Posted on May 8, 2023

Queers to the Front: On Creating Queer Horror Communities, a Conversation with Dani Bethea, Kay Lynch, and Andrea Subissati

Guest Post

Within the pop cultural imagination horror is often positioned as a low-brow, counter-cultural genre that screams in the face of bourgeois tastes. Yet even though the genre may define itself against mainstream or normative aesthetics, its typical fan communities nevertheless replicate the very restrictive structures the genre espouses to critique. Seemingly dominated by cis- heteronormative, white men who consider themselves gatekeepers of generic knowledge, fan communities – at least on the surface – carve out little space to actually challenge normative social values, including those that organize acceptable expressions of gender and sexuality.

Of course, the risk of normalizing this characterization of horror fandoms in the public sphere is that it erases all others who may participate and indeed help to build these communities. Additionally, the assumed alignment between horror and a very privileged fan community creates conditions whereby more marginalized participants feel the need to justify their engagement. Queer or trans fans who take pleasure in remediating horror characters or media may be confronted with backlash from others who are outwardly hostile toward their interpretations and their need to ‘politicize’ horror via their identities (see Vena and Burgess, 2022). As a result, queer and trans fans are left to defend not only their engagements with horror but their very existence in fandoms and society at large.

Although some may consider the above description to be a generalization, it is arguably the perception of who is involved in horror fan communities that is important rather than the anthropological descriptions of actual fan identities. The damage is already done if queer or trans fans perceive horror communities to be hostile and invalidating. This was my own perception of physical and online fan spaces as a trans-queer graduate student completing his doctoral work on the genre, and it gravely prohibited me from reaching out to others to share my insights and research. However, this attitude began to change when I encountered the homegrown Canadian magazine, Rue Morgue and their allied Faculty of Horror Podcast, both of which blend generic criticism with political commentary.

Based on my experiences, I decided to interview three on-the-ground cultural workers regarding their contributions to creating queer-trans horror fan communities: Dani Bethea is a horror sommelier, pop culture pontificator, writer, moderator, and panelist; Kay Lynch is the Founder of Salem Horror Fest and Creative Director of Cinema Salem; and Andrea Subissati is Executive Editor of Rue Morgue and visionary behind the magazine’s “Queer Fear” issue. All three have crossed paths at the Salem Horror Fest, which has recently become a favored meeting ground for responsive, politicized conversations on the genre. Although these individuals are just a sample of the cultural workers committed to diversifying horror spaces, their contributions deserve to be archived for the ways in which they actively (re-)center queer and trans identities. This shift from simply accepting or tolerating queer and trans fans within privileged fan spaces to consciously constructing fan cultures of visibility, which build queer-trans identities and accompanying networks of care into their very fabrics, represents a crucial turning point in horror. This timely act of (re-)centering queer and trans fans mirrors a larger shift in horror’s representational politics, as signaled by authors Darren Elliot-Smith and John Edgar Browning who describe New Queer Horror as marking “an age where [queerness in horror] has become more unambiguous” (1).

The following transcript is taken from three different conversations with Bethea, Lynch, and Subissati, which were all conducted over Zoom. Due to logistical coordination, Lynch and Subissati were interviewed twice together, while I spoke with Bethea on a separate occasion. Each were asked a similar set of questions regarding the current state of horror fandom, the role queer artists and fans play in shaping the genre, and how an increased institutional presence of queer and trans content in horror magazines and festivals may work to move the genre away from toxic, cis-heteronormative fan practices. The result is a Frankenstein-ed piece of performative editing that links all three conversations together in the service of flow and clarity. The edited piece has been approved by each participant for accuracy.

Figure 1: Dani Bethea, Kay Lynch, and Andrea Subissati (publicity photos)

Dan (he/him): When or how did your love of horror first begin? And, as a follow up, do you think your identities in the world fuel your love for the genre or vice versa?

