You might not know Stacey Palmer’s name, but she’s been working in the world of independent horror for quite some time, and her story is one of the most compelling I’ve ever heard.
“I’ve known I was trans since I discovered the difference between boys and girls,” Palmer told me. “I didn’t have a word for it, then, but I knew I was a girl. This body, my body, was a girl’s body. It just grew differently than other girl’s bodies did.”
Palmer, who is also a preschool teacher, says that this is the way she explains who she is to her students when they ask her questions about her gender and it seems to make perfect sense to the children. Now, if only the adults could catch up!
As a youngster, growing up in some of the tougher parts of New Jersey, Palmer says she was no stranger to hearing nasty comments and derogatory terms for members of the LGBTQ community.
“A lot of people act themselves when they don’t know that you’re trans or gay or whatever,” she said. “You hear all of their ugly words.”
This environment drove Palmer to write and she was inspired by series like “The Twilight Zone” and its host, Rod Serling.
“My struggle and my search as a writer has been trying to understand how the evil brain works,” she explained. “What inspired hatred and violence in otherwise good people? Serling did that really well by sort of folding this political commentary into the sci-fi and horror genre.”
As she grew up, she continued to write, and her stories grew with her, but she was still a long way from announcing to the world who she really was. She does point out, however, that she was always open and honest with everyone with whom she was in a relationship over the years.
She officially came out November 15, 2016.
And through all of this, horror was something she loved, even if it wasn’t very kind to the trans community. She pointed to films like Dressed to Kill and Silence of the Lambs.
“Trans people in horror films are almost always the villain or are trying to deceive people,” she pointed out. “They’re trying to kill you or lie to you. It’s the only two gimmicks horror films have for trans people. I knew that I didn’t relate to that and it wasn’t who I was, but it was all I kept seeing.”
She points to this as one of the many reasons that the public at large is still so distrustful of the trans community. She also points out that many people point to characters in films and call them trans when that isn’t what they are at all.
Specifically, she mentions Angela from Sleepaway Camp and its infamous big reveal and to the Bride in Black from the first two Insidious films.
“They aren’t trans people. They aren’t trans characters,” she explained. “They are cisgender people who were abused, and that’s why they were crazy and homicidal. I feel for them but they aren’t trans.”
Unfortunately, it’s a common and damaging misconception in the horror community, but one that Palmer hopes is being slowly changed thanks to the advent of the internet and the accessibility it grants users.
“For all of its dark places, the internet has managed to shine a light on just how many trans people there might be in the world,” Palmer laughed. “I didn’t even know myself! And we’re normal, everyday people.”
It has certainly been a useful tool, but Palmer also recognizes the hate that exists online and in real life, as well. She also takes a rather unique and decidedly positive view of that negativity, however, pointing to a lack of education about the trans community and the fact that many, to their knowledge, have never met a trans person.
Palmer laments the lack of trans characters, not just in horror, but in every genre, and also says she’s grown tired of the current trend of making the trans character seem like a gimmick.
“My personal goal in my roles as a writer and producer would be to create and see more trans characters that you might never know because it isn’t made to be a big deal,” she said. “It’s not a trans person. It just a person who happens to be trans.”
As our conversation ended, I reflected on her last statement and realized in the half hour we spent chatting she had lived the example of what she wants to see portrayed onscreen. She’s a preschool teaching, horror writing, punk rocker…who just happens to be trans.
If you’d like to see some of Stacey’s work, check out Attack of the Morningside Monster and keep your eyes peeled for Haven’s End, coming soon!