5 Comic Book Characters that have Come Out

Renee Montoya – Gotham Central #6-10

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Although she was technically publically ‘outed’ and we don’t actually see Renee come out to her parents, Montoya coming out to her parents is an important moment of LGBT issues in comic books. The experience turns out not to be the greatest one, however what makes this so significant is actually the pure emotion it portrays and not the act.

Before she does so there is a scene where she is asked by her brother why she wants to tell their parents as it will only make them ‘suffer’ and she defends herself by telling him that being a lesbian is part of her and that she refuses to lie to them anymore. This is made even more symbolic by the way she repeatedly shifts between speaking English and Spanish. The Spanish represents her heritage or identity whereas the English represents her ability to conform or seem ‘ordinary’ to everyone else in Gotham as well as the reader. This automatically can be paralleled with her hidden lesbian identity in relation to the heteronormative façade she portrays.

After coming out to her parents we are presented with her experience of how it went. Already aware that her parents will most likely not take her coming out to them well, we feel Renee’s pain and sense of loss the moment she tells her girlfriend what happened. Her mother’s extreme religious view towards her own daughter is heartbreaking yet depressingly realistic to some people’s own experiences with coming out to their parents. What adds to this heart crushing scene is when Renee breaks down into tears; until this moment Montoya has been portrayed as a hard faced cop who hasn’t let anyone get to her including her homophobic colleagues. The gritty realism of Renee Montoya’s coming out not only sheds light on homophobia in the workplace but also homophobia in strict religious households where the hate of homosexuality can overpower the love of a child.

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Iceman – Uncanny X-Men #600 (present drake) & All-New X-Men #40 (past drake)

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With the LGBT connotations that can be easily made between homosexuality and the struggles the x-men face in the comics, it would have been remiss not to have mentioned an x-man in this list. Not only is it an x-man but it is one of the first; Iceman, however his coming out is one of the most complicated due to time travel. In short, there are two versions of iceman; one from the past and one from the present.

The past Bobby Drake (Iceman) is 1st outed by Jean Grey through telepathy who questions him as to why he acts overly straight when she knows he is gay. Attempting to deny his sexuality, she confronts him with his own thoughts. In this sense, Jean Grey allows the past Iceman to truly be honest with himself.

Later on, the past version of Iceman confronts his present self over his discovery of himself and questions him why he hasn’t come out yet. The present Iceman repeats the same reason his younger self gave that he is scared of having to deal with being both a mutant and gay and one is easier to hide than the other. Again, this ‘coming out’ creates something that one battles with mentally into something physical, the past Iceman representing his honest self and the present Iceman representing the straight façade that a lot of gay people put on before coming out.

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The Pied Piper – The Flash #53

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This scene is given a strong impact as it is actually the first opening pages of the Fast Friends story line. It is brought about by a discussion between The Flash and the newly reformed Pied Piper talking about the rumours that the Joker being gay is true or not. The Flash naively states that there are telling features before Pied Piper claims that he can’t think of any villains that are homosexual other than himself. This automatically counters the Flash’s idea of the gay stereotype and ultimately breaks down the stereotype and stigma behind being gay with the suggestion that homosexuality isn’t evil.

Although The Flash is taken aback by the Pied Piper’s revelation and appears to leave him standing on the rooftop alone straight after, his coming out is handled very well. The Pied Piper’s coming out scene accepts that sometimes it can be an awkward situation to have however; it portrays Piper as being comfortable in his sexuality, stating his sexual orientation in a matter of fact way. Most importantly, DC doesn’t define the character by his sexuality but more his coming out is an addition to his character already.

Northstar – Alpha Flight #106

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Perhaps the most influential of all these gay comic book characters, Alpha Flight’s Northstar’s coming out is pretty blunt. However, what it makes up for in frankness it makes up for in pure bravery.

After adopting an abandoned baby girl born with AIDs who dies a few weeks later, Northstar uses his fame as a superhero and Olympic medal winner to publicly announce that his is gay in order to give media attention to HIV and how to prevent it. Although not a disease that only affects gay men, it was considered at the time of his coming out as one. Additionally, Northstar’s coming out was also Marvel’s first attempt at introducing a gay superhero into the universe, completely disregarding any trace of of the Comics Code Authority having ever prevented homosexuality from being discussed in comic books. Moreover Northstar also became the first X-Men to have a gay wedding showing that Northstar is a significant character in discussing gay rights in the Marvel universe.

By saying ‘I am gay’, Northstar not only represents how coming out can feel like you are being judged by everyone but also it gives hope that by coming out you can not only help yourself but help others around you; whether that be them going through the same feelings as you have or in some other way.

