Monstrous Femme

The Importance of Female and LGBTQIA+ Voices in Horror

The Importance of Female and LGBTQIA+ Voices in Horror

Historically, horror has been dominated by male voices as most horror authors and creators have been cishet white men, while women and LGBTQIA+ creators in the genre have long been marginalized and outright mistreated.  Though things are getting better, and more women and LGBTQIA+ folks are finding a place, we are, in my experience, often not taken seriously.  Our work tends to be heavily criticized; the standards are higher for us than those of our male contemporaries.  As a nonbinary author myself, when submitting to horror anthologies, I find that I am more welcome when it comes to female-led projects and horror communities that have a larger LGBTQIA+ population.

The perspective that women and LGBTQIA+ folks bring to the genre cannot be lost or suppressed, not without missing a key element of the human condition. For instance, “female rage” is one example of horror that women have been highlighting and exploring, which turns the historic way that female characters have been treated in horror on its head.  The characters in the genre that exhibit this trait have long been targeted as victims, damsels in distress, and even the problematic “final girl” trope features women who do make it out alive – but only because they are usually “good girls” (they don’t do drugs, have sex, et cetera).  The concept of “female rage” is significant because it allows female characters to lash out, be violent, and fight against their oppressors.  Instead of enduring silently, they are allowed to become villains, instead of merely cardboard characters where things are done to them.  Maeve Fly by CJ Leede and The Female of the Speciesby Mindy McGinnis are two examples of female rage that explore women and how they have been treated and allow for morally grey female characters to take the spotlight.  As someone who has experienced sexual assault, I find that confronting rape culture in my horror work is cathartic.  Horror is one genre that allows me to be blunt about the violence that has been inflicted on my body.  I love how horror has allowed me to share my experiences with sexual assault and emotional abuse and connect with others who have experienced similar things.

A similar form of rage has been present in horror by LGBTQIA+ creators, as well. Books like Hell Followed with Us by Andrew Joseph White and Camp Damascus by Chuck Tingle follow queer folks in worlds that have a prejudice against them or outright want them dead.  These stories allow the queer characters to find their power and fight back.  Chuck Tingle’s work even highlights the deeply problematic “conversion camps” that feature conversion therapy to “pray the gay away”.  Conversion therapy is still practiced in almost every US state, and by highlighting this horrible practice, Tingle is forcing the reader to face the brutality instead of turning a blind eye. I identify as panromantic asexual, and I have found that this identity is particularly marginalized due to ignorance about it. When I tell people that I am asexual, I am often met with comments such as “you only think you are asexual because no one will have sex with you,” which has been deeply hurtful to me. Being asexual and owning this identity has forced me to confront how others see me as less than human.  Incorporating these ideas into my horror work has allowed me to use satire to explore and share the constant experience of feeling like an alien. Instead of feeling less than, I have found that owning this identity allows me to confront the harmful way that other people view me, and own my differences so as not to give them power.

To put it bluntly, many of the topics tackled by female and LGBTQIA+ creators focus on the way that we are marginalized and oppressed in society. By calling out society in such an aggressive way, backlash is natural, and that is why continuing to share and spread these realities is so important. Horror is one genre where anything goes, and it is the perfect space for women and LGBTQIA+ folks to shed light on these heavy topics. By having such freedom in horror to explore oppression and rage, women and LGBTQIA+ folks can take their power back and create works that are cathartic for readers everywhere. Despite the prejudice we face not only in the genre but day to day, we need to continue sharing our voices and spreading these concepts that are so central to our lives. Women and LGBTQIA+ folks bring a refreshing and much-needed voice to horror, and we need to continue sharing our stories without fear of retaliation. We may be faced with hate and anger, but we must continue to share our stories so that we can reach others who may not feel like they have a voice.  The horror genre is changing, and by allowing more space for diverse voices and concepts, our work will change the world.  I’m sure of it.