Andrea (she/her): I developed a love for reading horror first and foremost. I was an avid reader growing up and I devoured books at my elementary school library like Fear Street since Goosebumps wasn’t popular just yet. When I finished the series, I was ready to go on to harder stuff, which is to say Stephen King. At the time, the Ottawa Library had an age cutoff for horror novels, so I specifically remember having to ask my mom to write a letter to allow me to read Stephen King.

Dan: That’s the most touching story I’ve ever heard.

Andrea: Yes, the library bookmobile used to come to this parking lot once a week, and I was always there with my little note. After devouring King’s novels, I devoured the movies based on his books. And so, I think my love of horror dovetailed from those early literary encounters. But, also, I think they emerged from my growing disdain for almost all other forms of entertainment. As I grew older, I felt very patronized by comedy and very manipulated by drama. In the 1980’s, teen culture was at its peak. None of that media, like Saved by the Bell (1989-1993), spoke to my experience so I rejected it. My gravitation to horror was both a pull toward what the genre offered and a push away from teen media at the time.

Kay (she/her): I first got into horror simply by sticking around after watching the Saturday morning cartoons to see the Saturday afternoon horror movies. Even though they played films that were a bit sillier, they still scared me – films like Critters (1986), Child’s Play (1988), or the American House (1985). I would say those films made me aware of horror and made me intrigued with the genre. Then when I became a little bit older, I caught a screening of Carrie (1976) hosted by Joe Bob Briggs on TNT’s MonsterVision (1991-2000) and I was enthralled (with the film, not Joe Bob). I think that was my first horror experience, and it got me wanting more. I became obsessed with the genre. I had to go to the video store and rent all the tapes so I could watch everything that I had been missing. I think that, over time, I started to realize that the mood and atmosphere of horror films – that sort of existential dread – is how I normally feel. From that moment on, I started to approach horror as a curiosity, like “What is this film going to show me or tell me today?”

Dan: It sounds like both of you find some commonality in horror’s ability to articulate how dreadful the world can be as well as the experience of being an ‘outsider’ apart from mainstream culture.

Andrea: Yes, it’s honest!

Kay: Yes!

Dan: Dani – what was your entrance into horror?

Dani (she/her/they/them): I gleaned a passion for horror through my parents. When I was a child, we watched everything (within reason of course) since that was the era of videotapes. They actually still have a VHS copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (1982), which they recorded live off the television! Also, October is my birth month (the best month) and that’s when all the stellar programming came out, like Turner Classic Movies’ monster movie fest. From early on, I loved the entire genre: the classics, the Universal monsters, the 1980s slashers. There wasn’t too much that I didn’t like – I loved it all. I loved to have my senses taken over by horror. I believe who I am today would not have been possible without the horror genre and its little idiosyncrasies, if you will. I don’t know me as Dani Bethea – the writer, the editor, the panelist – without horror’s influence. My passion for horror has made my career trajectory possible.

Dan: I really appreciate that wording, “to have your senses taken over by horror.” Like Kay articulated, horror can be a visceral, adrenaline-filled experience that leads to an awakening of senses, but also to oneself. As she and Andrea note, horror offers an alternative to mainstream culture, which seems to be implicitly designed to be taken up by outsiders.

Dani: I should mention that one of my favorite animated shows as a kid was Scooby-Doo. I don’t think anybody who loves the ‘hard stuff’ hasn’t seen all of the animated Scooby-Doo movies, especially Scooby-Doo and the Ghoul School (1988) and The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo (1985-1986) with Vincent Price. Now, what’s interesting is that a lot of the queer horror community has latched onto this iconography. With Scooby-Doo, for instance, the human characters (Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, Fred) have common queer ‘slants’ or readings like lesbian, asexual, bisexual, etc. You can easily Google ‘drag’ or ‘cosplay’ and see some great Scooby-Doo inspired images. Artists on Twitter and Instagram have similarly latched onto the character Jason from the Friday the 13th franchise and have made homoerotic fanart or stories that describe him as a handsome, masculine, sweet guy. By doing this type of work, many people in the queer community are opening other’s minds to the possibility that horror has layers and can be so much more than the ‘boxes’ they know.

