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Apart from daydreaming about messed up things and thinking far too deeply about dumb stupid horror movies, graphic design is Evangeline Robins' passion.

Cinevangelism with Evangeline Robins Presents: Interlude the Second (The Corporate Sell-out Pride Month Special Edition): “The Clocky Horror Picture Show” or, a comprehensive account of my scopophilic transsexual flirtations with the medium of horror film.

Written by
Evan Robins
June 29, 2023
Cinevangelism with Evangeline Robins Presents: Interlude the Second (The Corporate Sell-out Pride Month Special Edition): “The Clocky Horror Picture Show” or, a comprehensive account of my scopophilic transsexual flirtations with the medium of horror film.
Apart from daydreaming about messed up things and thinking far too deeply about dumb stupid horror movies, graphic design is Evangeline Robins' passion.

On October 31st, 2019, I and several friends congregated in the basement of my parents’ home to conduct a horror movie marathon. Seeing as most of my friends were homosexual women and I was a (superficially) male-presenting person who shaved his legs, had a girlfriend (thereby presumably precluding any untoward advances on the other friends present) and dressed like Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, we’d received special dispensation from our respective parents to spend the night in a makeshift pillow fort constructed around the ancient, lumpy, foldout sofa.

The week before, my then-girlfriend and I had been in Toronto for university tours. The weekend which followed that, she’d hosted a Halloween party at her parents’ house—a yearly tradition of hers. In a fit of last-second impulse I’d superficially cross-dressed in an oversized work shirt and skinny jeans as Ellie from the then-upcoming Last of Us Part II. She yelled at me for it, and accused me of ruining her party.

We made up shortly, though, as we often did at the time. A close friend would later confide in me, years after the fact, that whilst sitting behind the pair of us in tenth grade history, she’d never been able to ascertain whether or not we were actually together, given how incessantly we fought with one another. This anecdote has persisted with me since she recounted it nearly a year ago. 

My then-girlfriend had to take her family’s dog out for a walk, and on a whim a good number of those in attendance—myself included—decided to join her. In the dark, I stumbled into an immense, foot-deep puddle in the dog park beside her house. Seeing me soaked through my skinny jeans, she seemed unable to stay mad at me.

Upon our return, she offered me a pair of her pyjama bottoms. The felt was matted from one to many washes, and cuffs cut off about six inches above my ankles. We had awkward, hurried, and strangely intimate sex while I changed. It was the first time I’d worn a pair of women’s clothes outside the context of irony or theatre. I felt—for the first time in my life—immensely pretty.

By that same time next year, we had broken up.

For the night of Halloween proper, I’d been solicited to put forward a number of film requests and/or recommendations. My then-girlfriend had subsequently picked up a number of films from the local public library. We had our pick of whatever she’d been able to scrounge up after school the afternoon before. By virtue of her having gone to the library, my requests proved generally unfulfillable, or else roundly ignored. 

Film selection was equally my job on date nights, though invariably I’d pick a movie I’d seen twenty times and she’d lament us not instead watching something new. Generally, we didn’t spend a lot of time “watching” the movie though, as it were.

I’ll elaborate on this if and when I cover American Psycho (1999).

On this occasion, I’d put forward Poltergeist (1982), citing its PG rating from the MPAA (my friends then and now are predominantly cowards). My then-girlfriend vetoed my suggestion. She’d veto Poltergeist several times during the course of our relationship, never citing a reason, despite her being perfectly fine with any number of other horror films. To this day I still don’t know why.

I suppose in hindsight I’d never asked her.

We settled in for the evening having ordered dinner from that most oxymoronic of capitalist inventions, a local chain restaurant. After much deliberation we chose the “least scary” of the movies my then-girlfriend had procured which would play in spite of the myriad scratches on them from their history of neglectful library-patron use.

The least scary film we could find was The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I hated it. 

My then-girlfriend pulled up a copy of the transcript of the sort of quips people yell at the film at weird local cinemas à la Mystery Science Theatre 3000. She started repeating them to the screen verbatim.

Nobody else was enthused about this.

Exactly one year to that day, on October 31st, 2020, I started Hormone Replacement Therapy.

I have, since my first flirtations with horror films and literature as a pre-teen, intimately and inextricably associated the genre with my own queerness. It’s no mistake the first Cinevangelism I ever wrote was about a horror film. Further, it’s no mistake that the article in question makes explicit reference to Sleepaway Camp.

Originally, all of the movies I reviewed in this ongoing series were going to be horror films. Back in October of 2022, I first conceived of this series as a one-off listicle about horror films to watch outside of the Halloween season. I watch horror movies year-round, and my idea was to pick a horror movie for each of the winter months, write 250–500 words about each, and jam them into one self-contained article. In the process of doing so, I struggled to meet first an October, then November deadline, and inadvertently wrote a comprehensive anecdote about Black Christmas. From there, I simply lopped off the other films, and this column was born, kicking and screaming.

At some point, the cover of the first Cinevangelism looked something like this. The movie I would actually deign to review would be—as it happens—none of these three, though it’s the thought that counts I suppose.

