Wednesday, October 31, 2007

On Halloween: Masks and the Space To Be Ourselves


A time for masks and costumes, one of the few times of the year when society flips its everyone-must-look-alike-and-please-like-an-Abercrombie&Fitch-or-Victoria's Secret-model, and the more outlandish and stand-out-of-the-crowd you appear, the better.

The holiday of being DIFFERENT. And hey, you even got CANDY for it when you were little.

The big Halloween parades and events in the gay neighborhoods have become so popular that San Francisco CANCELLED theirs this year (after years of problems.) West Hollywood's is insanely crowded, with thousands of straight lookie-loos driving in to gawk and maybe to feel like the noose of conformity around their own necks doesn't need to be quite so tight.

Yesterday's New York Times had an interesting article about the future (or not) of gayborhoods - neighborhoods like the Castro, West Hollywood, Chelsea. In it, they quote Gary J. Gates, a demographer and senior research fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles:

“Twenty years ago, if you were gay and lived in rural Kansas, you went to San Francisco or New York,” he said. “Now you can just go to Kansas City.”

That's fascinating. It's saying that there's room to be Gay closer to home.

Maybe even AT home. Extrapolating to the future, will there be a time when being GLBTQ doesn't mean you have to leave your hometown to find the space to be yourself?

Used to be the earliest you could could find the space to come out was College. Then High School. Now, in California, there are even Gay-Straight Alliance Clubs in Middle Schools!

There are so many more places and spaces where GLBTQ youth are finding the room to be themselves - to take off the masks of conformity - to be DIFFERENT and to be okay and proud of that difference.

It's funny how a cheap mask that hides your face can free you from inhibitions (for good and bad.) Kind of like the anonymity of the internet (again for good and bad.)

What would happen if we all took off the masks we wear the rest of the year?

When you hear "Trick or Treat!" tonight, take a second to think about the masks you might still be wearing when you're not dressed up for Halloween.

The Trick is how can we respond to the pressure to conform 364 days a year?

As you're passing out candy, or gorging on it, consider how each of us can participate in making the spaces we are in, no matter where we are, more embracing of Differences.

And remember that the biggest Treat of all is accepting ourselves for who we are under our masks: Different... and perfect that way!

Happy Halloween! (And yes, the pumpkin above is made out of carrot sticks!)



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