Dan: For me, the potential for queering horror culture is a staple of the genre’s offering. But at the same time, as you’re perhaps hinting at Dani, the effort required to generate these readings can be taxing since we still lack a diversity of outwardly queer characters to call our own.

Dani: It’s slim pickings, for sure. In the past and still today, a lot of mainstream queer representation remains very stereotypical. It’s not fair. It’s not honest. It’s not healthy, and it’s not loving. It isn’t nuanced. So, like I said, some of the queer horror we have, we’ve had to carve out for ourselves through heavy analysis.

Kay: Yes. Horror has always been queer, but it very rarely depicts characters who are overtly queer. I could probably count the number of queer protagonists in mainstream or mid-level horror on one hand. Films like Disclosure (2018), Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (2019), and Sam Wineman’s Queer for Fear: The History of Queer Horror (2021) are important for showing our history in horror. But I also don’t think that the moment of queer horror, or openly queer horror, is here yet. For the most part, these characters and films still aren’t ‘ours.’

Dan: That’s interesting because here we are brought together by a call to think through queer horror, but perhaps queer horror hasn’t arrived…? In many ways, the individuals who were once represented (or coded) as the monsters of horror are now the ones behind the camera, telling stories from their ‘monstrous’ perspectives. In the late 2000’s and the 2010s, directors of color and women filmmakers were really driving the genre forward, and we see the impact of their labor in contemporary offerings that rightfully continue to center these voices. But I’m not sure if queer horror – in a similarly concentrated wave – has had the same recent impact? Is queer horror even here?

Dani: I do think we are seeing queer roles in horror evolve. For example, Angelica Ross in American Horror Story: 1984 (2019). At the time of its airing, Ross was the top-billed, publicly-out trans women in the industry with two leading roles on two major shows (the other being Pose [2018-2021]). In my piece for Medium, I discuss the fact that there wasn’t a big neon sign announcing her/her character as a trans woman. There wasn’t any kind of outing, and even as the season progressed, there wasn’t anything malicious or gratuitous done toward her. She was just a character. I think that’s another frontier that needs to be tackled in horror — to have trans women like Ross/her character be complex, multifaceted final girls. When watching the season, it was very much a white-knuckle experience, like “Oh, gosh. She’s Black. She’s trans. She’s not going to make it.” But she does! It’s possible. I mean, I know it’s possible. But to see that presented to the show’s audience (especially at the end when she’s shown aging with these little gray hairs), that’s meaningful.

Figure 2: Click here to read Bethea’s piece for Medium

Dan: [sigh] I adore Angelica Ross in AHS… or, anything really. Thinking about Ross’ narrative in AHS: 1984 leads me to my next question: Dani, do you find a comparable process of dis-identification happens with Black or BIPOC horror fans, who may or may not be queer? Namely, that process of reading against the grain or pilfering films or television shows for subtext?

Dani: Absolutely! Although, the black community has always been in a sticky relationship with horror. To paraphrase Tananarive Due – Black people have always loved horror, but horror hasn’t always loved us (Horror Noire, 2019). Here in the United States, Black people will gladly ‘rep’ a little Chucky doll in their windowsill or display knickknacks from different horror movies in their house. And there’s also the Black Goth community. I mean, we’ve always been here, whether people have noticed or cared is another matter entirely.

Dan: Clearly, horror doesn’t carve out space equally… if it carves it out at all. That’s why it’s imperative to cultivate fan cultures of visibility that build our very subjectivizes into their existence. Rather than just sequester queerness to a sidelined conversation in fan communities, what would happen if we built queerness into the very fiber of how we ‘do’ horror culture? I see all of you performing necessary, on-the-ground labor to create these networks of visibility and care within horror. So, thank you! This also seems like a great time to start introducing your work more in-depth: Andrea, can you introduce Rue Morgue’s history for unfamiliar readers.