Take this to say that horror and I go back a considerable ways. 

Were you to ask me to pick a date on which to stake this measure, I would attribute to it September 12th, 2016.

That day, in only the second week of ninth grade, I joined my high school’s Ghost Hunting club. You might note that a “Ghost Hunting club” is not a thing that most high schools possess. Further, you might wonder what exactly a Ghost Hunting club entails. Allow me to enlighten you.  

The founder of Ghost Hunting club was a twelfth grader. He was a nice guy—odd, but amicable. I would confidently bet money that he was a stoner. The club consisted of him, two of his equally-likely-to-be-stoner buddies, the faculty advisor—a middle aged history teacher and not-so-secretive Marxist—and myself. During the first meeting the founder gave a speech in which he professed the goals of the club.

“We’re going to do a lock-in,” he said. “We’ll fundraise to buy ghost hunting equipment, you know, cameras and shit.”

He wanted us to lobby the administration to let us stay at the school overnight—we’d bill it as a ghost hunt, he said. Really, I think he just wanted to buy a new camera, and an excuse to stay in the building overnight more-or-less unsupervised. We put up posters. He wanted girls to join, he insisted. 

Once again, I suspected his motives here were not wholly selfless. 

Week after week he talked up this end goal. Week after week, nothing materialized. 

In the interim, we watched The Evil Dead.

When I watched The Evil Dead for the first time, in the second meeting of the Nepean High School Ghost Hunting Club, in the third week of September, on a classroom projector, off a USB stick full of pirated movies a high school history teacher had brought in from home, it shattered my malleable fourteen-year old brain.

The best contemporary analogy I can draw is that watching The Evil Dead at fourteen is a lot like the first time you showed your friend who doesn’t really “get” movies Baby Driver. Both are exceedingly frenetic, and relish in drawing your attention to their respective camera trickery. Edgar Wright—director or Baby Driver, the Cornetto Trilogy and Cinevangelism returning champion Scott Pilgrim vs. The World—has a style which is obviously evocative of Sam Raimi’s blistering-quick editing and reverent of the emphasis on practical filmmaking which shines throughout the Evil Dead series. Seeing something like that, when you’ve basically never seen anything comparable flips a switch in your brain which makes you go “Holy shit, this can be better than just good.” 

It’s simultaneously a come-to-Jesus moment for developing critical taste and an incomparable crash-course in the fundamental principles of filmmaking. 

Whereas I’d had (as I describe in the accompanying volume of Cinevangelism) this sort of realization previously, watching first Scott Pilgrim, and then the rest of Edgar Wright’s filmography (though I’ve yet to see Last Night in Soho, and who’s to say if I ever will), The Evil Dead gave me the horror bug.

Up until then I’d mentally filed horror movies as something “not for me,” broad-strokes characterizing them largely as filled with jumpscares and people getting dismembered, and therefore not necessitating my caring about them. 

A couple things had put tentative cracks in this presumption—namely a 2014 Doctor Who Series 8 episode titled “Listen,” which remains one of my favourite of the series, and mine having played the 2013 video game The Last of Us (and trust me, we’ll get to The Last of Us!)—but The Evil Dead verifiably shattered the dam. Yes, it was filled with jumpscares, yes it was veritably overflowing with viscera—and yes there is a profoundly uncomfortable sexual assault scene of which I make no pretenses of defending—however, from the very first shot (even at a bitcrunched 480p with the VLC media player bar visible the entire time and heinous amounts of glare from the windows on the projector screen) the filmmaking sung for itself.

Over the next several weeks myself and the handful of other people who frequented the Ghost Hunting club would watch the rest of the series. My aforementioned not-yet-then-girlfriend would join for one week, exclusively out of interest in the lock in, then promptly quit upon realizing: 1) she was the only girl 2) our collective activities consisted largely of watching pirated horror movies, and 3) the timeslot conflicted with Model United Nations. Halfway through our screening of Army of Darkness (forever my favourite if I’m being transparently honest), the founder of the Ghost Hunting club announced he was quitting to join Film Club. They were screening Jurassic Park. Ghost Hunting club was effectively defunct the week later.

Nonetheless, from that day I would conceive of myself as someone who enjoyed horror films, and over the next several years they would go on to fundamentally redefine my life. 

I actually wrote a significant portion of the above section for the original, listicled iteration of what would nebulously become Cinevangelism. I’ve written more than 25 000 words of this shit in the mere six months I’ve been doing it. That’s crazy to think about, honestly. Only five and a half months into 2023, I estimate that I’ve written about 175 000 words in professional and academic ventures. 

That’s more than Twilight!

Moreover, for all you know, I’ve equally written more than 50 000 words of hardcore lesbian monsterfucker pornography—sorry—recreational literature, but we don’t have to talk about that!

