Ethan is a transgender male actively involved in his local LGBTQ+ community. He writes informative articles on his personal experiences.
LGBTQ+, Dr. Wertham, and the CCA
Comic books have been around since approximately 1837, and have entertained people of all ages, genders, colors, and sexualities. Some comics portray a muscled, manly, straight, cis superhero swooping in to save the city from bad guys but semi-recently, as of the '90s and on, LGBTQ+ superheroes have become a topic of immense interest.
You may be asking yourself why we haven't always had LGBTQ+ figures in comic books, and that can be directly related to a man named Fredric Wertham. Frederic Wertham was a German-American psychologist who claimed that comic books corrupt the youth.
In 1954, he published his book Seduction of the Innocent and quickly gained an audience with the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in which the outcome of this meeting was the creation of the Comics Code Authority.
Under the Comics Code Authority, the Code was written. The Code specifically states in its documentation that "sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden." Because of this statement, LGBTQ+ was considered to fall under this category and therefore was largely banned from comic books until the companies like Marvel and DC stopped submitting their work to them around 1989.
Starting from 1989, we have seen an explosion in LGBTQ+ friendly comics, some of which I will cover in this article. So if you are wondering what the top four LGBTQ+ characters are in today's culture, let's get down to business.
1. Nia Nal: Relatable Relative
Nia Nal, or Dreamer, is a transgender superhero from the series Supergirl. She is portrayed to be a descendent of "Dreamer Girl" or Nura Nal. Nia is played by a transgender woman named Nicole Maines on the CW. Nia Nal is the first openly transgender DC character to ever appear on TV, which makes her very unique. Not surprisingly, she has gained a huge following and fanbase since first appearing in season 4 of the show.
One of the things that make her so amazing is that she is so relatable. She's not just a transgender woman, but she's also a reporter and a superhero; she understands the role she plays because she faces both the transgender aspects as well as being an alien, so she understands what it is like to be oppressed.
2. Batwoman: They Asked, She Told... Sorta
Batwoman, played by Ruby Rose on the CW, is another popular LGBTQ+ character. In the series premiere, it showed that Kate (Batwoman) was kicked out of military academy because she didn't deny being lesbian. Batwoman made history as the first openly lesbian superhero to headline TV.
In Batwoman, Kate refused to lie about being who she was, which caused her to be kicked out even after rising through the ranks. The fact she stood up for who she was is comforting but haunting as this touches an important issue in the United States military that we as the LGBTQ+ community have been fighting for over 26 years.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" military policy of 1993 was the official policy instituted by the Clinton Administration represented an imperfect compromise between having LGBTQ+ soldiers wanting to be open about their identities and those who wanted any and all LGBTQ+ soldiers expelled from the military.
Those that opposed having members of the community cited reasons such as that it "might lower morale" and "cause problems" within the military ranks. (Pruitt, S. 2019). Even though this was a better than nothing move towards equality, it has caused a lot of problems for openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender soldiers in the US Forces. This policy was repealed by the Obama Administration in 2011 but was later put on the possible agenda for being put back into place by President Donald Trump.
In March 2018, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum banning some transgender individuals from serving in the military. This bans "...anyone with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria or individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances." (Trump, D. 2018).
3. Green Lantern: Because Why Not?
Green Lantern comics have been a fan favorite since July 1940, and were originally created by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger. Green Lantern's origin story and first appearance was told in an anthology called All-American Comics. However, there has been a revamping with the times, and this has come with a well-needed change.
Green Lantern, Alan Scott, is different than Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, as they operate in different universes. In Earth 2, Scott is the only Green Lantern, and "the strongest, most important superpowered character in the world," according to the writer James Robinson.
Since 1940, he has undergone many rebirths in alternate worlds/universes. As Hal Jordan, he works with Justice League and the Green Lantern Corps, and as Alan Scott, he works with the Justice Society. Instead of Scott's son Obsidian being gay, the writer, Robinson, decided he would make Alan Scott gay instead!
Relaunching Green Lantern, Alan Scott, has not come without scrutiny from concerned parents and officials, but it is now time to move on, so to speak, from the hatred and prejudice that once plagued the comic book industry thanks to Wertham and the Comics Code Authority.
4. Deadpool: The Incredible Pansexual
Marvel's Deadpool has been said to be one of the most genderfluid and sexuality-fluid characters of all time. One of Deadpool's original creators, Fabian Nicieza, said he has constantly gotten questions from fans and critics on the sexuality of Deadpool.
Deadpool has been referred to by Fabian and the director of the movies, Tim Miller, as being pansexual, due to the fact that he doesn't care who he likes. He is indiscriminate. "The term 'bisexual' would be too narrow for Deadpool," says Ryan Gilbey in his article "Deadpool: The Pansexual Superhero Who Has Never Had A Non-heterosexual Experience" on TheGuardian.com.
This makes Deadpool one of the only superheroes to ever be labeled as pansexual. This brings lots of validation to those who are not able to fit in the LGBT standard mode and instead fit into the LGBTQ+ umbrella model that is inclusive of all.
The term "bisexual" would be too narrow for Deadpool.
— Ryan Gilbey
We are ALL Superheroes
We have come a long way from the '70s and '80s, most definitely from Wertham's days, and are a lot more tolerant of others in recent years, but we have a long way to go. Yes, we have faced and still are facing persecution all over the world, but, in a way, I think we are moving toward a brighter future. If the comic industry and other media continue to promote more LGBTQ+ friendly characters, it is my opinion that it may help encourage those who don't have superpowers to find the strength in themselves to be who they really are. If you think of it, the LGBTQ+ community is full of superheroes, and superheroes don't have to wear capes.
Ethan Tibbets (author) from Quanah, TX on January 07, 2020:
Thank you! I appreciate it! I heard that they are too, but they also said it may be a while before it is released. I love the fact that we are moving towards a more inclusive media rather than making us sit on the sidelines! Wishing you the best as well!
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on January 07, 2020:
I head a few days ago that Marvel is filming a new movie right now with a new lgbtq character. It'll be interesting to see what they come-up with. I love comic books! They're awesome.
You have a very good article here and a much needed one at that. Thank You for puting it together. All the best!