Andrea: Rue Morgue came into existence in 1997 as a response to other horror magazines not covering the full swath of genre offerings, according to its founder and publisher, Rodrigo Gudino. Fangoria, the ‘kingfish’ at the time, really focused on movies. They interviewed filmmakers, provided behind the scenes looks at film sets, etc. However, Rodrigo very astutely surmised that there’s so much more to horror than the films: there’s music, literature, video games, comic books, culture and lifestyles. Rodrigo initially pitched this idea for a more expansive genre coverage to Fangoria, but they rejected it. So, he started his own damn magazine!

Dan: How did you get involved with Rue Morgue, then?

Andrea: In 2010, I published my Master’s Thesis as When There’s No More Room in Hell: The Sociology of the Living Dead (Lambert Academic Publishing) and invited Rue Morgue to sponsor the book launch party. I got ghoulish Gary Pullin to design my book launch poster, which was a huge deal at the time and continues to be an even bigger deal as his career continues to soar. From there I started volunteering at Rue Morgue events and at Toronto’s Festival of Fear. After those experiences, I started contributing to the magazine and copy editing. I worked reception for several years as well before I eventually became Executive Editor.

Dan: From your experience has the magazine always been interested in cultural identities or topics like queerness, or is that new to the magazine’s identity?

Andrea: I would say that horror journalism has changed a lot, both in recent years and since Rue Morgue’s inception. The magazine’s political inquiries, although in line with its original mandate, are really the result of being a print magazine in the digital age. In the beginning, when Rue Morgue was exclusively a print magazine, we reviewed and informed everyone of what was happening in the genre. Nowadays, that’s not enough to keep a readership. I’m inclined to think that these conversations have always happened in fan communities since horror is always political, but maybe now they’ve become a bit more mainstream, with a wider diversity of authors voicing their opinions.

Dan: As an ardent reader of Rue Morgue, it’s been a relief to find a horror magazine that features words like ‘feminism,’ ‘queerness,’ ‘antiracism,’ etc. when discussing representation and culture. Andrea, I think your leadership as Editor (especially through the tone you set in your Editor’s Notes) is largely responsible for creating a culture of inclusivity in the magazine. Before your ‘reign of terror,’ Rue Morgue‘s print issues still had some troubling advertisements and stories that really didn’t appeal to me. Your editorial vision for the magazine has shown me (and hopefully others) what horror fandom is and should be.

Andrea: Thank you, Dan. That means a lot.

Dan: Your work means a lot to me as well. Now, Kay – I similarly understand your work with the Salem Horror Fest as imperative to carving out space for queer horror fans. Admittedly, Salem was the first horror festival I ever attended, again because I felt it to be a welcoming place, both for myself and for the discussions I like to have about horror. How did the Salem Horror Fest come into existence?

Kay: From the start, the Salem Horror Fest was a direct response to the 2016 American election. Personally, I was mortified at the results. Like many, I was angry, upset, confused, disappointed and even shocked at the results. Shocked that we voted to endorse the worst impulses in humanity, and to allow history to repeat itself. It got me thinking, “Well, what is something that I can do to help my community?” My previous work experiences had been in marketing and event planning, especially catered toward queer communities. Although I didn’t consider myself necessarily equipped to ‘save the world,’ I did think maybe I could influence the conversation through something that I love: horror. Since Salem is obviously a big Halloween town with name recognition, I thought it might appeal to people in the industry as well as to local and international audiences. So, I quit my job at a gay dating company and just went for it!

Dan: Clearly, the risk paid off! It’s also evident that your marketing background and attention to branding has helped to establish the Salem Horror Fest as a queer-centered gathering, particularly through its rainbow logo. Who designed the Salem Horror Fest Pride logo, and why did you decide to make the rainbow colors part of your festival identity?

Kay: David Dembowski designed the logo. He’s a queer artist and illustrator out of Austin, Texas, and he’s done all the festival’s artwork since the beginning. One of the main reasons for the design is that we wanted the logo to have a shelf life. Initially we had a logo that included the year of the festival (Salem Horror Fest ’17 — that sort of thing). But when we decided on just the name, we asked ourselves, “What kind of style treatment do we want?” That’s when I thought of the rainbow. Using the Pride colors in the design is an easy way to filter a certain audience while also showing support for the audience you have or would like to grow. It seemed like an obvious decision. I guess I saw it as an extension of our festival ethos in some way, like a manifestation.