Listen, smarter people than me have drawn the connection between horror movies and any number of the facets of queerness long before I started spinning stories for this fag rag. Certain films the like of the inimitable Hellraiser make no secret of their status as queer parable, though the subtext inadvertently worms its way into many, many examples beyond those few which deign to embrace it. Slasher films, psychological horror, thriller, giallo, monster flicks—all these and more possess capacity for queer interpretation either overt or implied. Sometimes a queer relationship is explored in analogy or metaphor, sometimes it is explicitly discussed in the text of the narrative, and sometimes, dear reader, it is belaboured at length in a needlessly self-indulgent film column written by a twenty-something woman with more axes to grind than any number of women of Fire Emblem: Three Houses fame. But like all whores, I dream of being candid, so let me proceed to do exactly that.

Horror is a genre about outsiders. 

By necessity, horror narratives find both subject matter and solace in the capital-O other. It’s often said that what you understand cannot scare you, and herein, horror (especially of the more cerebral variety) thrives. Good horror stories are contingent on mystery, on an unknown from which to reap their most base ability to instill terror. A good horror story leaves its narrative to the very last minute to be unfurled.

The archetypal horror villain is an outsider. A reclusive nobleman presiding over a run-down court, hiding the fact of his monstrosity from the unsuspecting hero he entertains. An instinctive killer, with no identity or motive of which to speak, compelled to kill by reasons beyond the audience’s comprehension. A creature inhuman in its form and in its instincts, only knowable to the extent of its unquenchable predatory desire. 

Conversely, the archetypal horror hero is an outsider. A loner compelled to vanquish threats not of this world, brandishing only the clothes on his back and a weapon so unquestionably associated with him it might as well be grafted to his body (it might well be!). A social outcast thrust into circumstances beyond their understanding, muddling through events indescribable in the magnitude of fear they incite. A girl refusing to bow to the pressures of her peers, and in the process finding it in herself to overcome the very compulsions which sealed each of her friends’ untimely fates.

This intrinsic otherness stands implicitly as allegory whenever queerness is invoked.

I think we've had enough florid theorizing at this point, however.

Look, I’m not completely oblivious (though I’m sure certain parties having previously held romantic interest in me would beg to differ). I know a lot of you aren’t reading this solely to see me wring the contents of my brain like a washcloth over all your favourite films and franchises. Admittedly, much of the “point” of this series is to write circles around various anecdotes accumulated over my brief, albeit eventful existence. Much like has been the case in my life, the weird sex stuff is the crux of the matter, the film is just playing in the background. 

I am—as someone possessive of a deeply fucked brain further complicated by my having experienced a number of events which would go on to frazzle the many already-crossed wires therein—not very good at feeling empathy. I don’t say this to impugn my character, it’s merely a fact of life which I accept for its own worth. As I’ve noted before, I don’t generally cry at movies. Little Women (2019) is the only film which has rendered me genuinely inconsolable, though it’s probably for the best in this instance to not read too deeply into my self-identification with Jo March. This pattern holds equally for the interactive entertainment medium. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End most definitely stirred some emotions in me, though I don’t think I outright cried. I came close to in playing Fire Emblem Three Houses, though not so much because of the game itself, and more so at the prospect of having to replay the game with a house leader other than Edelgard (I am a homosexual). 

The only game for which I can profess having unequivocally cried is Pokemon Black & White Versions 2, whose Memory Link vignettes made me sob beneath my duvet as I stayed up well past my bedtime playing it on my dwindling DSi battery (owing in no small part to their heart wrenching score).

But then, I’ve not been entirely forthcoming.

I’m scarcely driven to bouts of emotion involving media properties, with the notable exception of horror. Horror movies make me fucking sob.

Well, horror movies (and video games!) and Neon Genesis Evangelion. I’m not entirely sure how to categorize that one, as despite its giant robot fights and slice-of-life interstitions it undoubtedly dabbles in horrors both bodily and cosmic.

Much though I see fit to profess my disdain for the film production company A24 and the glut of stylistic copycats it has inspired to anyone imprudent enough to walk into my line of site (like a trainer in a Pokemon game, only somehow MORE eager to discuss my special interest), in the same way as I’ll deny being attracted by-and-in large to tall blondes who wear glasses, they are—admittedly—my type. 

While I enjoy some good ol’ wholesome gore and dismemberment as much as the next girl, the horror to which I instinctively gravitate when I’m seeking the cathartic gut-punch which only it can give me is decidedly more cerebral, slow-burning and, well, lesbian. You know, the kind that are still shot on honest-to-Goddess film, who star A-list actors in a career defining performance which will go unnoticed because it’s bookended between appearances in [Marvel Studios Film] and [Shitty Franchise Reboot]. Listen, I’m writing an undergraduate thesis this year about the literary motif of lesbian vampires as a metaphor for transsexuality—that’s 15 000 words, minimum—let me tell you I can write about this at length.

Funnily enough, the first horror movie I intentionally sought out on my own—Wes Craven’s Scream—elicited no fits of emotive introspection as I lay up late at night squinting at it through the dimmed screen of my Kindle® Fire. The same, however, cannot be said of the second.

