We moved back to town for the first time in...uh, a lot of years. We were grown chickens then but still refused to leave the nest. Halloween in town offered some new challenges and opportunities.
We could no longer have a bonfire in the back yard, drink rum and coke, and play loud music until 3 a.m. on Halloween. Nor would the neighbors appreciate the sound of horror films pumped through the surround-sound all day and night.
We could however expand to outdoor Halloween decorations, because we now had an audience. Pumpkins, skeletons, and bats quickly spilled out the front door, and frightened away a lot of possible trick-or-treaters. Or maybe it was our over-the-top costumes and special lighting effects.
We quickly learned that the outside world had lost some of its appreciation for this day. People no longer trick-or-treated on Halloween, but the most convenient day close to it. Sacrilege! Plus there was a curfew that ended the festivities at a certain time. Instead of the expected flood of trick-or-treaters we had hoped for, we received only handfuls of timid children that were worried about asking if we were giving candy. Apparently other houses had been very mean to them.
It took three years to build up a reputation that not only did we welcome trick-or-treaters...we gave good candy and prizes. We also gushed admiration for each costume we saw, no matter how many princesses and ninjas we saw.
Even when we were the only house on the street, kids that remembered us from the year before made a special trip just to visit us and see our decorations and costumes. Each year we tallied up our visitors, proud when we reached over fifty, yet still sad that in a town with so many children, so few were out having fun.
I like to think that if it hadn't been for Halloween I might not have gotten with my partner. Even though we were neighbors, he rarely spoke to me until one Halloween. He wanted a picture taken with me in costume, and after that, I couldn't get rid of him.
Soon, we moved in together. Which meant I had was once again without any Halloween decorations! I had to borrow extra stuff from my mother's ever-growing collection to decorate for my first Halloween. We are coming up on our third Halloween now, and he too has become resigned to the pile of craft stuff on the counters and tables, to having to duck under swinging skeletons, and to handing me pieces of tape while I crepe paper the entire house.
Halloween is the time of the year when you can be whoever you want, perhaps even who you truly are. It has always been a special time for me, as well as for many trans folks I know....
In Fall 2010, I had just moved from Michigan to California to attend college and finally come out publicly as gay. I gave myself permission to gender bend and cross dress for Halloween, deciding to go as a cliché sexy witch with black and red stalkings, a black dress, a red feather boa, and curly black wig. My friends did my makeup, and when I saw myself in the mirror it all clicked. The person I saw in the reflection took my breath away, I felt I was seeing myself for the first time. But the moment faded as my friends laughed, thinking I was in on a joke I was supposedly telling. We went out, the night ended. I felt magical but that it was too much, that I needed to tone it down and lock it away.
A year passed and I was traveling on Semester at Sea. We were ported in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, and Halloween was just a few days away. I was at a place in my life where after a year of unlearning and relearning I was more confident, I knew more about my community, our history, and thus myself. I gave myself permission, once again, to cross dress and gender bend for Halloween. The Little Mermaid was constantly playing in my mind while on the ship, and I convinced myself to dress up as Ursula when she transforms into the beautiful seductress. I visited a market and purchased a long brown wavy wig, wooden heels with rhinestones and beads, and a custom black dress with an open back.
I was so excited to put on my costume, and a friend across from my room invited me in to do my makeup. She finished, and when I saw myself the feeling from the year before immediately came back: I felt like I found myself again, a beautiful reunion. And this time, that reunion was celebrated. The shipboard community embraced and cheered me on, my friends affirmed me, and the cute guys who gave me looks of disgust in my everyday drag were now doing double takes, asking "who is she? I haven't seen her before..." It brought me joy to be seen as the femme that I am, and their reactions made me feel safe and confident enough to explore it more, and to do so very publicly.
I went on to perform "drag" 5 more times that semester, then delved more into "cross dressing" the semester after. My wardrobe changed in time, and I learned more about what it means to be trans, non-binary, and gender nonconforming. I was communicating with my family constantly throughout my gender journey. We had grown so close after I came out as gay and they emphasized how much they wanted to be a part of my life, to celebrate every moment with me. So I was as open, raw, and fully transparent with them as I could be. It wouldn't be until summer 2013 that I would come out officially as genderqueer and transfeminine, changing my name to Addie, then Addison the summer after.
Halloween reminds me that safe spaces are not confined to people or places, that it can instead be based on time. It's an annual event that gives people like myself permission to be who we are, even if it only lasts a few hours before needing to lock it away for another year. It's a time when you can finally see yourself reflected back in a world with broken, distorted mirrors. I will always love, appreciate, and celebrate Halloween, as well as every person who uses that night to embrace their magic.