By Ed Jones
My brother asked me once when I was younger “Why are you so into X-Men?” to which I answered “They have cool superpowers!”. Now age twenty-two I still love those mutants just as much as I did as when I was a kid, however, now it is because I feel I can identify with their constant battle against prejudice and cynicism. This is because I identify as bi-sexual and for this I have had harsh words like “It’s made up”, “You’re gay, not bi-sexual” and so on. Of course, I still want superpowers (preferably my favourite X-Man Iceman, who as of 2015 was canonically gay, go figure), but I can relate because bi-sexuality is just as big a part of LGBT+ as any other part of the Community, and all members see themselves as a minority.
While the X-Men have strong racism undertones, it is my belief that those in the LGBT+ Community can identify with the madness these mutants encounter on a daily basis. For those in the LGBT+ Community, gay superheroes and science-fiction (sci-fi) characters we can relate to come few and far between. However, in more recent times LGBT+ characters within the sci-fi genre have become something more prevalent. This is a step away from the thoughts and attitudes of the 60s when X-Men was first printed, and a step toward a more 23rd century similar to the one Captain Jack Harkness (of Doctor Who and Torchwood notoriety) comes from.
Captain Jack Harkness
The importance of LGBT+ characters in sci-fi is something dear to my heart, and also I know, with many others across the globe. The inclusion of them allows people struggling with their sexuality a role model to look up to. It also shows those struggling with identifying themselves that if there is a place for them within a fantasy world, then there can be in the real world.
For sci-fi fans, the world of fantasy can become reality, whether it is through comic or graphic novel form or through TV / film. Steven Moffat, head writer of Doctor Who has moved the show that began in the 60s with no LGBT characters, into the new age where we have recurring characters of Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint, a married inter-species lesbian couple who aren’t the typical damsel-in-distress archetypes that were more prominent in a by-gone era.
In addition, Doctor Who also saw Transgender actress Bethany Black (in Series 9’s episode ‘Sleep No More’) have a supporting role helping the TARDIS duo out of trouble.
In addition, the ever-lovable (except in the last episode of ‘Children of Earth’) character of Captain Jack Harkness had a profound influence on me as a twelve-year old, and maybe he is the reason I identify as bi-sexual (even though he is a pansexual from the 23rd Century). In saying this, seeing a shirtless Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the first X-Men may also have done something to my sexuality…
The characters of Tara Maclay and Willow Rosenberg in Buffy The Vampire Slayer were the first example of a homosexual relationship that I came across when I was younger, and may have helped pave the way for other LGBT characters in sci-fi post-90s. Their inclusion added to the complexity of each character’s development over the series without diminishing the already mature themes that were apparent in the show. Both Willow and Tara became role models for all and continue to be so thirteen years after the show ended.
Science-fiction has come a long way since the 60s in terms of LGBT character inclusions, with some also casting openly gay actors as well. Game of Thrones, True Blood and Star Trek are some of the more popular fandoms that have shown LGBT characters to be strong, complex personalities that aren’t lessened by their sexualities. Their place in the fantasy world helps those in the real world with identifying themselves and can inspire the new generations to feel accepted and important.