I watched It Follows sometime after its addition to Netflix’s streaming catalogue and enjoyed it quite a bit. Much like the aforementioned Scream, which had served as a litmus test for whether a love of horror and the ability to sleep could coexist within my cerebellum, I watched It Follows at a near-witching hour on the low-resolution screen of an off-brand Amazon-produced Android tablet under the quilt my mother made for me when I was little. 

Much unlike Scream, whose formulaic metacommnetary proves both a blessing and a curse for its memorability, It Follows endured in my psyche as a sixteen-year-old, sexually active and self-loathing “boy”. The film is a cautionary tale about sex. The titular “it” follows its victim in perpetuity, forever chasing them until it catches and kills them. or they pass it onto the next unsuspecting idiot by having sex with them. Many people have read into this as an allegory for any number of sexually transmitted infections, though I, at the time, transposed this theme onto my own experiences as I am so often wont to do.

There’s any number of things a closeted transgender woman having superficially heterosexual sex can read into such a film.

Sexually-transmitted infection.

Pregnancy scares.


Given the complexity of my aberrant thought processes, it sometimes requires a narrative metaphor for me to properly grasp my relative position with the socio-entropic process which is life. When I say “my life a movie fr,” it’s less an appeal to a nonspecific collection of aesthetic elements than it is me saying “in this narrative I find a deep and abiding truth or resemblance to my existential condition.” It is most often in horror that I find such truth.

It Follows may well have been the first hammer blow; the first crack in the proverbial egg. Early transition is not just living a double life. It was, for me, a flight from my own desire to be a person, a flight fed on by lies told to myself about how much more fulfilling my life might be if only I made it past the next checkpoint. Get a job, get a girlfriend, start thinking about your career. Only, the steps thereafter become incrementally more drastic, and the more I devoted thought to it, the more I knew I was not a wife and kids sort of person. 

Well, at least not a wife and kids sort of guy.

Here I found myself in the prime of my youth, running in terror from the trappings of masculinity which adulthood wouldassuredly confer unto me. 

At the start of our relationship my then-girlfriend and I had consciously skirted discussion of the future. There’s an unspoken understanding between high school significant others—especially those pursuing different fields, different schools, and so on—that you will at some point break up for convenience before university. Initially our opinions diverged on this matter. She didn’t see a future together past high school. I clung to the stability she represented, unable to imagine a future without her post-high school

By the time of high school’s end, and our precipitous breakup thereafter, our roles had reversed. 

It Follows is widely heralded as the start of what many view as a horror renaissance of sorts—a revival of big-budget, contemplative horror films. A24, the distributor and production company most closely associated with the contemporary horror revival, had been founded only two years before its release. The Babadook had only just come out four-and-a-half months prior, and wouldn't find commercial success until its North American release in the fall. Starry Eyes, a film many people have never heard of, preceded it by all of two months. It follows, then, that It Follows is where it all started. If that movie left an impression on me it’s safe to claim its contemporaries did even more so.

If It Follows was the beginning, Hereditary may well have been the beginning of the end. I watched Hereditary while babysitting in early 2019 (again on my Kindle® Fire) and quickly felt my brain beginning to restructure itself.  In the despondent, self-hating and perpetually under-appreciated grandson, Alex, I saw reflections of myself. I had spent years growing up the pariah. Between my seventh and fifteenth birthdays I can scarcely recall an instance of my grandparents’ attendance. This, to me, implicitly reinforced the supposition that not only was I not their favourite grandchild, but that they’d have preferred a granddaughter to me. While my immediate family loved me, and I maintained a number of close friends, I tended towards isolating myself socially, and felt increasingly withdrawn from my father as I sank further into the depths of my own incongruent identity. Despite being neither unpopular nor disliked, by 2019 I was very uneasy in the social role I occupied, a fact which was only compounded by Director Ari Aster’s subsequent film, Midsommar.

Midsommar is a film about a girl who joins a cult.

Ari Aster maintains the cult is evil. 

I think that’s kind of a stupid assessment of things. 

Midsommar (per my interpretation) stars Florence Pugh as “girl” (the thing about horror films is that character’s names are generally less important than the plot device they fill), who—following the traumatic death of  her entire family—goes on a trip to Sweden with her shitty, annoying boyfriend who resents her and whom she hates. The trip is facilitated by her boyfriend’s Swedish friend, as they (Florence Pugh, Florence Pugh’s boyfriend, and his three other man friends) are visiting her boyfriend’s Swedish friend’s Swedish family, who live in a cult.

Over the course of the movie there is a conventional escalation of the associated “creepy” imagery associated with the cult—sacrificial death rites, strange fertility rituals—you know, Swedish stuff. As Florence Pugh’s boyfriend’s friend group becomes increasingly invasive to the community’s practices and culture, they are killed off one-by-one, and Florence Pugh is simultaneously welcomed into the cult. Ra ra, sisterhood, all that jazz.

One can read the film in an extremely dull, half hearted, and superficial way as a story about cults, or brainwashing, or any of the “themes” the movie practically beats the audience over the head with which to grapple.

I being me, however, think it reads instead as a rather wonderful transition allegory.

