Friday, March 8, 2013

The Queer and the Superhero: A Homosexual Comparison with Superheroes

     Comics have entertained the world for centuries, even going back as far as the Roman Empire and Egyptian times where stories were depicted through pictures on columns or walls[i] .  Through time the comics have evolved into newspapers and books.  We now even have them online and many are being re-made into film.  Comics have brought us through many wars and political and social issues.  They have been a relief as well as an alert to what is going on in the world around us. They have given us heroes in which we not only as kids desire to become, but also people to look up to.  Comics can be seen in many different lights.  You can see them as simply entertainment, or you can look beyond that to see them as fighting for change.  This article is taking superheroes and looking at them through a lens of homosexuality.

The History of Homosexuality
     Homosexuals throughout the history of America have had to keep their lifestyle a secret from society and have been viewed as freaks and different from how society views a normal person.  There is a fear of “coming out” and being out casted from family and friends or persecuted and bullied by others.  In some countries and in American history, the penalty is even death[ii].  Homosexuals have been sent off to places that try to cure them of their issue and try to make them normal.  They did this sometimes through electro shock therapy where a homosexual would be shown pictures of both same sex and opposite sex genders, and when the same sex picture would show, they would receive a shock.  The belief was then they would be unable to be sexually aroused when they came in contact with someone of the same sex[iii]. 
     Even today there are still people trying to put young homosexuals through therapy in order to rid them of it.  Churches and other faith based facilities are the main contributors to this notion.  I myself was referred to as being demon possessed and in need of deliverance when I came out to my Pastor.  Many of them live under the idea that you can just pray the gay away, and if it doesn’t work, then you aren’t praying hard enough.  They think it is something that can be cured and will go away.  They believe homosexuality is something you choose, and so all one has to do is un choose it. 
     Homosexuals throughout time have also tried to create havens where they are accepted and able to be who they are without prejudice.  San Francisco is one city where a lot of homosexuals would run.  In the movie Milk, Harvey tells a boy from Minnesota, “Get on a bus. Go to the next biggest city.  New York, San Francisco, LA, or even Minneapolis.  It doesn’t matter.  Just leave” (Van Sant).  The boy wanted to kill himself because his parents found out he was gay and wanted to put him through therapy.  Harvey wanted him to run because he knew the boy could find love and acceptance being in a city which is more accepting of homosexuality because there are a larger number of homosexuals there.  He knew the boy would find the love he needed if he was able to just get away.
Comparison with Superheroes
     Superheroes like homosexuals also are forced to keep their identity secret.  Heroes such as Spiderman and Batman wear masks to conceal their identity.  Clark Kent is a normal working man with glasses until a crime breaks out and he enters the telephone booth and becomes superman.  The threat of revealing their identity could come at a huge loss as well.  They could lose their loved ones.  Most of the comic superheroes have to save the ladies they love because the villains find out about who has their heart strings.  Though not a comic strip, the movie The Incredibles gives a good glimpse at what could happen if the identities of superheroes were revealed, as people can take advantage of them and come and destroy them and everyone they care about.  They can become ostracized from society and seen as more of a problem than a solution. 
     The superheroes having to hide their true identities is very similar to how homosexuals have felt they need to conceal their identity of being homosexual.  In the documentary For the Bible Tells Me so, there is one young man who came out as a homosexual and his car was vandalized.  His parents were worried what could happen to him and themselves.  Many homosexuals who come out face some sort of persecution and prejudice whether it is being beat up, killed, or receiving threats.  Some are slandered by their churches and called the devil or told there is something wrong with them.  Superheroes face a lot of the same kinds of things in their own lives. 
     In the comic series of Heroes, they are constantly looking for a cure which would wipe out their abilities completely.  Some of them want their abilities to go away, but others of them do not.  They believe their abilities are what make them special, and to lose them would be like losing themselves.  This is very similar to what is going on with homosexuals, some of them want the desire for same sex to go away and seek after a “cure” in order to do so, while others believe that homosexuality is a part of who they are, and they don’t want to lose that part.  The heroes also have to keep their identity a secret and when people know they have a special ability they are hunted down and sometimes even killed because of it.  They are seen as a problem and therefore people without abilities don’t want them around.[iv]  They are afraid of those with special abilities because they don’t understand them.  This rings very true for homosexuals as well.
     In the X-Men comics there is a school where the superheroes can attend to get away from society and learn to harness their gifts to help society.  The school is a haven for mutants. They are separated from society and it is a place just for them.  This is a lot like how the homosexuals have created little communities where they can go and be themselves.  California has a few haven like pockets, and there is New Orleans and other major cities as well.  Homosexuals have the ability like the X-Men to go there and gain safety, but they also have the ability such as in the movie Milk to change society around them for the better.  Harvey was able to get things passed because the homosexual community was so large.  If people wanted to stay in office, they had to keep the homosexuals in mind otherwise they would lose a large chunk of the votes.  Harvey could use this to his advantage when trying to get things passed which favored homosexuals. 

Comics Promoting Gay is Ok?
     Comic books seem to mainly stick to the white male being the superhero, and we see very few minorities as main superheroes and if they are they generally turn to an antagonist.  We watched as a woman became a superhero with the creation of Wonder Woman, but very few of the renowned superheroes are ever minorities.  Through time this is changing. Marvel made headlines when it had a gay wedding in its comics, but Eden wrote, “Gay characters in comics were mostly limited to subtle mentions and undertones – nothing really spoken out loud” (Eden).  It is interesting how comics are changing to adapt to the diversity, but it is still weird how limited anyone besides the white male figure don’t seem to have the lime light when it comes to superheroes. 
     So, though there aren’t many actual homosexual superheroes for young homosexual children to look up to and want to be like, there is still the ability to look at superheroes and see the comparison of how homosexual and any minority for that matter can be compared to how superheroes live their lives.  Superheroes like minorities are themselves minorities, they are different from a majority of society.  They are misunderstood and sometimes being misunderstood causes them to turn bad.  Sometimes minorities get sick of being put down and rebel or act out, but this doesn’t mean all of the minority is bad.  Just like not all superheroes are bad, and a lot of them are trying to look out for the betterment of the society as a whole.
     Comics have come a long way throughout time. They are changing through time to include diversities, but we can see how superheroes and minorities go hand in hand.  What superheroes have to put up with and do is very similar to what homosexuals have had to do throughout history.  Both groups are forced to hide their identities, find safe havens in which to be able to be themselves, and are persecuted for being different from the norm.  Though they have their misfortunes both still are looking out to try to better society.  The conclusion is that homosexuals are really superheroes.  They have something that makes them unique and special, and nothing should be able to take that away from them.  They may be different and seen as a freak of nature, but the reality is everyone is different, so homosexuals are really just like everyone else.   



Eden, Martin. A Short History of Gay and Lesbian Superheroes. Jul 3, 2012. Feb 22, 2013.   

Milk. Dir. Van Sant. Perf. Sean Penn, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch. Universal, 2008.

[i] See Wikipedia History of Comics for more information on how comics originated.
[ii] See Wikipedia History of Homosexuality for list of countries that kill homosexuals.
[iii] The YouTube video The Gay Rights Movement shows this happening and gives brief glimpses into what homosexuals have had to go through the past few decades.
[iv] For more information about the comic Heroes you can go to

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