While children and queens of all ages ponder, plan, and otherwise conspire to have the best Halloween costume on the block, I realize that I’m again completely inadequate for a 21st century queen. The cold chills ran down my spine at a startling revelation.

I have no costume.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I have a wizard’s hat from a couple of years ago, along with plenty of black clothing. I might be able to put some wicked-looking makeup or something. Or maybe I can buy another pointy hat, then stuff and strap them to my chest into a makeshift Madonna costume. Nah, I’d get stoned the minute I stepped into a party. Hell hath no fury like queens with their diva scorned.

Maybe it’s life paying a cruel joke on me. When I was six, back in my stormtrooper-in-shorts days, I had more costumes than any boy should have ever been allowed to have. I had them all. Superman. Batman. Spider-Man. I even had an old Darth Vader costume that my mom helped me put together. Of course, I was oh-so-imposing as a three-and-a-half foot Sith lord with bird legs.

The nice thing about living in my own little world is that I had the power to make it as large as I wanted it to be. My world was one where Spider-Man and Superman could co-exist. It was a world that was built by Legos and ruled with an iron hand by my own imagination.

My imaginary world required one thing: complete devotion. For me, that meant that whenever Superman was to save the day, I would have to BE Superman. I had my felt “S” logo taped on the blue shirt with red Underoo briefs over the pale blue tights that doubled for my Batman tights when Superman wasn’t required. The cape was attached by diaper pins. Naturally, I ignored the tennis shoes and the fact that my hair was white blonde.

My dad never knew who he was coming home to. Finally, after several weeks of half-pint superheroes living in his house, he’d had enough. “The costumes have to go,” he said. He simply refused to have such “hokey” behavior in his house, but that’s okay. I still had my Lego city. So, I packed up Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and everything else that lived in that old box, and watched as Dad put it into a secure location well out of my reach. I didn’t discover the joy of climbing the shelves until much later.

Costumes are about putting on a make-believe face. They’re a chance for all of us to pretend that we’re someone else. Most of them are, of course, flame retardant. And they’re beyond cheesy. But that’s the charm of it. Even the pregnant nun costumes bring a few laughs when they’re worn by daring celebrants.

The costumes on the department store racks are nothing like the ones so many of us wear on a daily basis. It’s a costume that is different for everyone, but very much the same. It’s a costume called the “closet.” Whether we’re just trying to fit in with the masses or putting on a face so we can appease the family, it’s all just a glorified mask that hides who we really are from those who we think might not like us if they discovered the truth.

What is the truth that we’re hiding? Is it fear? Is it shame? But more than anything, are we consistent in our lives? Even as we push forth on our quest for equality, the question remains whether or not we’ll be honest with ourselves and everyone around us as to whether or not we’ll live with the integrity that our quest mandates. This past October 11 was a chance for all of us to take off our own costumes.

When I first publicly came out, I thought that my life was about to get a lot more complex. I didn’t realize how simple it would get. I took off the mask. The weight was removed. The costume was put away. It scared the hell out of me when I did it; especially when a local pastor offered to take me to lunch after finding out about my sexuality.

I cut to the chase during the meal. “Look,” I said. “We’re not going to agree on the issue. I’m here to make absolutely clear that I’m going to live with integrity. And for me, that means that I’m going to be who I am. I won’t shout it from the rooftops, but I will work to keep hate from being shouted from them as well.” He didn’t have much to say after that. But hey, it was a free meal.

Yes, our closets are being emptied in droves. The problem is that the bullies and bigots are going into them. The question is, is that a good thing?

David W. Shelton

Update: I got the Darth Vader mask with the voice changer. It’ll do!

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