The film symbolically ends with Florence Pugh being forced to decide between her boyfriend—who has been off busily being seduced by another woman—and her newfound community, resulting in her letting him be burned alive inside a bear skin in a ritual bonfire. Happy endings for all!

Look, I’m being facetious, and on a purely moralistic level I don’t necessarily think burning people alive is “good practice,” though broad-strokes metaphorically the movie is about moving on from a hollow relationship and finding community and self-identity elsewhere. While I didn’t at any point wish my family dead or want to join a ritualistic pagan cliff-jumping cult for the sake of narrative congruity with my thematically parallel life, I did, over the course of my transition, feel the need to unburden myself of those closest to me in order to emerge from my proverbial socio-dysphoric cocoon. At least, that’s what I glean from it. I take it Ari disagrees with me, but if he didn’t want me to interpret it as such he shouldn’t have put that text in the film! Midsommar is in many ways my perfect film for starting estrogen—which probably has something to do with that being about the time I first watched it—and in many ways it thematically mirrors my lived experiences (albeit with only slightly more human sacrifice).

I never had a “coming out” as such if I’m perfectly honest. The moment which most closely resembled said conventional act of social transition was sending a message to my group chat of four (girl)friends from art class the evening of August 18th 2020. Earlier that evening I’d broken up with my girlfriend. Immediately after getting home I composed a long, tearful message—the exact contents of which are now lost to digital entropy—detailing to them how the reason for our breakup had been my desire, or rather my visceral need to transition, and begging for their collective acceptance. 

I didn’t tell anyone else, and only talked openly about it with a select group of close friends. I didn’t post about it on my instagram story. I made no motions to publicly declare myself transsexual. I simply started dressing differently, eventually changed my name, then amended pronouns to my Instagram bio, and in the interim let the hormones do their work.

Transition came into my life at the same time as a prior romantic partner came out of it, and in the interim I found intimacy and sisterhood among a small group of trans women who had, or were going through, the same things as I was. It was vulnerable, raw, and undeniably intense. 

The physical processes of medical transition, much like any puberty, admittedly resemble those of body horror. Not a day after I took my first tab of Spironolactone I started lactating, and my nipples ached for months thereafter. I cried myself to sleep frequently during the first several months of my being on hormones, just from the sheer intensity of my endocrine changes. My moods soared and plummeted with the incremental increase of my dosage, my body wrought by the effects of an unfamiliar hormone in my system.

Effects as of yet unknown would sneak up on me, the worst being in June the next year with the sudden onset of phantom cramps. This had the effect of suddenly and violently wracking me with profound fertility dysphoria. Every fucking day I felt like a wailing Florence Pugh, and it was only by the grace of having women—both real, and within the fiction of my favourite films—to wail alongside me that I made it through.

For those not having the privilege of knowing, this is actually what goes on in the Only Cafe's women's bathroom.

It’s not just Florence Pugh though, I find myself saying “oh Goddess, she’s literally me!” to horror movies with about as much frequency as dudebros do any film starring Christian Bale. Thinking on this thought in the shower the morning of mine writing this, I mused that this might well be because, in spite of its predilection for extreme and opposing views on sexuality (with slashers being generally framed around didactic lessons of abstinence, and rape being a fixture of A LOT of horror), the genre—especially in its renaissance in the last decade—possesses a plethora of female protagonists compared to any other contemporary media genre (save perhaps, I don’t know, Young Adult novels?).

These two facts—of horror’s queerness and its femininity—are inseparable from my experience of the genre.

If anything, femininity shines through victorious amidst horror unlike any other genre. The concept of the “Final Girl,” so deeply entrenched in the annals of Slasher films, is undeniably rooted in a conception of strong, self-actualizing feminine embodiment right down to its nomenclature. Femininity as motif, as theme, and as growth impetus permeates horror narratives in both their heroes and villains alike. Further, the constraints of the horror narrative conspire to make femininity in the genre less essential, and more emergent. Womanhood in horror is neither intrinsic nor divine, it is fought for and won against overwhelming odds.

While obviously the true domain of the horror heroine is the slasher genre—the crown of which Jamie Lee Curtis wears with incomparable aplomb—horror possesses no equal shortage of female villains, monsters, and anti-heroines of its own. Is the Brian de Palma adaptation of Carrie not lauded as one of the definitive “terminally online waif girl” movies of all time? 

Jokes aside, while the role of men in media is well established, women in writing face immense scrutiny in the bid for audience acceptance. The archetype of the “Mary Sue” looms large in the cultural zeitgeist, yet still few mainstream films outside of horror dare touch a multifaceted, flawed female protagonist with the barrel of a shotgun. Perhaps it’s to this end that far more women of my generation seem to identify with Isabelle Adjani in Possession than they do—I don’t know—Rey from Star Wars. Horror, strangely enough, gave me my first good female role models—something I desperately needed during my time in the closet. When I was trying to articulate to my therapist the disjoint I felt between my lived experience and my own self-conception, I turned to 2013 fungus zombie horror/adventure game The Last of Us as a point of connection—as if to say “this, this is what I feel like every day.” Within the safety of horror we can suspend the moral codes we abide in quotidian life and find solace in broken characters who, like tarnished mirrors, reflect our inner lives.