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Anole – New Mutants vol. 2

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Not an actual representation of coming out but one that would have made a big impact if it had gone ahead. There were plans for the Marvel writers to give Anole a coming out scene where his family and friends are horrified by his sexuality and ultimately reject him entirely. This would have lead Anole to have committed suicide. It would have been interesting to have seen the repercussions of such a negative experience of coming out as it would have drawn light on the gay teen suicide rate. However, by scrapping these plans, Marvel have still given Anole an important role in LGBT comic book history as he has slowly become recognised as a gay character who is comfortable in his own sexuality and at times has helped others around him come to terms with their own as well as shed light on some of the other experiences that the LGBT community have had.

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No two Gays about it: Celebrating our sexuality in different ways

First things first, I am gay. That is not how I usually introduce myself on a regular basis but I believe it is important when talking about LGBT+ topics. As I am sure anyone reading this is aware, it is not a choice, it is not anyone’s fault and it most definitely is not wrong. In fact, its just an aspect of what makes me, me.

What must be made clear however, is that being gay,bi, lesbian or transgender is not everything that makes someone themselves.  Being gay doesn’t mean I am not intelligent, funny or male. It doesn’t mean I like typically feminine things. Just like all women don’t follow the stereotypical female tropes, I don’t follow the gay stereotype, I dont use skin creams, I don’t wear make-up and I don’t like shopping. In fact, at first glance, you might not realise I am a homosexual. I am sure that after meeting me you might suspect I was but that is not to say that all gay people are easy to spot.  Just like you couldn’t tell who is a diabetic in a room full of people, you can’t always tell who is homosexual or bisexual in a room. Yes, some gay people define their complete identities around their sexuality because it is an important part of their life, and, after centuries of homosexuality being illegal and still being stigmatized by some, who can blame them.

However, being gay is not something that defines someone, they define what it means to be gay. Some people explicitly portray themselves as gay,bi or lesbian while others keep that part of them personal. I make no secret of my sexuality but I also don’t bring it up all the time. For me, my homosexuality is a small part of who I am, I am not ashamed by it, nor am I overly empowered by it, it is just a fact, I believe that in order to stop stigmatization of all forms of sexuality, we should stop Othering our sexuality from heterosexualism and instead normalise it, there is very little difference in any of them any way. We all love and want to be loved by someone after all.

‘For Bettel or for Worse’: What the Same-Sex Marriage means for Luxembourg and the EU

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What better way is there to celebrate Luxembourg’s decision to legalise gay marriage in January than their Prime Minister Xavier Bettel marrying his partner Gauthier Destenay? Not only does the marriage hold true meaning to the couple but also to Luxembourg itself; officially authenticating same-sex marriage into the country’s political history for all time.

Their marriage also signifies a defining moment in the EU’s history as he has become the first serving leader in the European Union to marry a same-sex partner but he is not the first government leader to marry a same-sex partner (that commendation goes to Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir.  Although Luxembourg is not the first EU country to legalise gay marriage, it is approximately tenth to do so, (the legalisation can become complicated with some countries accepting same-sex marriage abroad and others needing further legislation to be passed) this is a giant step for equal rights nonetheless, as Bettel claims ‘Luxembourg can set an example”.

The wedding also signifies a huge change in public attitude towards homosexuality as, although it was a private ceremony, they were greeted with acceptance by the public afterwards. However, it is not surprising that the public would be accepting as a poll in 2013 found that 83% of Luxembourgers supported gay marriage. Additionally, it suggests that the prejudice towards homosexuality is not as prevalent as it would have been a few decades ago where an openly gay man would never have been voted into leading a country let alone marry his partner.

Xavier Bettel has been open about his sexual orientation in the past , he believes that  “what happens at home remains private”  thereby normalising homosexuality as something that does not need to be constantly pointed out. Perhaps Bettel’s marriage will lead to a revolutionary change in homosexuality in politics and urge other countries to follow the lead and ultimately accept gay marriage as a legal practice after all Estonia’s Taavi Roivas was present. With a poll conducted in September 2012 finding only 34% of Estonians supported same-sex marriage and 46% supported registered partnerships, is it time for Estonia to finalise the bills to legalise gay marriage?  To conclude, Bettel’s latest tweet about his marriage sums up the reason for gay marriage perfectly; ‘We just have one life, live it’.

Insert Part A into Slot B – A Queer Misconception

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A recent interview I read with Russell T. Davies discussing his new drama Cucumber made me realise the assumption that society holds over homosexual relationships; that of anal sex. Anal sex is difficult to discuss without people concerning themselves over it being too graphic or unprofessional. This is mainly to the fact that it is a taboo when in fact discussing it should be just as acceptable as ‘normal’ sex is; if not more important due to this stigma.

