Gay Vampires


Outlining the history of queer vampires is difficult. Differentiation of (and fear of), those who are sexually interested in the same gender is very new, at least in a historical context. For many centuries, and in many cultures, same-sex attraction was not talked about or even an issue. Some cultures considered gay men and lesbians to be closer to God, magical or 'touched' in some way. Other cultures considered same-sex sexual attraction to be normal and healthy and a part of life, and some of those still insisted that a heterosexual marriage still occur, at least for procreational purposes. Because of that, the modern concept of 'gay' as a unique type of person didn't really exist, as shown by the word 'homosexual' being coined in the late 1800s.

Horror is also as elusive. In historical literature there is the strong differentiation between good and evil. With the advent of Christianity things were by God, or by Satan and hence were inherently right or wrong; little was ever done to try to bridge the two. Before a century or two ago, very few have ever considered the vampire other than a source of pure evil or, at best, an unthinking supernatural force. Never would these people have sought to understand the vampire. In fact, only recently has literature begun to explore the world from a vampire's point-of-view. This seems to be a necessary factor for the history of queer vampires, until we seek to understand the vampire, we cannot give it any traits. An evil entity does evil things, nothing more need be said. An evil entity doesn't love, or have feelings, because that would make it human.

Taking these two together, horror and sexuality rarely crossed, even in heterosexual terms, until within the last couple centuries.

The world's mythology is tremendous. If a little old woman in a small Eastern European village tells her children a story half remembered from her own childhood, modifying it to keep her children from wandering around a treacherous pass, then BING a new breed of vampire may have been born. Due to this, there are literally countless forms of vampires that have existed, the exact number depending on how you define vampires. Of these, a few forms of vampires/demons have the ability to change their gender, but most do it only to be able to 'lure victims' or procreate. The incubus and succubus are a type of vampire who are the most associated with sex. Incubi (male) and succubi (female) are thought to be demons who live off of the sexual energies of humans. Often times, they are said to come to people in their dreams and lead them into levels of depravity and ultimately to destroy their souls. These demons are generally described as beautiful naked women that would come to priests in their dreams and tempt them, or men who would tempt nuns. Because the Christian culture considered sex to be evil, sex became a natural path for a vampire. Unfortunately there are no recorded any accounts of men being tempted by incubi, nor women of succubi, but the potential exists and may still yet be uncovered. Although it does seem likely that most cultures open-minded enough to accept same-sex attraction probably had no need to vilify sex.



In terms of written history, countess Elizabeth Bathory is often sited as one of the biggest historical influences on vampire lore. She was a sixteenth century Hungarian countess who supposedly bathed in the blood of young women in order to keep her youth. Legend has it that upon abusing a servant, some of the girl's blood fell on the Countess' hand. The Countess swore that her hand looked younger because of it and began her ritual of bathing in blood. While there is some skepticism about the truth of her bloody baths, her sadistic tendencies are well documented. When arrested, the deaths of between one hundred - fifty and six hundred - fifty girls were attributed to her. At no time after her arrest did she ever show remorse for her killings. Upon questioning her, it was shown that she found the girl's murders erotic. Because of this, historical accounts allude to her bisexual and lesbian interests.

As is well known, the character Dracula was inspired by Romanian Count Vlad Tepes. Information about the Count has never revealed that he had any interests in males, nor that he ever drank blood. But, ironically, there is some debate about the person who made him famous, Bram Stoker. Bram Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847. Upon reaching college, he attended a performance by Sir Henry Irving. Overwhelmed by his performance, Bram wrote a glowing review of the play for his college newspaper. Sir Henry was so impressed by the review that he immediately invited Bram to meet him. The two hit it off tremendously and became the best of friends for the next 30 years, where Bram was hired by Sir Henry to manage the theater and Irving's career. Immediately after starting work for Sir Irving, Bram began to court his future wife, Florence Balcombe, an ex-flame of the infamous Oscar Wilde. For the rest of his life, Bram was inseparable from the flamboyant Sir Henry. Sir Henry died in 1905 and a devastated Bram Stoker died in 1912 , possibly from syphilis, at the age of 64.


The earliest literature on queer vampires occurred in the 19th century. History has not been kind to gays and lesbians, unfortunately, so the content is limited to subtext. As most gay people know, subtext can be incredibly obvious to the ones willing to see it, but still denied by those who don't want to. So while most agree that the following works have queer content within them, there will always be a few who may argue it, preferring to see the content as 'friendship.'

One of the earliest references to lesbian vampires is in a poem written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge entitled "Christabel" and published in 1817. In it, the lass Geraldine and and the vampire Christabel desire each other strongly. This poem was later turned into the story "Carmilla" in 1871 by J. Sheridan LeFanu. These works are so well known that Christabel and Carmilla are the most common names used in lesbian vampire stories.

Lesbian lead the forefront of the queer vampire story, but not by too much. The earliest piece of literature referencing a gay male vampire occurred only a short while later, in 1884. It is a German piece written in a collection of short stories called "Matrosengeschichten" (Sailor Stories). The story itself is entitled Manor, named for one of the characters in the story. In it two young boys fall in love. One of them dies, but returns to the other nightly after this.