To return to an earlier point of my discussion re: otherness, let’s just speedrun some feminist theory, eh? While conventionally we think of sexual difference as composing two sexes existing in balanced opposition to one another, post-structuralist feminist thought stemming from the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s Le deuxième sexe (that’s The Second Sex for those of you not yet versed in Canada’s other official language) largely holds the belief that sexual difference is a discursively-constructed and socially-enforced arbitrary distinction, and that women are not so much themselves an intrinsic category as one defined largely in negative to their masculine counterparts. Subsequent thinkers, most notably Judith Butler, have posited that gender is therefore less a reflection of an essential, innate gendered character (of “maleness” or “femaleness,” as ascribed by one’s sex as assigned at birth) and more a negotiated interpretation of a gendered expression—a performance, if you will.

In this performance maleness is primary, the default. Femininity is whatever is not male.

By virtue of this, horror became a haven of sorts for a subversion of masculinity—a place to express everything Other, everything which wasn't male, running the gamut from the most stereotypically one-dimensional plasticized scream queens to deviant alien gender freaks whose sexual taxonomy defies easily-inferred categorization.

Implicitly I had identified this fact by October 31st, 2019, when I decided I hated The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Despite having subconsciously known it, I had not the words to express it at the time. Three years of semi-professional writing give me the words today.

Watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show on October 31st of 2019, in Tim Currie’s character of the cross-dressing extraterrestrial Dr. Frank-n-Furter I viscerally recognized myself. This, as such visceral recognition so often does, bodily discomforted me. It made me cringe at myself.

To be a woman is necessarily to be a monster. To be a trans woman, therefore, is to be the veritable freak du jour.

Despite all the poise which Currie brings to the role—what we might today term “serving cunt”—Frank-n-Furter is a fundamentally tragic character, an undertone which Currie weaves through his performance. In spite of all the glitz, glamour, and raw sexual charisma he commands, it is Frank-n-Furter who dies with next to nothing at the end of the film, whilst heterosexual focal couple Brad and Janet are granted enlightened sexual revelation. Rocky, the film’s eponymous Frankensteinian creation, can easily be read as a projection of the ways in which Frank-n-Furter himself has “failed” at masculinity. Everything which Frank-n-Furter is not, Rocky is—blonde to his brunette, effortlessly masculine to his embittered and cynical feminine charade. 

This recognition of the distance between my own self-expression and the edifice that is masculinity conspired to convince me I was a monster. This belief in my own monstrosity, I would argue, is largely responsible for the erosion (or at least my perception as such) of my relationship with my father. Being the eldest son confers a lot of pressure, largely implicit, onto the child who is forced into that role. I, for one, was never good at being a son and heir. I didn’t really play sports, and certainly not the ones with which my dad was largely familiar. In interests and hobbies I skewed decidedly towards the artistic, and my friends were by-and-in-large women and gamers.

In typical reiterative fashion, however, it would once again prove horror which would mend our relationship. As my brother and mother both possess constitutions too weak for the depravity in which I indulge, it typically falls to my father to watch horror films with me on such occasions as we’re in the same city. I made him watch The Babadook on Halloween 2018. He enjoyed it, and I’d use this enjoyment to justify my more questionable subsequent curatorial decisions for years to come. I showed my father Midsommar in December of 2020. The head crushing scene traumatized him. Needless to say, this January I showed him Suspiria

“Thom Yorke,” did the soundtrack, I told him. “You’ll love it.”

I was lying.

He did not love it.

Still these experiences served, if nothing else, to “build character.” I’m no conventional daughter, so it’s by no mistake that my favourite father-daughter time more closely resembles trauma bonding than it does however the fuck cis women entertain their paternal figures. I can safely say that I believe these screenings brought us closer. Further, patronage of the horror genre afforded me the opportunity to radically reimagine myself and, in doing so, internalize and reconcile the distance I felt from masculinity. 

For years I ran from everything and anything masculine—no mean feet for a woman who stands nearly as tall as Jotaro Kujo. In doing so I denied myself the opportunity to express any degree of masculinity. That, to me, felt like a betrayal of my transition. I was going to be a woman, dammit, and being a woman meant making certain concessions.

For the longest time I maintained that I was, in some sense, bisexual. Were I to guess, I’d say this was the closest I could come to admitting some degree of queerness on my part in my erstwhile egg days, without having to face the actual fact of my dysphoria. Life as a bi guy was pretty sweet, all things considered. I mean I hated myself, sure, but then, I rationalized, everyone wishes they were a woman sometimes. Being a bisexual man confers all the same privileges and novelty which cisgender women find in so-called “gay best friends,” only with the added benefit of not having to invite outward homophobia while holding hands with your heterosexually-presenting girlfriend in public.

