The Case For Pansexual Starfire [Pride Week]
Earlier in the week, I participated in Comics Alliance’s Queer Superteam Fantasy Draft. We each chose seven queer characters we’d want to see on a team book together (in a perfect world where comic companies shared their characters with each other). Nearly all the picks for each participant had to be in-canon LGBTQ+ representation, but we also got to choose one wildcard --- a character that wasn’t confirmed on page as queer, but who we felt should be part of our team. And while I have many queer headcanons for many different superheroes, my wild card pick had to be Starfire.
Because Starfire is so obviously pansexual. It’s so obvious that it’s frustrating that the comics have never confirmed it.
Just for clarity's sake, the definition of pansexuality we’re using here is sexual attraction to people regardless of sex or gender. (Some, but not all, pansexual people are polyamorous, like Kori.).
And added disclosure, the writing for Starfire since her introduction in 1980 has been... uneven at best. When she’s written well, Starfire is warm, compassionate, and, save of course for the Teen Titans cartoon that features her as a kid, embraces her sensuality as one of the joys of living life. When she’s written badly, she’s just very, very sexy and wants to have sex with a hero because sex is sexy. It’s easy to point to lesser writers who have been in charge of her personification and see her as a one dimensional character unworthy of queer analysis. Let’s instead look at her core character.
Princess Koriand’r of Tamaran was raised in a culture that sees polyamory as natural and normal and healthy. While not a utopia by any means, Tamaran's views on sexuality and gender are far less restricting than the majority of Earth cultures'. Tamaranians are encouraged to express feelings of love fully and openly. More than that, eros and philia are not strictly separate for Kori and her people. Friendship and romance and sex are so interwoven for the Tamaranians that the very concept of monogamy seems odd to Kori.
If monogamy seems strange to her, it would stand to reason that heteronormativity might seem equally strange.
Time and time again, Kori not only sees other women as beautiful, but feels deep love for her female friends. Donna Troy was certainly one of those women, as was Raven in the Teen Titans cartoon, as were Stella and Atlee in the recent Starfire solo series. Considering Kori’s culture, and her personal opinions about sex as an expression of love, and her love for other women, how is it that all of her sexual relationships have been with men?
I'm not suggesting that Kori should try to date every single woman she ever meets --- she can clearly have friendships with women that don’t involve sex, just like she has many friendships with men that don’t involve sex. But for Starfire, with her point of view on sex and love, and her love towards women, to have never had even a single romance with a woman over the course of 35+ years in comics is suspect. It feels like a decades-long mistake.
This is personal to me because of where Kori fits into my own journey as a queer person. The process of figuring out my own identity only a few years ago overlapped heavily with the process of me getting into comics. I'm not pan (I identify as queer/bi), and as a Midwest-born Earthling my experiences are very different from hers, but reading fan analysis of Starfire's queerness helped me immensely to contextualize my own.
How should this go down in the comics? Truthfully, this would be pretty easy. It’s the start of Rebirth, Kori is part of a team book again, and is in a new city again … the easiest thing to do is simply include a scene where Kori goes on a romantic date with a pretty girl in her new city. That’s it. That’s all DC would have to do to confirm that Kori is pansexual. Oh sure, you could have a scene where Kori learns about the different queer labels Earthlings have and interrupts enthusiastically with, “Oh yes, that sounds like me” when pansexual is defined, but I’m not concerned about Kori specifically saying, “I am pansexual.” She’s one of the few comic heroes who I could see saying, “I don’t think about labels” in terms of their sexuality and it would be appropriate to their character rather than a cop-out.
Ultimately, Kori loves Love, feels deep love for people in her life regardless of gender, and believes that love should be expressed in relationships in many ways, including sexually (with consent, of course). I think it’s about time we see Kori have an honest-to-X’hal romance with a woman.