Dan: I’m really intrigued by your method of using branding to do the work of community building.

Kay: I think you have to. There’s a marketing slant to everything I do – I use capitalism and branding to advocate for social issues. It’s important to be explicit. In our case that means putting the logo (and our ethos) front and center. It shows audiences that we are inclusive. Sure, there’s always a risk that you might lose some customers, but I am also willing to lose a bigoted costumer. Our ‘product’ doesn’t need to be for everybody – it’s okay. It’s about integrity as much as business.

Figure 3: Lynch uses social media to reaffirm the place of trans individuals in horror and everyday life (images from Instagram)

Dan: That’s a great point – universal consumption doesn’t need to be a goal in fan communities. Yes, we may all be horror fans, but we also experience horror differently (based on our identities and experiences of the world) and as a result, our consumption and discussion of the genre may widely differ. But, as you mention Kay, that style of targeted audience cultivation can impact sales and attendance. Andrea, do you ever feel as though you’re taking a risk with the content you publish in Rue Morgue, especially your ‘Queer Fear’ issue? Are you worried about isolating a particular readership?

Andrea: They can buy another magazine if they want. Honestly, I respond with complete indifference. When Rodrigo offered me the position, he said that he wanted to make some changes and he wanted to hear if I had any ideas for the magazine. I had a whole bunch of ideas, with the queer issue being one of them.

Dan: Can you walk us through the creation of the Queer Fear issue?

Andrea: Like I said, when I came aboard Rue Morgue, I knew I wanted to do a queer-themed issue. I was hearing more and more conversations about queer horror, but they were always retrospective. If I wanted to do the issue, I knew I needed a more contemporary catalyst. That catalyst eventually came from the documentary, Scream Queen. Looking back, I don’t think that I did the queer issue at the right time or at a special time. I think I did it late and that it was long overdue. I was just waiting for the right opportunity.

Figure 4: Subissati poses with Rue Morgue #189 Queer Fear Special Issue (Facebook post, 2 July 2019)

Dan: Funny – because we also speculated earlier that queer horror has yet to arrive. Maybe your issue was prophetic! So, after you had the catalyst or the anchor to base the issue around how did you go about narrowing down the rest of the content?

Andrea: First, we had to delineate what we meant by ‘queer horror.’ Is it queer because it’s made by queer creators? And/or because it involves queer storylines? Frankly, I’m of the opinion that when someone makes a piece of art it’s not really theirs anymore. To me, queer horror invites a meaningful reading or discourse from queer fans. I know that’s a bit broad, but that’s how I like it. Next, I had to pick the content. Typically, when it comes to making the magazine, my mandate is always to offer a lot of variety in every issue. I’m in the business of talking about new horror as much we may like retreading the past, so I need ‘fresh meat’ to keep me hungry.

Dan: Speaking of variety, did you consider the identity of the writers you were featuring in the issue?

Andrea: It’s tricky. I would never ask or expect people to volunteer that information. I also want to be on guard against tokenizing writers, or only tossing certain movies to certain writers. However, for a special issue to celebrate queer horror, I wanted all the feature writers to identify as queer, and that came through in their pitches or through other interactions. Since the queer issue, I think more writers at Rue Morgue feel comfortable identifying themselves as queer, knowing they aren’t going to lose any writing opportunities by disclosing who they are.

Dan: Since we’re discussing writing as a queer horror critic… Dani, how have you used writing to explore your positionality within horror?