Life as a bi woman, meanwhile, was a special sort of hell. Very quickly I realized that life on the other side of the dating pool felt less like waiting to find that special someone, and more like being a very small fish in a very large bait ball. Certainly, it didn’t help that half the time I struck up a conversation with a potential heterosexual broodmate “he” would, within about five messages, begin to ask for transition advice. The other half were not that much better, and said conversations would generally terminate around the point they started asking me how big it was, in inches, and whether or not I could stick it in their ass.

If I’m being honest I’d never before had any overwhelming attraction to men of which to speak. Men have very much been attracted to me, but the closest thing to a heterosexual human male I’ve ever found myself “attracted” to (in the broadest possible sense) is Cloud Strife. Feel free to tell me via email exactly what that implies. Rather, my fruitless attempt at bisexuality seemed more an obligation than anything else, conscripted woman training—a year’s mandatory service in opposite-gender dating.

The men who I would profess outward attraction towards were not conventionally “masculine,” to say the least, and while it's one thing to rattle off any number of famous men who everyone agrees are handsome, it’s something different entirely to kiss one only to feel self-conscious and slightly bored. If anything, the fact that nearly every “man” I meet either transitions or suffers a crisis of sexuality within three months of falling into my orbit should have been an indication that the whole “tradwife” gig was never going to work out.

None of this is even that revelatory. In many ways it’s a rather paint-by-numbers view of the transfeminine experience. What it might instead point to on my part is an inability to see the forest for the trees. Having profoundly and suddenly readjusted to life in a different gender, it followed that my sexuality had not exactly kept pace with my transition. By intuition I deduced I was probably still attracted to women, though increasingly I felt attracted to them in an inexpressably different way. It wasn’t that my libido had disappeared entirely either—the first several months of hormone therapy made the sort of horny which warrants being chained to a rock at sea—rather, my sexuality had not yet adjusted to my way of seeing the world as a woman. I was in the process of unlearning scopophilia. 

Scopophilia, or what most people (to my endless frustration) call “the male gaze,” is—reductively—a type of voyeuristic pleasure which we, as media consumers, are conditioned to adopt in watching film. I say voyeuristic insofar as there’s a decidedly erotic bent to it, though unlike conventional voyeurism the subject is (usually) aware of the voyeur on the other side of the camera lens. The term was coined by Laura Mulvey in her perennially relevant essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” specifically as a description of the psychoanalytic processes of viewership and “looking.”

The thing is, there is a degree of social conditioning endemic to the way we view the world. Unlike many subsequent bastardizations of her work, Mulvey does not think that scopophilia, or “the Male Gaze,” is a phenomenon of which only heterosexual men directing said gaze at women can be culpable. Rather, she argues, in a scopophilic regime the likes of which we live in, the audience, regardless of gender or sexuality, are invited to “possess” the scopophilic gaze of the (typically male) protagonist. 

Scopophilia, in Mulvey’s conception of it, is a social structure articulated through film (though it can be read into other audio-visual media) which serves to reinforce patriarchal sexual superiority through placating the castration anxiety which women invoke in heterosexual men.

Whew, what a mouthful.

To many this may sound like a whole bunch of overwrought psychoanalytic word vomit, and rest assured, to some degree it is! The thing that’s most important to understand is that in order to assure men of their sexual supremacy, women in cinema under the scopophilic regime are largely presented as objects of visual pleasure. They may display independence, or playful resistance to the protagonist at first, though invariably they submit to his sexual dominion.

Significantly, the visual pleasure extends to everyone in the audience, not just male viewers. Pop-feminism loves to submit that such and such a group—women, transgender men, non-binary people, gay/bisexual men, the list goes on—do not possess “the Male Gaze,” by virtue of their not being cisgender, or heterosexual, or any other number of other qualifiers, or others not having been “socialized male.” Like many things in Liberal pop-feminism, this is of course a crock of horse shit.

The fact aside that I’ve been subjected to far more fetishization from transgender men than I have their cissexual counterparts (even though most trans guys I meet invariably say “haha men suck! Not me though, I’m one of the good ones”), this ideological regime worms its way into the recesses of your psyche and fundamentally corrupts and reshapes one’s relationship with femininity, and arguably to gender as a whole. This is understandably worrisome if you happen to have decided to become a woman in the interim.

It’s from here which ultra-leftist journal and French anarchist collective Tiqqun synthesize some of their treatise Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl. Hate it or love it, the point they advance dabbles heavily in the supposition that under capitalism, subjects of ideology (that’s uh, all of us) not only self-survey, but derive sexual and aesthetic pleasure from the commodification of their identities and bodies. 

There’s a reason I sought out male affirmation through sexual attraction at the beginning of my transition which has entirely to do with the fact that men are, by-and-in-large, the arbiters of gendered performance. If masculinity is primary, there’s no legitimation more potent than that of a heterosexual man, and I chased that shit like a drug as so many t-girls do. I had suddenly whiplashed from occupying the privileged position of being the person serviced by this regime of visual pleasure, to being the object of it, and it necessarily took a while for my brain to rewire itself to accommodate such a chnage. We need not dredge up the memories of every bad Tinder date I went on in the first year of my transition to further illustrate this point to know that it remains a sound one. 

