When I was little, I looked forward to Halloween more than any other holiday on the calendar. Free candy was just an added bonus to being able to escape into any costume I wanted, regardless of gender identity. I felt so comfortable wearing my favorite Disney princess costumes and that is what made the day so important for me. It later took on new importance when I started my transition junior year of high school right after Halloween. That year, going to my first high school dance dressed as “Adam” to 12 other “Eves”, made me realize how badly I needed to come out. I couldn’t take how uncomfortable I was anymore. Dressing up as the only “boy” with all of my girlfriends in their leafy bras and skirts killed me inside. After going through that experience, sitting off to the side longing to be any of the girls on that dance floor, I began my transition that November, and have never looked back.
To this day Halloween is still my favorite holiday. Why? To quote one of my favorite movies, Mean Girls, “In Girl World, Halloween is the one day a year when a girl can dress up like a total slut and no other girls can say anything else about it.” I couldn’t take full advantage of Halloween until my senior year of high school, but I still wasn’t completely comfortable in costume until sophomore year of college, when I was finally a post-operative transgender woman.
I grew up with the most supportive mother who allowed me to express myself freely. From the ages of three to six I wore a “girl” costume on Halloween. It was when I turned seven that I realized other people thought it was peculiar. The first Halloween after I moved to New Jersey, I was eight years old and dressed in a red bobbed wig. I went to school as a hippie, but a boy one. Parents were genuinely confused by who I was, I looked like a cute little red-headed girl. I could tell even then that I was making people somewhat uncomfortable. It’s easy to forget how quickly LGBT issues have come to the forefront of our minds. Back in the early 2000’s it was frowned upon for little kids to express themselves as opposite of their assigned gender. Learning of society's disapproval of my genuine attraction to feminine things, things that made me happy, destroyed a little part of my heart for a good portion of my life.
After that year I suppressed my desire for a “girl” costume and went as something creative. This changed in seventh grade when my friend and I decided to go as opposite gendered “Pimp and Ho,” obviously I started being provocative at a young age. Naturally, I donned a blonde wig and short skirt. I fed off of the reactions that I was getting from my friends and their parents. I was essentially a 12 year-old in drag to anyone looking at me, but in my mind I was what I had always imagined myself to look like as a pre-teen, (except I would have had better hair). It felt amazing to dress in a girl’s costume again, and a few short months later I discovered the term “transgender” to help solidify my identification as a female. After the seventh grade I chose to wear androgynous costumes each year, until I started to transition.
In my high school, every year the “cool” senior girls threw a dance off of school grounds for the student body. My senior year I threw the Halloween dance with three of my closest friends. We raised over 7,000 dollars for the Danielle Brender Fund, a fund that puts defibrillators in schools across the country and gives free CPR training, thanks to my friend Keren’s family. At school I dressed as Barbie, and for the dance I went as Ke$ha. To be in a revealing outfit and have classmates tell me I looked good felt incredible. From then on, Halloween became my night to shine. I devoted the next four years, in college, to making up for lost time; dressing up as provocatively and creatively as I could.
I no longer needed to dress androgynously, by college it was apparent that I was, in fact, a woman. I wanted to prove to my peers, and to myself, that I could be like every other girl...maybe even better. My freshman year I decided to be the classic sexy bunny. Fast forward another year and I owned “Halloweekend.” I had been dubbed the Regina George of Hofstra, so I dressed as her, making it the most notable of my costumes of that year. Junior year, I took provocative to the next level and dressed as Taco Bell hot sauce, a weed princess, and a biker chick. Each of those costumes left little to the imagination and I didn’t think I could have felt more comfortable in my body, until the next year. My senior year I decided to go out with a bang. For the first night of Halloween, I was “Gods Gift to Mankind.” I thought it was quite fitting. The second night was a Studio 54 themed party held by my group of girlfriends. Everyone came dressed to impress, and I wasn’t going to disappoint. In 70’s fashion, I came as a “flasher” but with a body painter at the party I turned into “A Work of Art.”
My first year out of college I was a pop star, emulating my childhood icon, Britney Spears. This year, I chose to dress as my alter ego, Serena van der Woodsen. I was walking the streets of New York City this weekend and watched as little city kids pranced around the streets in costume. A little boy in a frilly black dress caught my eye, and my heart was filled with joy. There he was walking with parents and his friends, without a care in the world; I couldn’t help but feel a connection with him. He had no idea who I am, he probably never even noticed me, but I saw myself in him. It made me so happy to see that our society is making progress with accepting children and adults who perhaps don’t fit into the two rigid genders we have set up.
Not only tonight, but year round I hope everyone can feel comfortable enough to dress however they want, gender bending, or not. To my gender questioning readers, I hope you know someone out there is supporting you and I hope you will feel safe enough to be yourself entirely (or test the waters for a night). I can’t wait for a world where trans-children will never have to conceal their genuine gender expression like I had to, and I have a feeling it’ll happen sooner than expected. Happy Halloween everyone.
Written by Corey Rae --- Edited by Emily Turner