Dani: This is a great time to mention that one of the first pieces I did for the Gayly Dreadful’s Pride month was called, “The Quagmire of Race and Horror in Cinema” (2020). In the piece, I discuss how race and horror have always been in a contentious relationship because the world (and its politics) injects itself into the genre in some overt or some very insidious ways. As a Black cinemagoer, you never know what you’re going to get. At one time, horror films used to be atrocious. I remember the first time I saw The Thing (1982) and realized Keith David’s character was still alive by the end credits; it was so revelatory to see a Black person survive to the end. Brandy’s character from I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) is another great example. And even though these characters are meaningful, rarely do we get to see queer Black protagonists on-screen. And when I say queer, I mean confirmed or in the canon. There’s still more that horror needs to integrate to be better representative and to save us from hunting for visibility.

Dan: Absolutely. But although queer (intersectional) horror is still lacking, each of you is doing the work to challenge these limitations through your writing, curation, programming and community building. Your work all highlights the historical and ongoing legacies of queer horror, as well as the gaps and absences that still exist within the genre and its respective fandom. I see your work as interconnected, and indeed, all of you have crossed paths at the Salem Horror Fest, which has become an important meeting ground for queer fans, creators, writers, and podcasters.

Andrea: I would say the creation and programming at Salem Horror Fest is speaking to an important moment in horror culture…

Dan: …and the fan needs for community that have gone mostly unfulfilled. Kay, can you talk about inviting Andrea and The Faculty of Horror (co-hosted by Alex West) to participate in the festival?

Kay: I think it was just a cold call! Considering the festival’s mission to explore cultural anxieties through the lens of horror, I knew I had to invite The Faculty of Horror since they continue to be the best example of that intellectual curiosity. For me, it just felt like a natural fit. I am beyond grateful to have been able to work with Andrea and Alex. One of my favorite things about Salem Horror has been our connection.

Dan: That’s a lovely soundbite. Andrea, how did you feel about Kay’s request to do a live podcast show at the festival?

Andrea: When Alex and I first started The Faculty of Horror, we were very reticent to show our faces… literally, our picture on the website has us holding up masks. As women entering the world of horror podcasting, even with our straight white privilege, we weren’t sure how we would be received. We didn’t want to open ourselves up to the usual criticism that is lobbied against vocal women (like, “they’re just narcissistic,” “they just want to talk and take up space” or “they don’t have anything interesting to say”). But as we built up a following, we became a bit bolder about being explicitly feminist and showing our faces. However, we were still reluctant to do live shows. When we found out about the Salem Horror Fest and its whole ethos, we agreed to accept Kay’s invite. And so, the festival has become the only live event we will do (like our own exclusive residency) because we feel safe being ourselves in that space.

Dan: I had that same feeling at the festival. Kay, you seem to bring together folks who may lack a certain amount of trust in public horror fandoms. I know it’s not a simple question, but how did you go about creating this space of trust and care, especially for those who may not easily experience such feelings?

Kay: I think transparency is key, as well as authenticity. People want to know that you’re there for them, and that you are willing to listen to their perspective. For us, building trust is just staying true to the festival’s mission. The worst thing we can do as a society is normalize certain rhetoric and allow it to grow and mutate into something more dangerous and hateful. One of our roles as a festival is to serve as a sort of culture jam. We’re not going to allow people to just look the other way and avoid discussing key issues in horror and society. I think making that commitment part of the festival’s mission signals to people that you’re willing to share the same risks they may face when they speak up.

Dan: What you’re describing also sounds like creating an accountable space, one in which listening and speaking up aren’t optional – they’re necessary.

 Andrea: I also think that trust comes with a willingness to get it wrong, and a willingness to acknowledge you fucked up and that going forward you’re going to do better. I remember the first time Alex and I got called out for something we said on the podcast. We were devastated. Do we take down the episode? Do we issue an apology? We did apologize. We meant it and we remember it. That’s not to say that we didn’t or won’t mess up again, but I think if you’re too scared to acknowledge you’re wrong that’s when you start looking insincere and prohibiting trust.

Dan: Well said, Andrea. Circling back to the community offered at the Salem Horror Fest — Dani, what was your experience at the festival?

