Homosexuality and the Vampire

Homosexuality and the Vampire

(pop culture)

The vampire, especially in its literary and cinematic form, mixed elements of horror and sexuality. To many, it became a symbol of the release of the powerful emotional energies believed to be bottled up by restrictions on sexual behavior common to many societies. Homosexual behavior had always been suppressed during the centuries of Christian dominance of the West, and thus, it could be expected that in the heightened sensuality associated with vampirism, some homosexual elements might be present—and such has been the case. Literary critics have long noted a homosexual aspect among the very first pieces of vampire literature.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s “Christabel”, the first vampire poem in English, portended a theme that would reappear in vampire literature—lesbian vampire relationships. The poem centers upon the vampiric relationship of Christabel and Geraldine, the vampire. It became the inspiration for “Carmilla”, the 1872 short story by Sheridan Le Fanu, in which the sexual element was even more pronounced. As other female vampires appeared in succeeding decades, primarily in short stories, the lesbian element often hovered in the background.

However, while there was a recurring lesbian presence in vampire literature, the same could not be said of male homosexuality. The male vampires of the nineteenth century—from Lord Ruthven to Varney the Vampyre to Dracula—invariably sank their teeth into female victims. This strict male heterosexuality was emphasized in Dracula (1897) the first major work to include male vampire victims. Jonathan Harker was not touched by Dracula, but remained behind as a feast for his vampire brides when Dracula departed for London. Nor did Dracula view any of Lucy Westenra‘s suitors as additional sources of blood; he turned rather to Mina Murray. His several confrontations with the men were only in terms of physical combat. In the movies, one could also note the absence of male vampires attacking male victims. When the plot called for such men-on-men attacks, they were always mediated by modern medicine, in the form of needles and transfusions (as in The Return of Dr. X and Blood of the Vampire) or by way of an animal (as in The Devil Bat). Not until the sexual revolution of the 1960s did a male homosexual vampire appear. The first gay vampire movie, a pornographic production, was Does Dracula Really Suck? (also released as Dracula Sucks and as Dracula and the Boys). During the 1970s several additional titles with gay vampires appeared: Sons of Satan (1973), Tenderness of Wolves (1973), and an Italian film, Il Cavaliere Costante Nicosia Demoniaco Ovvero Dracula in Brianza (1975). Of these, only Tenderness of Wolves was released to the general public. The movie was devoted to the case of Fritz Haarmann, a homosexual serial killer who murdered a number of young boys and drank their blood. Two additional gay vampire movies also appeared in the filmographies: Gayracula (1983) and the undated Love Bites (1993). There is a small selection of x-rated movies with a vampire theme such as The Vampire of Budapest (1995).

In 2007, the first gay-oriented vampire television series, The Lair, aired on here!, a gay television network. Developed from the successful series Dante’s Cove, The Lair was built around a nightclub that gave its name to the series. The club is home to a group of vampires that includes Colin (Dylan Vox), who manages the club and Damian (Peter Stickles), the group’s leader. Action centers on the vulnerability of the club from law enforcement and the press discovering the dangers to those who wander in unsuspecting of the club’s true nature.

The first season (six episodes) aired in 2007, season two (thirteen episodes) in 2008, and the third season in 2009. The first two season were released on DVD.

In literature, gay and lesbian vampires have made relatively few appearances. The first writer to become known for his gay vampire writings was Jeffrey N. McMahan. His first book, Somewhere in the Night, a Lambda Literary Award winner, was a collection of short horror stories that included several vampire tales. He also introduced the character of Andrew, a gay vampire who went on to become the subject of a novel, Vampires Anonymous, in which a modern-day vampire hunter and a vampire recovery group seek to cure individuals of vampirism. Andrew and the vampire community, however, see no need to be cured. The most significant expression of a vampiric gay relationship came not from a gay writer, but in several novels by Anne Rice. Her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, featured the intense relationship between Louis and Lestat de Lioncourt, the homosexual connotations of which were not missed by reviewers. Rice was not attempting to highlight sexual orientation issues so much as gender issues—specifically, androgyny. However, this idea of male androgyny has frequently masked a more central concern for homosexuality or bisexuality. Lestat was pictured as one who easily bonded with males and frequently cried. Yet, when he briefly switched bodies with mortal, Raglan James, he raped a woman. In several of Rice’s novels, male vampires could not have “normal” intercourse—their sex organs being dysfunctional. She suggested, however, that the experience of biting and sucking blood was a far superior form of sex; the mutual sharing of blood by two vampires was an act analogous to intercourse. The Rice novels have been a source for the modern gothic rock movement, whose fans value the androgynous ideal and have opened their circles to homosexuality and other sexual expressions, such as transvestism and sadomasochism.