Anal sex is usually linked to male homosexuality and gay men are thought to come in two categories; those who are the ‘bottom’ and those who are the ‘top’. This is a lie. Not all gay men actually engage in anal at all, in fact approximately only 36% of men report receiving anal sex and 34% report giving it. It is a choice and studies have suggested that the gay men that do, do not engage in it on a regular basis. Unfortunately this fact is mostly obscured from the general public as to be able to differentiate between the heterosexual ‘Us’ and homosexual ‘Them’ leading many gay men to feel pressured into engaging with anal sex when they may not have done so without societal influence. In this sense gay men may feel coerced into pushing the boundaries as to what they themselves feel comfortable with.

Additionally, the dreaded question all gay men have come to accept; ‘Are you a top or bottom?’ not only suggests that all gay couples participate in anal sex but also furthers that assumption. Especially when many gay sexual relationships do not keep to designated ‘roles’. It is simply tactless to ask such a question; the equal question to a straight couple would be asking what positions they adopt in bed. Not only is it crude but is also tactless to ask such a personal question when first meeting someone. It is as if homosexual men should be comfortable to discuss their sex life with a complete stranger because, once again, the cultural stereotype of a gay man show them to be promiscuous animals who can only talk about sex. This is complete nonsense of course because if all they did talk about was sex then the stigma of gay sex would be non-existent. The question is the catch-22 of the Gay man’s world; straight people want to know about their position in bed but are disgusted to be given more detail than that.

The actual truth is that anal sex is not a gay thing at all; it is true that more gay men do have more of it than straight couples on average but, according to a report in America, 44% of straight men and 36% of straight women admitted to having tried it at least once in their lives. Anal sex is merely a sexual act which came to be associated with the homosexual lifestyle and just like some heterosexual couples do not enjoy the idea of it, the same can be said for gay men.

It is a fact that some people find the thought of two men engaging in anal sex disgusting and so it is possible to see why today the act is still rarely discussed despite the increase in straight couples trying it. Yet, it is essential that the taboo on ‘gay sex’ be lifted. The most dangerous thing about sexual activity is being unprepared and unaware of the risks, thus with no one discussing anal sex puts not only gay men but straight women at risk too.

Movie Review: ‘Pride

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Pride is a British ‘dramedy’ written by Stephen Beresford and directed by Matthew Warchus. It depicts the true story of a group of lesbian and gay activists from London calling themselves L.G.S.M (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) who helped raise money for the families affected by the miners’ strike in 1984 during the reign of Thatcher’s government. Due to the National Union of Mineworkers’ worry of being associated with homosexuality L.G.S.M decide to go straight to the source and offer their donations to a random mining village in Wales; the Dulais Valley. With no idea how the locals will react in such a small, isolated village, L.G.S.M are invited to its town hall which results in an unlikely alliance between two oppressed groups during Thatcher’s time in power.

In honesty, I was hesitant to watch the socio-political and historical feel good film due to the fact that a number of similar films share a depressing tone focussing heavily on the negative circumstances surrounding homosexuality such as the homophobic brutality that took place in the streets. However, I was glad and very relieved to discover that Pride concentrates largely on the positivity of how two minorities can work together to attempt to oppose the government’s regressive actions. Although, it did contain some emotional scenes which aided in presenting the spectrum of public opinion at the time, it did so without losing its uplifting vibe. Similar to many of its peers though, the film is based on a part of history that very few people are aware of to do with the mining strikes of 1984 (my parents are both Welsh and come from the same area and had no idea about L.G.S.M’s influence on the area). However, what makes Pride such a must-see film is that it does not simply stop at informing the public of a group of forgotten heroes but attempts to change the public perception that is held over a very dark decade of British history as well.

I must make clear that the film is not only for homosexuals (or the Welsh); it is a film that can be enjoyed by straight people as well. It delves deeper than merely a movie about homosexuality; it explores several themes such as acceptance, community and struggle. Obviously it is these three themes give the L.G.S.M and the small Welsh village its similarities which help them accept each other.

With a plethora of celebrity actors merging with a number of lesser known actors such as Bill Nighy and Andrew Scott, Pride is not entirely a roar with laughter film but the audience will find themselves beaming from ear to ear throughout with, as the name suggests, pride.

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Gay Rights: The Forgotten Movement

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Let’s face it, the British education system could be worse, granted we have had some ‘interesting’ characters attempting to ‘improve’ it but in all honesty the average person on the street would make more an improvement than Gove ever did. In fact, here’s something I think would be worth adding to a specification in education – I call it the forgotten movement.

We are taught two major equal rights movements in school; Black Civil Rights and Women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. We are encouraged to remember those who struggled to achieve them such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Emily Pankhurst but one such movement that is denied much exposure is the Gay rights movement.  Are we to assume that people who fought for gay equality such as Harvey Milk and the Wolfenden Committee (a group I am certain a number of us have never even heard about) are not as important as the names we can all recall from our history classes? 

I must make clear that I do not believe that teachers are to blame for this overlook as I am perfectly aware that they already have a tough enough job being expected to teach troublemaking students and dealing with irate parents who do not understand that teachers cannot be blamed for their children skipping school and getting bad grades. I blame the education sector itself! Perhaps it is due to Thatcher’s introduction of Section 28 in Britain which banned the teaching of homosexuality in fear of promoting it in 1986 until its long needed abolishment in 2003 which has left a gap in the education sector. However, can we truly accept that such a major movement is still being ignored in all history specifications for over a decade now? With the upcoming release of Warchus’ Pride this year, could there soon be a change to this in the classroom?

Organizations such as Stonewall seem to have been just that; ‘Stonewalled’ out of children’s education and instead they have, under Gove’s ruling, been indoctrinated into the Church of England through the introduction of King James Bibles throughout British schools. It seems to me that rather than children becoming ‘corrupted’ for learning about homosexual liberal rights they have been forced to accept religious doctrine in school. The smell of hypocrisy is stagnant.

Shouldn’t we be enforcing equal rights in school? It is no wonder so many people remain in the closet for so long. Just because homosexuality is not as obvious to see as skin colour or gender does not mean it is not just as important. In fact, it is quite significant because of the fact that it can’t be seen. We can’t allow our children to grow up the repressed and naïve way we did. We all know someone in school that was bullied for being different, some of us even were that kid so surely the possibility to educate kids about what it means to be gay and what homosexuals have fought for in order to prevent just one kid from being verbally abused with homophobic slurs is worth the change.

Gays vs. “Gals” – Recognising the Common Enemy

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It is interesting what a weekly gossip and catch-up session can uncover. Amongst the social hubbub of drowned out voices and the clattering of teacups found regularly in one of my favourite haunts; the Costa Café hidden inside Waterstones, a friendly discussion between myself and my close friend Bryony took place. The question, you may ask, was most likely one that very few would even think to consider. As a gay man and a straight woman (please ignore the cliché) we discussed which group had been more oppressed in Britain; the rape of one’s wife was once legal whereas homosexual men have been arrested and even killed for their sexuality and both still find derogatory terms used towards them and are generally treated differently than the dominant heterosexual man.

Of course this discussion was in jest but it remains a curious thing that we both felt the need to compare a form of sexuality against a gender instead of seeing the similarities in our oppression. After coming to a stalemate, we finally came to the agreement that we should not be discussing the oppression of different groups but instead uniting against a common enemy; patriarchal Britain. I must make it clear, I do not mean all heterosexual men form this hegemonic ideology against women and gays but that it is generally societal norms and conservative views continued from generations before which have led to the continued subjugation we argued about.

In fact, it is difficult to pinpoint certain forms of sexism and homophobia as you truly cannot put oneself in another’s shoes exactly unless, of course, you are both. Since I am a male who defines himself as a feminist, I was shocked to discover that there were certain sexist things that I had not picked up on which Bryony had opened my eyes to. One of these revelations was that female tennis players are discussed by the commentators for what they wear as well as their relationships with men (Eugenie Bouchard’s interview at the Australian Open this year about which celebrity she would like to date comes to mind).

Men (and women) are naïve to so many forms of sexism because we have grown up surrounded by it at all times and so can find it problematic to identify it. Similarly, homophobia can sometimes be dismissed easily as well because it can be left unnoticed or unchallenged; the most obvious example seen within schools is the word ‘gay’ being used for describing something as negative, wrong or simply as an insult. But how many people notice how the majority of homosexual men are stereotypically portrayed on television, if at all, or how homosexuality is described in rap music? With lyrics such as ‘You fags think it’s all a game’ and ‘so gay I can barely say it with a ‘straight’ face’ in Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ it is clear that homosexuality remains stigmatized. I don’t mean to accuse Eminem or the majority of rappers of homophobia but rather blame society for allowing the practice of using homosexuality in derogatory terms, which rap exemplifies due to its gritty style.

From a childish argument between two best friends, a rather serious issue of overall oppression from heterosexual patriarchy was revealed. It is too easy to remain self-indulged in how the groups we belong to have been oppressed in both the past and present but we must open our eyes to how others are also being oppressed, after all, we both want the same outcome; a society that treats us all as equals no matter our gender and sexuality. If we accepted the fact that heterosexual patriarchal Britain oppresses all then we can join together to destabilize a repressive, backwards view from infecting another generation. It has been over 200 years; don’t you think it is time for a change?