Dani: You’re mentioning community building, but I would even say that these events at the festival can be family building. I was invited to participate on a panel alongside Lee Anderson, Moon Fergusen and Dianca London Potts. I already knew Lee a while on Twitter, and I was following Moon’s and Dianca’s work online. Also on the panel was Ashlee Blackwell, who I would go as far as calling a horror Auntie. Regardless of how young or old someone may be, an Auntie provides safety and comfort to members of a community. Ashlee is one of those people for me. She really noticed my work and supported my writing. Together, the five of us spoke on a round table about Black women, aesthetics, tradition and horror. I loved having that conversation because everyone was coming from a unique perspective. For example, Moon, who is the creator of the web series Juju (2019-), comes from a Jamaican background, so she has a lot of Caribbean horror knowledge, while Dianca is a fantastic academic and writer. We just had so much accrued knowledge amongst all of us – it was beautiful to be a part of that experience. To think I could be in that prestigious space, I really felt like I had arrived. I really felt like my work was being recognized.

Dan: You were being made visible on the public stage of horror experts, an experience you continue to have, especially on your shared panel with Robin R. Means Coleman at the 2021 Society of Cinema and Media Studies’ conference. Dani, I also really love your phrasing of Ashlee Blackwell as a horror Auntie, who is creating space for you and others to be brought into this community and to have an opportunity to build it as well. I mean, what is queerness if not creating found family? Now, as Editor for We Are Horror Zine, you’re also paying it forward by bringing other voices into these horror dialogues. Do you have any closing advice for BIPOC queer, trans, asexual horror fans who may want to be a part of this community more openly?

Dani: Please know your voice is valued and truly cherished. There is so much love for new perspectives in this community we are building. Don’t stop writing, don’t stop pitching, don’t stop filmmaking. Keep going, because we need you to keep pushing the genre forward. We need you. We love you. We appreciate you. Horror wouldn’t be where it is without your voice, so please continue to bring everything that you are to the genre.

 Dan: I think you’ve just become someone’s horror Auntie, Dani. That was lovely. Andrea and Kay – any closing words on what the future of queer horror may be?

Andrea: I choose to be optimistic. We have a long way to go, but it starts with conversations like these and those programmed at Salem Horror Fest. I hope that opportunities follow from these conversations, and that the next generation of creators look at horror and say, “I can do better.” I think that’s where all art really comes from — “I can do that, but better.”

Kay: I think that it is going to come down to queer fans demanding more from the genre, as Andrea mentioned. It’s not going to just happen. No one’s going to give it to us. We have to create opportunities for each other. Queer culture has a history of radicalization, I think we need to channel that kind of energy into redirecting horror’s future.

Dan: I have had a wonderful time speaking with each of you. Thank you for your time and your words. I am similarly walking away with sense of optimism as well as gratitude and validation. Horror is a perfect vehicle to tell our stories of otherness and monstrosity. It’s specifically built for these themes. And we need to push against the impulse to see queer horror as ‘subverting’ the genre or as simply ‘adding’ content to the original form. That’s simply not true. Queer horror is part of the very foundations of this genre, but our voices have never been given the recognition they deserve within accompanying fandoms. We’ve been here and it’s time to really meditate on how we narrative this genre, the ways we think about its offerings, and how horror can offer a space for queer and trans individuals to care for one another. (Apologies, I think I just dropped into lecture mode.)

Dani: Agreed. Now, that was a beautiful ending.

Works Cited

Elliot-Smith, Darren and John Edgar Browning. “Introduction.” New Queer Horror: Film and Television. University of Wales Press: 2020.

Vena, Dan and Islay Burgess. “The New Border War? An Intergenerational Exchange on Bad Trans Horror Objects.” In-Focus Section, Journal of Cinema and Media Studies, vol. 61, no. 2 (Winter 2022), pp. 188-93.

Dan Vena is a visual and popular culture scholar in the Department of Film and Media at Queen’s University. He is radically invested in horror cinema, spirituality and death positivity as part of his pedagogical and research practice, which he commits towards decolonial, anti-racist, queer-trans, disabled, anti-capitalist & neurodivergent collaborative world-making.

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