In the wake of Rice’s popularity in the gay/lesbian community, a host of novels and short story collections have appeared specifically geared for a lesbian and gay audience. Emerging in the first decade of the twenty-first century as a gay vampire writer is Michael Schiefelbein. Schiefelbein uses his years of training for the priesthood and his ultimate rejection of the Roman Catholic Church (and the church of him) as the emotional hook into the continuing stories of Victor Decimus, a Roman officer who served in Palestine at the time of Jesus. When Jesus rejected him, he became a vampire and now spends his time corrupting devout young men (mostly in monastic setting) and thereby undermining the Church that grew from Jesus’s life. The adventures began with Vampire Vow (2001) and have continued in Vampire Thrall (2003) and Vampire Transgression (2006), with future stories in the works.

Lesbian readers found their vampire interests best expressed by African American writer Jewelle Gomez whose Gilda Stories (1991) has been recognized from beyond the lesbian and gay communities. It traces the story of a lesbian vampire who began life as a slave in Mississippi in the 1850s. She ran away from serfdom and each chapter allows the reader to see her maturation and development once she is introduced to vampiric existence. While the short story has become the most prominent focus of lesbian vampires, additional novels include Virago (1990) and Bloodsong (1997) by Karen Marie Christa Minns, Shadows after Dark (1992) by Ouida Crozier, Scarlet Thirst (2002) by Crin Claxton, and Soapsuds (2005) by Finola Hughes and Digby Diehl.

Gays and lesbians interested in vampires founded two organizations in the early 1990s (though neither survived for many years). Bite Me in the Coffin Not in the Closet Fan Club was a vampire fan organization for gay and lesbian people who have an interest in vampires and vampirism. Founder Jeff Flaster of Middletown, New York, also edited the club’s monthly fanzine, which published short fiction for and about gay and lesbian vampires, contact information for members, and other items of interest. Also operating for a few years in the early 1990s was the Secret Room, a Texas-based organization for gay/lesbian/bisexual fans of the Dark Shadows television series. Lesbian and gay interest in vampires is currently given focus on the Internet at the Queer Vampires site, http://www.queerhorror.com/Qvamp/.

Sources:

Bowen, Gary. Diary of a Vampire. New York: Rhinoceros, 1995. 232 pp.
Claxton, Crin. Scarlet Thirst. London: Diva Books, 2002. 270 pp.
Gomez, Jewelle. Ithaca. The Gilda Stories. New York: Firebrand Books, 1991. 252 pp.
Hughes, Finola, and Digby Diehl. Soapsuds. New York: Ballantine Books, 2005. 384 pp.
Jones, Stephen. The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide. London: Titan Books, 1993. 144 pp.
Keesey, Pam. Vamps: An Illustrated History of the Femme Fatale. San Francisco, CA: Cleis Press, 1997. 171 pp.
McMahan, Jeffrey N. Somewhere in the Night. Boston, MA: Alyson Publications, 1989. 182 pp.
———. Vampires Anonymous. Boston, MA: Alyson Publications, 1992. 253 pp.
Ramsland, Katherine. The Vampire Companion. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993. 506 pp.
Rice, Anne. Interview with the Vampire. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976. Rowe, Michael, and Thomas S. Roche, eds. Sins of Darkness: Tales of Men, Blood, and Immortality. Pittsburgh: Cleis Press, 1996. 173 pp.
Schiefelbein, Michael. Vampire Vow. Los Angeles: Alyson Publications, 2001. 203 pp.
———. Blood Brothers. Los Angeles: Alyson Publications, 2002. 220 pp.
———. Vampire Thrall. Los Angeles: Alyson Publications, 2003. 302 pp.
———. Vampire Transgression. New York: St Martin’s Press, 2006.