Image courtesy of Carly Findlay

Not your Halloween costume

Carly Findlay writes about the 'extremely harmful' impacts of people dressing up as those with facial differences and skin conditions for Halloween.

It’s Halloween tomorrow.

Please don’t dress up as people with face differences and skin conditions, or as disabled people, for Halloween. It’s extremely harmful.

You might think it’s just a fun form of creative expression, but when people like me are constantly being represented as scary, villainous and evil, it gets really tiring.

One of the most devastating things about having Ichthyosis is when kids are scared of my face.

A few years ago I did a radio interview when after I sadly said that “[Kids pointing at me in the street] can be really hard, I don’t want to scare kids,”; the host said, “That can’t be good at Halloween” – referring to my face. It was humiliating and disrespectful.

And so, I strongly believe that Halloween costumes that emulate facial differences; as well as other types of disability – including the use of mobility aids – perpetuate that damaging narrative. They position us as the enemy, as evil, as fearsome. Costumes like these also suggest that our facial differences, skin conditions and disability are temporary.

My face and body are not a costume. Those dressing up as a person with a facial difference, skin condition or disability can take their costume off at the end of the day, and be free from the mocking and staring and discrimination. That’s a privilege that me and my community doesn’t have. And it can take years for us to build prideful feelings about ourselves – and that can be shaken quickly, because of the way we are represented in costume and in film.

I also believe this is cultural appropriation – just like dressing up as a Black person when you’re white; or a transgender person when you’re cisgender. Don’t.

I do know some people with ichthyosis and facial differences see Halloween as a time to dress up and blend in – and that’s great because they’re in control of their portrayal.

But it’s not for non-disabled people to appropriate our appearances.

There are so many ways to celebrate Halloween – without harming people with facial differences, skin conditions and disability. Be creative and have fun without hurting us.

Check out the important work done on Halloween and also #IAmNotYourVillain by Changing Faces and Face Equality International and other individuals.

This article was originally published on Carly Findlay's website here and has been republished with permission, and edited for length and clarity.