhere?

There’s Martina Navratilova who refused to remain in the closet and live a lie and who has spent her life fighting to give other athletes around the globe the support they need to live their lives out and proud.

Ever heard of Peter Tatchell? He’s been campaigning for equal rights for the LGBTQ community since the 1960s and tirelessly works with foundations all over the world, especially in those countries where being queer can lead to imprisonment and death.

I’ve felt a connection to all of these people as I’ve written Pride articles this month much as I have felt a connection to those who came before us, paving the way with their blood, sweat, and oh so many tears.

So, no…perhaps I cannot change the whole world and their views on the LGBTQ community simply by writing articles about inclusion in the horror genre.

However, when I add my voice to the chorus of these and countless others, most of whom have names you will never hear, who are working tirelessly for inclusion, visibility, representation, and equality, I tell you I can feel that change taking place.

And so, until next time remember: Be proud of who you are. Support LGBTQ filmmakers, authors, screenwriters, producers, etc. in the genre, and use your own voice daily to keep the conversation, and our community, thriving.