The Case For A Bisexual Aquaman [Pride Week]
Superhero comic books have a long way to go when it comes to representing LGBTQ people in a way that reflects the beauty and diversity of the real world, and the genre would benefit from more experiences being displayed and more stories being told. For Pride Week here at ComicsAlliance, we're looking at some of the established characters who could be used to explore LGBTQ identities, and I want to talk about why I think that Aquaman should be bisexual.
I am a bisexual man with the privilege of passing for straight. I didn’t admit to myself or to my friends that I was bisexual until I was a year and a half into a relationship with the woman who is now my fiancee. Odds are that I’ll stay with that person forever, and I can’t wait, but it doesn’t make me any less bisexual, and by standing up and letting people know that, I can do my part to fight back against bi erasure.
My situation, and that of many of my friends, is one I do not expect to see represented in superhero comics anytime soon. We’re still fighting for scraps with the few gay and lesbian characters that publishers provide, and when bisexual characters are introduced, they almost always engage in same-sex relationships. I’m not advocating against that, but we should be working towards opening up the portrayals of LGBTQ characters in a superhero comics to as many different experiences and orientations as possible.
This is why I think Aquaman should be bisexual. Originally, I was going to write about Fantomex, but I realized I didn’t have much to say other than, “I think he’s cute and he should kiss boys” whereas a bisexual Aquaman is someone I could relate to. Over the past five years since his return, Aquaman is a character that has been linked inextricably with his partner Mera, which in turn has elevated her to one of DC's premier female superheroes.
Aquaman and Mera rule Atlantis together, they fight bad guys together, they exist as a unit in a way most superheroes don’t with their partners. Similarly, my fiancee is my best friend, and we spend most of our time together both socially and professionally. (She's also a tall redhead who doesn't take any guff, now that I think about it.)
However, Aquaman had a life before Mera, and specifically he had a human life. He may have experimented; he may have dated boys; he may have not even realised how deep his attraction ran until years into his relationship with Mera. He may never have had any form of relationship or sexual experience with a man, and he could still be bisexual.
A lot of the time, LGBT alien characters such as Marvel Boy and Xavin of the Runaways are portrayed as coming from a de facto bisexual culture, and although not intentional, this separates their experiences from those of most people, and has an "othering" effect on concepts such as bisexuality and gender fluidity. Aquaman was raised human, so his bisexuality would not be part of “traditional Atlantean culture” or whatever hand-waving exercise a less courageous writer might be tempted to try. His bisexuality would be something that was always within him, whether he knew it or not.
In the most selfish of terms, it would be a big publicity move for DC Comics, and the company would instantly have the most iconic LGBTQ character in superhero comics. Aquaman is about to be a big deal thanks to James Wan's upcoming feature film starring Jason Momoa, so outing Aquaman within the next few years would not only be a strong statement of inclusivity from the publisher; it could help them tap into a broader audience.
Since coming out, I’ve struggled to find a place in the community because I have the passing privilege that many don’t, and that can be alienating in its own right. I don’t experience any direct prejudice, and I live a charmed life compared to many peers. This isn’t really representation that I personally need.
However, there are bisexual people who face very real prejudice and erasure, and one of DC’s top-tier heroes standing up and saying the words “I’m bisexual” could be so powerful and so important to someone going through a personal crisis.
A proudly bisexual Aquaman (or any superhero) in a loving heteronormative relationship presents a powerful statement that not only educates people to the true nature of how bisexuality works in practise, but stands as a message to people unsure of themselves, and reminds them that their identity and sexuality is valid, no matter how they express it, or who they choose to love.