LGBT themes in horror fiction refers to sexuality in horror fiction that can often focus on LGBTQ+ characters and themes within various forms of media. It may deal with characters who are coded as or who are openly LGBTQ+, or it may deal with themes or plots that are specific to gender and sexual minorities.

Illustration of painter Basil Hallward and aristocrat Lord Henry Wotton observing the picture of Dorian Gray.

Depending on when it was made, it may contain open statements of gender variance, sexuality, same-sex sexual imagery, same-sex love or affection or simply a sensibility that has special meaning to LGBTQ+ people.


Overview and origins

Illustration by D. H. Friston from the first publication of the lesbian vampire novella Carmilla (1872) by Sheridan Le Fanu[1][2][3]

The relation between gay fiction and horror is often attributed to the Gothic novels of the 1790s and early 1800s.[4] Many Gothic authors, like Matthew Lewis, William Thomas Beckford, and Francis Lathom, were homosexual. LGBT horror publisher and general editor James Jenkins offered that "the traditional explanation for the gay/horror connection is that it was impossible for them to write openly about gay themes back then (or even perhaps express them, since words like 'gay' and 'homosexual' didn't exist), so they sublimated them and expressed them in more acceptable forms, using the medium of a transgressive genre like horror fiction."[4] Early works with clear gay subtext include Lewis's The Monk (1796) and both Charles Maturin's The Fatal Revenge (1807) and Melmoth the Wanderer (1820).[4] Influential and controversial entries in the genre include the lesbian vampire novella Carmilla (1872) by Sheridan Le Fanu[1][2][3] and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) by Oscar Wilde, which shocked readers with its sensuality and overtly homosexual characters.[5] Jenkins also points out what he sees as gay subtext in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), as the titular character wards off other female vampires and claims Jonathan Harker, stating "This man belongs to me!"[4] Richard S. Primuth of The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide writes that Stoker, a closeted gay man and close friend of Oscar Wilde, began writing Dracula just as Wilde was sentenced to hard labor after his conviction for gross indecency.[6] Talia Schaffer writes in ELH that "Dracula explores Stoker's fear and anxiety as a closeted homosexual man during Oscar Wilde's trial... This peculiar tonality of horror derives from Stoker's emotions at this unique moment in gay history."[6][7]

In the following century, the control of the book industry by larger publishers made it difficult to distribute the increasingly overt gay content being produced.[8] Queer horror got a boost with the advent of the pulp novel in the 20th century,[9] a cheap way to manufacture paperback novels that became popularized during World War II.[10] Three on a Broomstick (1967) by Don Holliday is an early example of the gay horror pulp.[9]

Vampirism and homosexual desire

The erotic metaphor of vampirism, inspired by Carmilla, resulted in numerous vampire films since the 1970s that either strongly implied or explicitly portrayed lesbianism. Author James R. Keller writes that in particular, "Gay and lesbian readers have been quick to identify with the representation of the vampire, suggesting its experiences parallel those of the sexual outsider."[11] Richard Dyer discusses the recurring homoerotic motifs of vampire fiction in his article "Children of the Night", primarily "the necessity of secrecy, the persistence of a forbidden passion, and the fear of discovery."[11][12] With the vampire having been a recurring metaphor for same-sex desire from before Stoker's Dracula, Dyer observes that historically earlier representations of vampires tend to evoke horror and later ones turn that horror into celebration.[11][12] The homoerotic overtones of Anne Rice's celebrated The Vampire Chronicles series (1976–2018) are well-documented,[11][13][14][15] and its publication reinforced the "widely recognized parallel between the queer and the vampire."[11]


See also


  1. ^ a b Garber, Eric; Lyn Paleo (1983). "Carmilla". Uranian Worlds: A Guide to Alternative Sexuality in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. G K Hall. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-8161-1832-8.
  2. ^ a b LeFanu, J[oseph] Sheridan (1872). "Carmilla". In a Glass Darkly. London: R. Bentley & Son.
  3. ^ a b LeFanu, J[oseph] Sheridan (1993). "Carmilla". In Pam Keesey (ed.). Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Stories. Pittsburgh, PA: Cleis Press.
  4. ^ a b c d Healey, Trebor (May 28, 2014). "Early Gay Literature Rediscovered". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 31, 2014.
  5. ^ Garber & Paleo (1983). "The Picture of Dorian Gray". Uranian Worlds. p. 148.
  6. ^ a b Primuth, Richard S. (February 11, 2014). "Vampires Are Us". The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  7. ^ Schaffer, Talia (Summer 1994). "A Wilde Desire Took Me: The Homoerotic History of Dracula". ELH. 61 (2): 381–425. doi:10.1353/elh.1994.0019. S2CID 161888586.
  8. ^ Stryker, Susan (2001). Queer Pulp: Perverted Passions from the Golden Age of the Paperback. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 9780811830201.
  9. ^ a b Doyle, Dave (2009). "Conquering the Demon Within". In Drewey Wayne Gunn (ed.). The Golden Age of Gay Fiction. MLR Press. ISBN 978-1-60820-048-1.
  10. ^ Michael Bronski, ed. (2003). Pulp Friction: Uncovering the Golden Age of Gay Male Pulps. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 9780312252670.
  11. ^ a b c d e Keller, James R. (2000). Anne Rice and Sexual Politics: The Early Novels. McFarland. pp. 12–14. ISBN 978-0786408467.
  12. ^ a b Dyer, Richard (1988). "Children of the Night: Vampirism as Homosexuality, Homosexuality as Vampirism". In Susannah Radstone (ed.). Sweet Dreams: Sexuality, Gender, and Popular Fiction. London: Lawrence & Wishart Ltd. p. 64.
  13. ^ "Submit to Anne". September 16, 1996. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  14. ^ Maslin, Janet (November 11, 1994). "Film Review: Interview with the Vampire; Rapture and Terror, Bound by Blood". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  15. ^ James, Caryn (November 13, 1994). "In Search of the Man Within the Monster". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2014.
  16. ^ "The Queer Horror Awards". Retrieved 25 February 2018.