Representation matters, and everyone wants to be a hero. Unfortunately, what we LGBTQ+ folks get more often are queer villains, queer-coded villains, or anti-heroes. At least, they’re the most famous ones: pretty much every Disney villain ever, Loki, Constantine. The predominance of these types of characters and the lack of LGBTQ+ “good guy” superheroes creates the image of queerness as being tied to wickedness, threat to society, and general “otherness”. This influences both the way the general society sees LGBTQ+ people and how LGBTQ+ folks see ourselves, especially young people struggling with their identities. It creates a certain narrative for us, implying that we can only fit a certain type of mold and that it always sets us apart and makes us a threat. And that sucks.
However, I’m not saying all queer characters need to be “good guys”. It’s just that a balance is needed to avoid forcing the idea that queer equals bad. Therefore it’s important to have more LGBTQ+ heroes and “good guys” who are people others follow and look up to (I’m not saying bisexual Steve Rogers, but I’m totally thinking bisexual Steve Rogers). We need to see that we can be great heroes and that we can have all kinds of different stories be about us.
Things are slowly getting better, even though you still have to put in some effort to find LGBTQ+ representation among superheroes and in science fiction, especially if you want to find a story where the queer hero is the protagonist. You pretty much can’t find them on major TV networks or in summer superhero blockbusters. And that’s a shame, because many people don’t have the resources necessary to find these shows, books, and movies, unless they’re made readily available. Sometimes, people don’t even know that LGBTQ+ representation is what they need because they don’t know the words bisexual, genderqueer, asexual or that they could apply to them. That’s why it’s important not only to have representation but to have popular LGBTQ+ characters, so that everyone can see them.
That being said, I’d like to talk about the LGBTQ+ heroes (in the broadest sense of the word) that we do have and why they’re important.
I’m not much of a comic book person, so, unfortunately, I can’t talk much about such superheroes as Prodigy/David Alleyne or Ms. America/America Chavez. But even so, the fact that the former actually uses the word “bi” to describe himself means so much because writers so often avoid bi characters actually claiming the label.
The two TV shows that have been the most important to me recently in terms of LGBTQ+ representation are In the Flesh and Legend Of Korra. They both stand out because their main characters are complex characters you relate to and root for and because they’re queer, but the stories don’t focus on their sexuality. The shows and the characters are very different, but both Kieren Walker in In the Flesh and Korra in Legend of Korra are heroic characters. They are people who fight for what is right and for the people they care about. Kieren and Korra’s stories are not tragic queer stories or coming out stories. They’re people who grow, change, learn, and struggle with mental illness. Just like so many people do, and especially a lot of LGBTQ+ folks.
Even though not everyone has access to it, the internet makes it easier for people to create things and for those creations to reach a wider audience, and it’s also where a lot of minorities can find representation that’s lacking in mainstream media. Two of my favorite things on the internet are podcasts—Welcome To Night Vale and Valentin & The Widow. Cecil and Carlos of Night Vale are probably not the characters that come to mind when talking about heroes—they’re just regular people living their lives in a very, very strange world. Nevertheless, they participate in fighting evil corporations and traveling in parallel worlds and all through that they remain good people who are so adorably in love with each other. Valentin, on the other hand, is a gay man who struggles with his sexuality and because of his sexuality. He’s a good kind person who helps Eleanora Rosewood basically save the world. His narrative is quite tragic so far, but the story isn’t over yet.
Finally, I want to mention a book I just read—Adaptation by Malinda Lo. In addition to being a thrilling story, it’s got Reese, a teenage girl who realizes she’s attracted to people of more than one gender, and it causes some turmoil, but it’s not a life-shattering realization. And she also gets superpowers. It’s difficult to describe how amazing it is to read a story where you can see yourself at the central character, instead of being the support who often dies sometimes even before you even find out that they’re queer.
LGBTQ+ heroes (the ones mentioned above and others) are not always easy to find, but they’re important. They give people hope, someone to look up to and aspire towards. They help contradict the “queer equals bad” ideas promoted via queer villain and anti-hero archetypes.
What about you? Who are your favorite/most important LGBTQ+ heroes? Let us know in the comments below!