What Halloween Means For Trans And Gender-Nonconforming People

Illustration by Lindsay Hattrick

It can be more than a holiday

Gender norms are routinely policed, both institutionally (thanks in part to the backward policies being implemented by the Trump administration) and in everyday life, by complete strangers. For many, bathrooms have become a battleground, and online shopping a preferred alternative to being judged for the section in which people shop for clothes. That's why Halloween has become, for some, the only time they can feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of being told who they should be and what they should look like.

More than that, though, Halloween—a time when everyone is free to transform into anything they can imagine—is an inherently liberating time, one that can serve to help people better understand themselves and their identity. 

In celebration of this special time of year, I asked six trans and gender-nonconforming people how they felt about Halloween, and whether the holiday had any impact on their lives or view of their own gender identities. Read their stories, below.

Photo via @JacobTobia Instagram

Jacob Tobia
Most days of the year, when I wear what I consider a super-normal outfit—a skirt, heeled boots, some lipstick—people often look at me like, Who's that weirdo? But on and around Halloween, everything inverts. My identity is perceived not as an aberration, but as a costume, and all of the sudden it's socially acceptable. It's like we have one holiday a year where we acknowledge that gender is, in fact, playful. I love that Halloween gives people—especially male-bodied people—cultural permission to experiment with gender. But it's bittersweet, because why should we only have this ability once a year? Why can't we affirm and rejoice in creative expression every day? Why can't we, day by day, acknowledge and celebrate that gender expression is merely a costume? I wish that the Halloween spirit could continue all year, but alas.