The idea that vampire stories could be cloaked narratives about homosexuality first occurred to me when I read M.T. Anderson’s Thirsty, where parallels between being a vampire and being gay are quite overt. Vampirism hits these characters at puberty, and carries with it both sensuality and feelings of dread/shame/secrecy that made the similarity impossible to miss. It is an intriguing metaphor – and I’m definitely not the first person to point it out. Here are some of my observations – there are probably a lot more interesting parallels.
1. Most vampire stories are stories of abstinence. The “hero” vampires are almost always the ones who abstain from the core essence of being a vampire – feeding on human blood. It’s who they are and what they crave, but these plots suggest that good old morality can make you resist carnal temptations, and for doing that, you get to be the lauded one in your group of outcasts.
2. Sex = death in many of these stories. For some reason if they have sex they might kill someone or lose their soul due to happiness, etc. Sex = death, danger, fear but is still usually worth it after all. This makes vampires a good parallel for any type of sex that society tells you not to have, thus why Twilight is also about not having premarital sex.
3. “Innocent people” are often brought into a life of danger by being attracted to “someone they shouldn’t.” They often learn that they were wrong about vampires and then proceed to discover their own desire.
4. The process of being turned into a vampire has parallels with changing gender. Your old self experiences a minor death and is brought back as someone new – still you but different.
5. Vampires are often misunderstood and have to live on the periphery of society, and often become estranged from their families.
6. Vampires often hide who they are and have to essentially “come out” to people who are not vampires.
Are vampire stories about fighting intolerance or are they conservative warnings about the dangers of non-traditional sexuality? It probably depends on the story, but while some of them do feel like warnings about “forbidden desire,” most of them feel more cathartic and convention-challenging than anything. I do think a lot of the metaphors are relevant to times when being gay was particularly unaccepted in society. Maybe these parallels will no longer be relevant in the more tolerant future.