The author of this book is Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, who is also known as the first modern gay activist. Ulrichs coined the term Uranismus (Uranism), his word for homosexuality, which included Lesbians ("Urninds"), Gay men, ("Urnings"), Bisexuals ("Uranodionings"), and Transpersons (Zwitter). Ulrichs felt that Uranians were natural, not sick or evil, and spoke out about his beliefs. As might be expected due to when he lived, his orientation made his life difficult.

While these stories gave a foundation upon which to build, the modern traditions of vampires, and especially queer vampires, draw heavily from Anne Rice's collection of novels "The Vampire Chronicles." Homoerotic in nature, the books focus on the vampire's point of view, showing them as having similar drives, fears and hopes as anyone else. While sexual desire is never explicitly stated, the decision by Louis and Lestat's (the main characters of Anne Rice's books - both male vampires) to become a 'non-traditional family' is. The language used to describe the vampires and their relationship suggest more than friendship between them.

Other books of note include: "Gay Vampire" by Davy S. Written in 1969, this awful gay pulp novel was the first 'underground' English book featuring a gay male vampire. "Somewhere in the Night" by Jeffrey McMahan, published in 1989, featured the first published short story with an openly gay vampire. The "Gilda Stories", in 1991 by Jewelle Gomez, was the first novel with openly lesbian vampires as the central characters, and was the first to feature queer vampires of color. "Daughter's of Darkness" published in 1993 by Pam Keesey is the first book openly claiming to be lesbian vampire stories on the cover. Complimenting this, "Brothers of the Night" by Michael Rowe and Thomas S. Roche published in 1997 is the first out collection of gay vampire stories



While gays and lesbians have been well employed within Hollywood, homophobia has always reigned there. Production Codes and other 'obsenity rules' have prevented queer images from being portrayed in a positive light, or even at all. Dracula's Daughter, in 1936, is credited as the first lesbian vampire movie. Because of the codes, the lesbian content was forced to be very subtle, and is easily dismissed. In this movie, Dracula's daughter despises who she is and tries to cure herself of her vampirism. She tries everything to cure herself, including psychotherapy, but finds herself returning to her old ways and seducing women and men into becoming her victims. This movie was a good sign of the times, with having a thinly veiled lesbian attempting to find a cure for her sad and evil life through therapy.

Little was created after this point, due to Hollywood's restrictive codes, until the late 60s. The early 1970s is termed 'a Golden Age of lesbian vampire movies' by Pam Keesey. At least twenty movies with lesbian vampire themes were created during this time. Most (if not all) were created by and for straight men, including the many movies made by Jess Franco and Jean Rollins. For gay men, for whom few movies still have been made, "Death of P'Town" is the first, made in 1963. Totalling 7 minutes, the main character of this movie is a cross-dressing, gay vampire. This movie is extremely hard to find and has never been released on video.



TV has not had many references at all to queer vampires (for that matter, it has avoided dealing with almost every type of queer as much as possible). Here gay males take the lead in a 1969 BBC production "Does Dracula Really Suck", which is credited as the first gay vampire movie. While it is doubtful that this movie actually exists (the research is inconclusive as of yet) it is still credited as such. Only within the last year have we seen any queer vampire stories: including the bacchai episode in Xena, Warrior Princess "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in 1998 and "Dopplegangland" and "The Wish" on Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1999.

Those who have watched Xena are aware of the lesbian undertones between the two main characters. In "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", the followers of Bacchus, ancient greek god of wine, are portrayed as vampires. All female, they still portray a large amount of sensuality between themselves, and show a strong interest towards Gabrielle.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (the series) introduced an alternate dimension in which Buffy didn't come to Sunnydale, a town on a hell-mouth. In this reality, her two friends Willow and Xander have been transformed into vampires. We are introduced to the characters in "The Wish", but it isn't until the episode entitled "Dopplegangland" that we learn of vampire Willow's sexual interest in both females and males. The episode even goes so far as to suggest that the traits of vampires are based on the traits of the humans they used to be, suggesting that Willow herself might not be completely straight. This half-said comment by Angel ended up being tremendous foreshadowing into future episodes, where human/witch Willow chooses her new girlfriend Tara over her old boyfriend.



Coleridge, Samuel. "Christabel." The Portable Coleridge. Viking Press, Inc., New York. 1950.

Garber, Eric and Lyn Paleo. Uranian Worlds: A Guide to Alternative Sexuality in Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Second Edition. G.K. Hall and Co., Boston. 1990.

Garber, Eric. "Introduction." Embracing the Dark. Alyson Publications, Inc., Boston. 1991

Keesey, Pam. "Introduction." Dark Angels.Cleis Press, San Francisco. 1995.

---. "Introduction." Daughters of Darkness. Cleis Press, Pittsburg. 1993.

---. Vamps: an Illustrated History of the Femme Fatale. Cleis Press, San Francisco. 1997.

Melton, J. Gordon. "Lesbian Vampires", "Homosexual Vampires." The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead. Visible Ink, Detroit. 1994.

---. Videohound's Vampires on Video. Visible Ink, Detroit. 1997.

LeFanu, J. Sheridan. "Carmilla." Best Ghost Stories. Dover Pub., New York. 1964.

Lombardi-Nash, Michael. "Karl Heinrich Ulrichs' Manor: Homosexuality and Vampirism". current@ November 1999.



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