How Comic Books Helped Me Come Out As Bisexual
Comic books are always driving to be more inclusive and more representative of the real world. It might not always be obvious, and there might be roadblocks, but most of the time there are creators in and out of the mainstream working hard to push the entire industry uphill and make it more welcoming to people of all races, sexualities and gender identities.
The power of stories like these, whether it’s a deep and personal tale wrought with emotion, or some fun and flirty fanart, cannot be underestimated. It’s partly thanks to comics that I was able to come out as bisexual earlier this year.
I’ve written before about my status as a bisexual man (and how it could be reflected with a dude who talks to fish), but I am a very privileged bisexual man. I’m white, cisgender and in a committed relationship with a woman. I pass for straight most of the time, because if you don’t know me, you wouldn’t know.
I officially came out as bi first to a friend over drinks, then to another friend via text, and finally to my fiance late at night, before tweeting about it for the world to see. There was a brief period where I considered keeping it private, but I decided to come out explicitly because I am a bisexual man in a heterosexual relationship, and I don’t want to passively contribute to bi erasure. If anything, I want to stand up and let people know so that maybe someone else doesn’t wait until they’re twenty six to discover some stuff about themselves.
It’s no understatement when I say that the recent push towards diversity and inclusivity of LGBTQ characters in comic books (and in my case, specifically superhero comic books) had a profound effect on my understanding of my sexuality. Seeing the art of queer artists like Kevin Wada and Kris Anka showed me that these characters I love could be sexy in a way I didn’t know they could be. Seeing characters like Loki and John Constantine portrayed as bisexual helped me get a better grasp on my own identity.
In hindsight, Prodigy’s coming out scene in Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Mike Norton and Matt Wilson’s Young Avengers #9 was a huge moment for me. David Alleyne describes it as realizing something that was true all along, something that he couldn’t see until he could. That describes my own experience completely. While it would be several years after the release of that comic before I came to my understanding, it’s something that stayed with me through the years.
Thanks to comics, I came to understand that not only am I bisexual, but I have a type. You know what’s a real good comic book for looking at hot dudes in their underwear? Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk’s Mockingbird, which frequently features both Clint Barton and Lance Hunter running around in nothing but their keks. Another formative comic for me, for sure.
Furthermore, the comics community --- or at least the comics community that I have cultivated for myself --- played a big part in my realization and decision to come out. There’s such a wealth of amazing queer creators, critics, and fans that it’s never been easier to find a community that will love and support you, and if I didn’t have that support, I don’t know if I would have got half as far.
Then there’s ComicsAlliance itself, this website where I’ve worked since the beginning of the year. I read ComicsAlliance as a teenager and its nuanced, thoughtful approach to matters of social justice helped me understand the world around me. As I took on more work earlier this year, it became apparent to me that I couldn’t lie to myself about who I was while I had an opportunity to write about issues that affect me and the people that I love.
There’s one last way that comics helped me in my journey, and that’s the fact that there’s more work to be done advancing the industry.
In Marvel Comics’ December 2016 solicitations there are no solo titles starring a queer lead character. DC isn’t much better, but it does have titles like Harley Quinn, which co-publisher Jim Lee recently referred to as one of the four pillars of DC Comics alongside Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The more that queer readers are vocal and visible about our queerness, the clearer the case becomes for further change.
Even though I wasn’t out at that time, I was very disappointed when Axel Alonso made his comments about Hercules not being bisexual last year. It was unnecessary bi erasure when the editor in chief could have easily gained some much needed positive publicity regarding the publisher’s LGBTQ representation. It was also frustrating from a more selfish perspective, because Hercules’ new design looked modern and kinda sexy, and it’s a shame he wasn’t gonna kiss any dudes while rocking a man-bun.
This week is Bisexual Awareness Week and it’s my first one as an out bi man. Comics helped me make me the man I am, from the X-Men teaching me it’s okay to be different, to The Flash showing me the importance of family.
It’s no surprise that comics were a major factor in one of the biggest milestones in my life, and despite all the flaws, the pettiness of the industry, and the lack of representation, comics have made me a better person.