In hindsight, I didn't really have a “normal” relationship with any of my female friends until I transitioned. Quite frankly I didn't know what “normal” was supposed to look like. So deep was I in the grasp of a pervasive and erotic obsession with femininity that I literally did not know how to not be attracted to any woman my age with whom I had even a slightly close relationship with, and that made every interaction anxiety-inducing to a degree I can’t come close to expressing.

Ironically, the thing which fixed this was becoming a lesbian. 

The thing that made me a lesbian was Suspiria.

Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of the classic Dario Argento Giallo film Suspiria (originally 1977) is basically my Call Me By Your Name. The story concerns Susie Banion (Dakota Johnson, purrrrrrrrrrrrrr), a dancer from a conservative, Mennonite family in Buttfucknowhere USA, who moves to Berlin in the hopes of joining the prestigious Markos Dance Academy—which just so happens to be run by a coven of witches! Slayyy!

During her stay at the Academy, Susie becomes implicated in the witches’ efforts to revitalize their matriarch, Mother Markos, whom they believe to be one of a trio of pre-Christian witches—the “Three Mothers,”—who are the subject of Argento’s trilogy of the same name which comprises Suspiria, Inferno (1980) and Mother of Tears (2004). These three mothers are Mater Tenebrarum, mother of darkness, Mater Lachrymarum, mother of tears, and she who lends her name to the film, Mater Suspiriorum, the mother of sighs. Apart from “mother of sighs” being possibly the single gayest title to award a woman, Suspiriorum is, in internet parlance, extremely motherrrrrr.

Having eventually been selected by the coven to be the vessel who will revitalize Markos, Gudagnino’s Susie—unlike the 1977 original who kills the coven and flees—rejects Markos as a false mother and accepts her role as a vessel for Suspiriorum. This quite literally changes everything about Suspiria, and moreover proves deeply unsettling on first viewing, because this isn’t what’s supposed to happen! The witches are supposed to lose, the evil hags get their comeuppance, so on and so forth. Instead Suspiria deigns to emancipate the women of its narrative. 

The result, for a somewhat-reticent-to-admit-it trans lesbian like me watching it in my bedroom in the wintery crepuscule, was an electric catharsis like nothing I’d experienced in my brief, though revelatory time on this earth. It felt like a castration in the way only a transgender woman can find abreaction in the like. It flipped the proverbial switch in my brain. 

I spent the last act of the film squinting at the screen through teary eyes and hideously running makeup while several dozen women erotically disemboweled one another before me. I still think about one line from the scene immediately thereafter—“the women of your undoing”—at least once a week, easily.

Goddess, I’m telling you, this shit is so fucking gay.

Up until that point I had sought legitimacy and stability of self in other people. More specifically, I had sought it in other people (read: straight men) thinking I was pretty (read: wanting to have sex with me). Unfortunately, as bases for self-identity go, that’s not exactly very stable. In unlearning this tendency to sexualize myself for the eyes of others—to take aesthetic pleasure in my own consumption, if you will—I had to learn to be my own woman. Transness and lesbianism both, to me, mean being a woman on my own terms more than they mean anything else.

Being aware, as I am now more than ever, of the scopophilic mechanisms which objectify and dehumanize women, the gender non-conforming, and all who are subject to them (yes, men included) has allowed me to define my own terms of womanhood outside the confines of this regime. Crazy to think, then, that I owe it all to a middle-aged gay Italian man who makes movies about cannibals.

More importantly for the purposes of this column, this beauteous bout of self-determination has made me able to enjoy The Rocky Horror Picture Show

That’s right dear reader, who’d have thought the socially-conditioned instincts and self-policing which drove me towards an assimilationist type of acceptable man-dating womanhood were to blame the whole time‽

Mere months after internalizing Suspiria, I gave Rocky Horror a second shot. Appropriately, I did so during none other than Pride Month. Having procured several dozen bottles of appropriately named Stonewall pale ale from a local craft brewer, I sat down, and watched Rocky Horror, and had an amazing time.

There’s something tremendously enjoyable about watching a film in which it’s evident that all the actors are having fun with their performances. Further, it need not be reiterated that the soundtrack fucking slaps, luv. Also, Patricia Quinn? She’s so hot in that movie she could kill me, and I’ll leave it at that. Most importantly, I did not cringe at myself even once (though I did roll my eyes a couple times during the Meat Loaf number). Instead I found myself entranced by Tim Currie’s performance in a way I hadn’t before, a way which I hope shines through in the way I wrote about it above. Consider The Rocky Horror Picture Show (and all of Patricia Quinn’s filmography by extension) 100% Cinevangelism endorsed. Groundbreaking, I know.

Well, seeing as I’ve kept you around for several thousand more words than I first anticipated, I think it’s only fair I let you go for the month. My copy of Girl Sex 101 just arrived in the mail, and I’ve got a lot of lesbian vampire por—feminist literature—to catch up on if I ever want to see this thesis done.

Happy Pride Month you glorious abominations. 

I love each and every goddamn one of ya.

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