Since the dawn of the term “monstrosity,” queerness has been interwoven with the concept of disruptive, hybrid identities — identities par for the course in paranormal stories. There is a tight connection visible through the portrayal of the werewolf, a vilified creature in a futile fight with their own physical reality, which will often ostracize them from “normal” society. Although it may not be as blatant to those outside the LGBTQ+ community, werewolves have served as inspiration for adaptive and radical fanworks within queer representation due to the similarities in experience. In essence, queerness and lycanthropy mirror one another on three main fronts — the struggle with physical reality, the repudiation from greater society and the shame associated with the “monstrosity” ascribed by societal norms.

In recent years, we have seen more of an assimilation culture occur in queer media whereby queer stories are injected into traditionally heteronormative plots. Rules like the Hays Code, which prohibited the portrayal of queerness in films and shows between the 1930s and 1950s, made clearly queer stories almost impossible to produce at all. But, that didn’t mean none existed, as people began turning to queer-coding, the use of queer call signs, like flamboyancy or cross-dressing, to subtextually depict a character as part the LGBTQ+ community. Queer-coding stemmed from Hollywoods’ self-imposed guidelines and led to certain archetypes becoming synonymous with queer people. Thus, the rise of allegorical queerness began to define generations of queer media, in which the werewolf began symbolizing homosexuality in queer circles.

The physical aspect of the werewolf is akin to several queer identities. Most explicitly homosexual people have an identity that, like the werewolf, allows them to assimilate into general culture most of the time, but once the “transformation” happens, they are unveiled and no longer able to hide this core aspect of their personality. Further, the physicality of the werewolf’s transformation has deeply troubling yet painfully accurate parallels to queer puberty, where one’s own body becomes an “other” that the self must reckon with. Plus, much like the unassuming queer person, werewolves are forcibly sent on a journey of religious morality due to their inherent “monsterhood.” Obviously, the connection between queerness and monstrosity stems from the homophobic perspective of queerness being negative and unnatural, but this does not erase the fact that homophobia is a very tangible part of being queer, both externally and internally. Both identities exemplify alienation — the terrifying occurrence of looking up at the shepherd and around at the flock, yet looking down and realizing that you are wearing sheep’s clothes. Understanding one’s unique yet inextricable identity and coming to terms with the queerness — that is to say oddness — of one’s self-expression, despite potential negative retaliation from dominant culture, is the unifying battle. Thus, humanizing the paranormal creatures that mirror queer identity is essential to the healing and support of queer audiences. As Jaquelin Elliott describes it, “Ever the outcast, werewolves destabilize gender and eschew sexual binaries. Lycanthropic monstrosity is rooted in their disruption of the moral and social fabric of a normative society.”

Thus, being a werewolf doesn’t bode well for a seamless assimilation into non-monster society, similar to the difficulties of being queer in a heteronormative society. For ages, there have been parallels drawn between the secrets kept as a werewolf and the secrets kept as a queer person, where both groups must only reveal their identities in trusted circles for fear of capture and retribution. Both identities present a very real threat of excommunication and to personal safety. Revealing this secret to the wrong person may lead to the loss of social circles, public safety or job positions, as was the case with Remus Lupin, Harry Potter’s lycanthropic professor. Lupin needed to keep his identity a secret because “other parents weren’t likely to want their children exposed to [him],” and, once the wrong person found out about his condition, he was removed from his teaching position as a result of werewolf prejudice. Sound familiar? This exact scenario — a systematic and bias-led attempt by the majority class to eliminate all influences of queerness within society — has happened to queer people across the world for decades.

Additionally, a more explicit parallel lies in the “coming out” trope within werewolf media, which is clearly akin to the coming out of a queer person. An example of this is in the 1986 movie “Teen Wolf,” in which the main character, Scott, reveals his lycanthropy to his best friend, Stiles: “Scott: Stiles, I got something to tell you. It’s kind of hard, but … // Stiles: Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me that you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it. // Scott: I’m not a fag. I’m … a werewolf.” Although this rendition obviously approaches the queer parallels of lycanthropy with far less tact than is preferred, it is still a great example of how similar these experiences can be and why so many werewolf characters are called queer-coded by audiences who are yearning for blatant representation.

Although not the goal of the original tale, werewolves are clearly emblematic of queerness in a way that demands a certain type of care and thoughtfulness when crafting their stories. For example, “Lupin’s condition of lycanthropy was a metaphor for those illnesses that carry a stigma, like HIV and AIDS,” as confirmed by J.K. Rowling. However, the fans’ demands for a queer love story between him and his friend, Sirius Black, were snuffed out in favor of a late-stage romance with a woman — whose queerness has also been extensively argued in the fandom — shortly before both of their deaths. Acknowledgment of the inherent queerness of werewolves is necessary when exploiting their stories for the queer-synonymous drama of alienation, internalized hatred, community and rebirth.

However, just the acknowledgement of this parallel does little good for the healing of queer traumas as it relates to the issues mentioned previously. As Michael Elias put it, “[Queer people] have long been saying ‘we belong.’ We are not like ‘others.’ We are not the slurs that are thrown at us. We are not monsters,” as a way to reconcile feelings of ostracism. The desire to reassure oneself after being called a monster is natural, especially in a paradoxical system where the world that has rejected minorities also remains the only world that they can be a part of. However, the move to reject the “monstrous” parts of oneself is more detrimental than helpful in the long run. “As long as monsters exist, the system that has created them and their oppressors will exist,” and thus the answer is not to renounce one’s monstrosity but to embrace it as a strength. In an ideal world, the distinction between “monsters” and “normal people” would not exist. However, in the world we live in, the role of the queer monster can provide a sense of identity and understanding, as well as a way for queer communities to break free from heteronormative expectations of “good guys” and instead redefine one’s own unique and queer goodness.

Emily Vega is a junior majoring in English.