I have a complex relationship with monsters.
If you spend much time in queer spaces, around where I hang around, you’ll see a host of monsters as iconography. They’re all medusa and gorgons and flesh-eating mermaids and threatening demon girls and werewolf boyfriends and centaurs and spiders and elves and fairies and so on. The reasoning is pretty well understood: Monsters have been queer-coded in media in our history, and so, the queer and marginalised picked up the monsters as symbols. If you call us monsters, they said, we will agree with you, and we will make stories about how the monsters are fine and cool and good and great.
I have a complex relationship with The Monster.
The monster my friends love is hedonistic and indulgent. It is transgressive but permissive. My friends look to snake girls and succubi and shapeshifters and skulls. They will take the harpy to tea, they will show the medusa doing art, and hey, maybe a bit of harmless, fun kink. The point is, these approaches are people who are told they are monsters, and want to show that the monster is not a thing to be feared.
This is not how I have always felt the monster.
The things that make my friends feel monstrous are judgements. A girl with hairy feet. A boy with boobs. Painted nails. Being fat or flat nosed or bearded or inadequately hot or fat. The monster is stuff that should not matter, but matters in the eyes and minds of people who are, themselves monstrous in spirit. Oh, they may feel damaged and despairing, but they are things that are harmless.
They are gorgons that go to tea.
This informs the way a lot of people talk to me about the monster. The monster I know. Because my monster isn’t The Genders or The Feels or The Way Society Treats Me. Though, it has been an experience of watching as people around me quietly and unconsciously demonise me when they don’t realise I’m in the room, and they’re talking about me…
The monster that echoes to me is the thing that’s actually harmful.
I get angry. I get angry a lot. Constantly. Over nothing. I don’t know how often I’ve had to explain this to people and how routinely I’ve had them ignore it. When I say I ‘get angry’ I mean ‘I spend emotional energy and effort avoiding having extremely hurtful emotional outbursts at people.’ I mean ‘I have a part of my brain that thinks hitting things will solve them.’ I mean ‘I know why white boys punch walls if you’d like to ask me about it, whenever you next want to make fun of it.’ There’s a lot of reasons why – I could explain why, but largely, I know you don’t actually care. I know people don’t, largely, because if they did, they’d listen to me when I tell them.
That’s my monster. The rage inside that wants to lash out. The anger that knows how to hurt people, that wants to hurt people. The spite and the toxicity and the helpless rage. The thing that I work to contain. The thing that I fantasise about being able to use well. The reason why I look at Jacket in Hotline Miami and go ‘oh I get it,’ the reason I see the Avengers Hulk as a cheap cop-out, the reason I like The thing I know that I actually have to contain: The thing that’s actually wrong rather than societally shamed.
So when people talk about how they love monsters in media, how much they love media about monsters or focused on monsters, it feels like they’re pushing me out of a space. Because they say, it’s okay to be the monster. There’s no reason to let society judge you. They call us monsters, let us don our halloween masks and laugh at them for it!
They don’t have a space for an actual monster, amongst their masks.
Images from TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #1