Hi. My name is Tony. I am 48 years old. I am a psychologist and coach. I love comic books and sci fi. I am a spirit junkie. I am a first generation Cuban-American. Oh, and I am an out and proud homosexual. With that being said, I love the path that comic book media is taking with introducing or outing LGBT characters. However, this new movement of #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is a bit much. It’s seems more sensationalist and not organic whatsoever.
Here is a little back-story. When I was growing up, homosexuality was barely out of the psychiatric manual for mental disorders. My role models for gayness were Liberace and Rip Taylor. In the last 80’s/early 90’s, being gay was synonymous with catching AIDS and dying. I did not have Ricky Martin, Matt Bomer or Neil Patrick Harris to look up to with regards to a positive gay role model. I had flamboyant ambiguous piano players; center squares as well as closeted men dying of AIDS like Rock Hudson. I have been a comic book fan since I can remember learning how to read. It was my escape from the fear of being gay myself. I always wondered if any of the heroes I look up to were gay. It was not until 1992, when Alpha Flight #106 was published and mutant super-hero, Northstar, came out of the closet. I was so excited to see this happen although the emergence of similar heroes would take some time.
While we have come a long way in LGBT representation in comic book media, it seems that there are two trends. One is organically introduce and/or out an LGBT character in comic book media. The other is this sensationalism that seems to happen when sales of a book are dropping or the publishers want to increase sales or stir controversy and make a long standing character gay inorganically or fans are just being idiots like this give Captain America a boyfriend movement. While the thought of seeing Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan having a bareback orgy is quite titillating, I don’t see why we need to make Captain America gay just because fans demanded it.
Let’s take a look at some of the characters in comic book media who identify as LGBT and how this storyline was treated:
Northstar – outed himself in the aforementioned Alpha Flight Volume 1 #106. With the exception of few issues during Chuck Austen’s run of Uncanny X-Men, Northstar has never been portrayed overly flamboyant and never embodying any gay stereotypes. He even had his wedding grace issues of Astonishing X-Men. Northstar being a gay man always seemed rather organic for me. While he can be quite pompous and unrelatable at times, he’s still out and proud. His homosexuality was always alluded to so his coming out wasn’t a horrible surprise.
Wiccan and Hulkling (Yong Avengers) – no cuter gay male couple exist in the comic book universe. Their sexual orientation, while always prominent, has been treated rather organically and never in a sensationalist manner. They tackle universal threats as members of the Young Avengers/Avengers AIM or the day-to-day stressors of being young people in love. Again, organic depiction of LGBT characters because their sexual orientation does not define them.
Selina Kyle (Catwoman) – Selina Kyle’s Catwoman has always been a staple in the Batman mythos. She always portrayed herself to be a very sex positive individual. However, they recently outed her in issue #39 of her current series as a bisexual woman. While not completely sensationalist outing, I question the motives of outing her now as sales on her book are dipping and I don’t think her book is part of the DC Rebirth universe.
Midnighter and Apollo – A gay version of Batman and Superman. Apollo seems more natural to me as he struggles with his same gender attraction while literally having the powers of Superman. Midnighter can be a bit pompous but what I do like about him is that he a masculine gay man. A very nice mix in this coupling (although I think that are broken up at this time). They were introduced in the pages of The Authority as gay and it did seem natural.
Batwoman – Strong female character who has no issue with being a card carrying lesbian woman. Her series even touched on the issue of her being outed while at West Point (before they did away with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell). Very natural storylines with little to no sensation.
Iceman – Both younger and older versions were outed. While it makes sense that Bobby Drake was gay, if one takes into account his atrocity of a relationship history, the outing storylines were atrociously handled. Young Bobby is out by young Jean because she read stray thoughts from his mind and essentially forced him out of the closet. Older Bobby was given an intervention. Come on folks, this could have been handled a little but more tactfully. Definitely sensationalist.
Anole (X-Men) – He’s one of my favorite gay male superheroes as he is the most naturally portrayed in my opinion. He is neither über masculine nor über feminine. He’s just a gay dude with green scaly skin. His storyline has been very organic character development since his introduction.
Bunker (Teen Titans) – I can’t stand this character’s depiction. Here is the chance to show a strong homosexual Hispanic man and they write him like a contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race. As a Hispanic gay man myself, I am often offended by Bunker’s effiminate mannerisms. His very over the top feminine gender expression has always struck me as quite sensationalist.
In thinking about and researching this article, I found that there is a lack of true transgender characters in the media. Yes, you have folks resurrected in the body of the opposite gender or taking pills to transform into the opposite gender so someone can be attracted to them. However, this does not make someone transgender.
Alysa Yeoh (Batgirl) – Alysa is a supporting character in the new Instagram Batgirl series (God, I hate it). However, not only did she organically come out to Barbara Gordon as a transgender female, she also married her cisgender girlfriend in the same series. Well done. However, the same series had that transgender debacle which will be corrected once the trade paperback comes out.
Jo (LumberJanes) – while I don’t read this book (and I have made a commitment to do so), articles on Jo’s coming out as a transgender woman were all very positive. From what I have read, very organic.
So listen up writers (and rabid fans), if you want to make good LGBT characters in comic book media, don’t force it on us and don’t use it as a sales ploy. Let this evolved organically or matter-of-factly. This makes for more relatability and less stigmatizing to us proud LGBT comic geeks. There hasn’t been, that I can see, a natural evolution for Steve Rogers to come out of the closet at this point (unless they do an Earth-2 version of him à la Alan Scott). That being said, please #DontGiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend