June is traditionally designated as LGBT Pride Month in the United States and we’re celebrating! LGBT people have historically been involved in geek culture whether it’s been as directors (James Whale), writers (Clive Barker), and actors (Portia de Rossi), but for all of the behind-the-scenes involvement, LGBT issues and characters were, for many years off-limits on the page and screen. Formally banned from film and comic books and informally excluded from other media, LGBT issues had to hide in the subtext.
But there came a brighter day when we saw open and proud LGBT characters. With a growing acceptance of LGBT people, we are seeing more diversity within our geek communities. The media we love is beginning to explore issues of sexual orientation and gender identity and even asking us to reimagine our favorite characters as queer. Gone are the days of “very special episodes.” LGBT people are being represented as much more than just a gender or sexual minority. We are getting better at creating more inclusive characters.
Because of this (not to mention the historic Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality) we have many different characters to celebrate right now, but here are ten favorites!
10. Ramona Flowers
Appears in: Scott Pilgrim (comics) (2004-2010), Scott Pilgrim vs The World (film) (2010)
We start off our list with the object of Scott Pilgrim’s affections, Ramona Flowers. In both the film adaptation and the graphic novel, Ramona Flowers is very much the stereotypical manic pixie dream girl. She is quirky, unobtainable, and always in the process of finding herself. And of course, Scott Pilgrim is forced to win her love by fighting her exes, which just happens to include ex-boyfriends and an ex-girlfriend.
Whenever Scott discusses her “ex-boyfriends” Ramona is quick to correct him because they are “exes.” And although she makes several biphobic remarks (“I thought it didn’t count,” etc.) she’s still one of the most well-known representations of sexually fluid women in comic books.
Appears in: Super Mario Brothers franchise (1987 – present)
Birdo’s gender has been controversial since her first appearance in 1987. The controversy stems from the fact that the original Super Mario Bros. 2 manual describes Birdo as “Ostro- He thinks he’s a girl and he spits eggs from his mouth. He’d rather be called Birdetta.” Apparently this gender bending was too much and the manual was changed in later editions to not mention gender at all. People have identified Birdo as a transgender character or at least a gender bender.
There has been a lot of fuss over the fact that Yoshi and Birdo are usually depicted as dating. And what does that MEAN? Silly people. But now that we mention it, Yoshi is a male dinosaur that lays eggs. So maybe they’re both transgender…
8. Sailor Neptune
Appears in: Sailor Moon franchise
Sailor Neptune is one of the most badass characters in Sailor Moon. She is depicted as feminine, beautiful, and musically gifted. And her fighting skills aren’t too shabby either. If you have only ever watched the American dubbed version of Sailor Moon you might wonder why she is even on the list. In American versions her relationship with Sailor Uranus is familial but in the original version, Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus are dating.
This kind of censorship is unfortunately all too commonplace for LGBT characters. Sadly, this isn’t the only case where a character was originally designed to be LGBT but was retracted or censored. That’s unfortunate since Sailor Moon was clearly attempting to represent a group of diverse young women.
Appears in: Doctor Who
Next we come to our favorite Sapphic Silurian in Doctor Who. After The Doctor accidentally woke her up from her subterranean slumber, she was stuck among the humans. Though she was hesitant to live among the “mammals” her heart eventually betrayed her and she fell in love with her maid, Jenny. They married and began solving crimes and mysteries in Victorian London. Together they managed to solve crimes that left Scotland Yard baffled. They have joined the Doctor on many occasions and even saved his life a few times.
Vastra’s portrayal is pretty progressive in terms of its normalization. There is no “very special episode” of Doctor Who. Vastra simply is who she is. Being LGBT in the Doctor Who universe isn’t really anything too shocking. But even better, her relationship with Jenny is not her defining characteristic. She is strong, tough and fiercely intelligent. The Doctor assumes that Vastra and Jenny are the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes and Watson….and that’s pretty damn cool.
Appears in: X-Men franchise.
For many years LGBT characters were formally (and then informally) banned from appearing in comics. One of the first comic book characters to burst out of the comic closet was Mystique. Mystique has had male love interests but her most well-known lover is probably Destiny. Destiny plays a large role in Mystique’s comic history and their relationship reveals a great deal of Mystique’s humanity.
Unfortunately, the film versions of Mystique have yet to show her as anything besides heterosexual. It would be interesting if the newest trilogy of films chooses to tackle Mystique’s fluid sexuality or if they will keep in her in the closet. We are hoping for the former.
5. Green Lantern
Appears in: DC Comics’ Earth 2.
Both Marvel and DC Comics have done a great deal in recent years to rectify their past homophobia. In 2012, DC Comics introduced us to a gay Alan Scott. They were very careful not to turn Green Lantern into a token gay character. He has all the attributes of the classic Green Lantern. He’s tough, heroic and brave…he just also happens to be into guys as well. And it’s treated as if it isn’t a terribly big deal.
We imagine that our geek culture will follow these recent examples when it comes to normalizing the experiences of LGBT people. More and more, we’re starting to see LGBT characters as just a matter of fact. Being LGBT won’t be the most exciting or interesting part of their character. It will be just one part.
Appears in: X-Men franchise, Alpha Flight
Northstar is remarkable for many reasons. For starters, he was the first out and open LGBT person to exist in mainstream comics. As a result, he paved the way for what is now a far more normal occurrence in comics. In many ways Northstar has grown up with the LGBT civil rights struggle. At first it was enough to be the token gay character in comics.
It was a radical move for Marvel to let Northstar come out in Alpha Flight #106. Still, Northstar didn’t really have the same kinds of relationships that heterosexuals in X-Men often have, which is why we were so happy to hear that Marvel finally had him marry his long-term partner. This caused controversy but when you’re talking about comics, what doesn’t?
Appears in: Harry Potter franchise.
Dumbledore was not initially written as gay but when the issue was brought up to JK Rowling during a Q & A at Carnegie Hall, she stated that “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay” and that his true love was Gilbert Grindelwald. Despite the Harry Potter novels being aimed at a younger audience, being LGBT is not depicted as deviant. Dumbledore is a kind, benevolent, and wise old man who destroys the homophobic stereotype that gay men aren’t to be trusted around children. He is, in fact, one of the most trustworthy characters in the series. Take that, homophobia!
That isn’t to say that his outing was without controversy. However, most of the people that would have protested against any hint of homosexuality in a novel probably already didn’t appreciate Harry Potter. Because, you know…witchcraft.
Appears in: Xena, Warrior Princess
This one is sure to stir some controversy. The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle has long been debated. Are they friends? Are they lovers? The debate continues to this day but most Xena fans probably agree there is more than just lesbian subtext in Xena. Xena’s relationship with Gabrielle goes far beyond friendship and scenes were shot showing what appears to be them kissing.
Xena star, Lucy Lawless even stated in an interview that their relationship was deeper than subtext. In a 2003 interview, Lawless characterized their relationship as “Gay…definitely.”
Of course, it is also important to look at the context of when Xenawas created. For a show that’s almost 20 years old, it is incredibly progressive in terms of same-sex relationships. If the show is ever rebooted, it would be very interesting to see how their relationship would be defined.
1. Captain Jack Harkness
Appears in: Doctor Who, Torchwood
And finally we reach Captain Jack, everyone’s favorite immortal, pansexual, time-traveling swashbuckler. Captain Jack is just plain sexual. And everyone is the object of his affections. But more importantly, he has been a role model for young bisexual youth in both the UK and the United States. He defies many of the standard LGBT stereotypes and is a celebrated figure in science fiction. He is charming, tough, and incredibly brave. And, perhaps even more importantly, he is really cool.
And that is maybe the most remarkable thing about Captain Jack. He appeals to just about everyone. He quickly became one of the most loved characters on Doctor Who and starred in his own spinoff show…and we hope to see him in the 50th anniversary!