Popular comic book publishers, such as Marvel and DC, are taking initiatives to better represent members of the LGBTQ community through increasing the number of LGBTQ comic book characters involved in their storylines.
“When the mutant superhero Iceman came out November of 2015, he immediately became the most prominent gay comic book character. But this wasn’t the first story-line involving gay, lesbian, transgender and queer characters in the fast-evolving world of comic-book narratives,” according to a December 2015 article in The New York Times.
American cartoonist Alison Bechdel is best known for the long-running comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For.” It ran from 1983 to 2008 and was one of the earliest ongoing representations of lesbians in popular culture.
In a “Batgirl” comic released in October 2015, a transgender friend of batgirl Alysia Yeoh and her girlfriend Jo were married in a ceremony officiated by Peter Parker, otherwise known as Spider-Man, according to The New York Times article.
Today, Plattsburgh State and many other colleges across the country are pushing for a stronger level of representation for the LGBTQ community.
The LGBTQ studies class is one of several that are taught by Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies Connie Oxford.
Because the course is classified as a general education class and can be taken as an elective for gender and women’s studies majors and minors, Oxford said the class is made up of a variety of students.
“The class is taught as an interdisciplinary course,” Oxford said. “It’s a mix of history and social science.”
Oxford said she enjoyed reading comics while growing up and now has a young son who shares the interest.
“I know this idea isn’t new, but the idea of it making it’s way into mainstream media is really fantastic,” Oxford said.
PSUC sophomore biology major Nora Keirrany said she has never taken the class but identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community on campus and is also an avid comic book writer.
“I’ve loved reading comic books for as long as I can remember,” she said.
Kerriany said that being a member of the LGBTQ community at PSUC is something she takes pride in, but she said the geographic area has an overall modest theme that can pose challenges for teens who are trying to figure out how to “come out.”
Oxford said it’s important to experience what it means to be connected to a larger community, and there are organizations for people on campus who are part of the LGBTQ community, such as Safe Space.
“I know there are groups out there for people who want to feel more connected to the community,” Kerriany said. “Personally, I just look to my friends for support.”
Oxford said the increase in representation in the media for members of the LGBTQ community is something that could make a huge difference in the lives of young people, and she said she sees this trend as something that will carry on long into the future.
Publishers are making efforts to provide their readers with equal representation of the many different communities that their fanbase consists of.
Diversity in the comic books of today goes beyond sexual preference. Publishers are introducing a plethora of heros that are straying away from the primarily straight, white and males characters of the past. These characters include Kamala Khan as a Muslim Ms. Marvel, Kate Kane as a lesbian Batwoman, Jaime Reyes as a Mexican-American Blue Beetle and many more, according to the same New York Times article.
“We live in a time now where there’s a real upsurge in representation of LGBTQ people in television shows and other media sources like magazines and film,” Oxford said.
She also said major political changes could be influencing this trend, and if people were to look at public opinion poll, most people are more accepting than they were in the past.
“Look at the bill that Governor Cuomo just passed. It said that you can’t use insurance to cover conversion therapy for minors,” Oxford said. “The Supreme Court ruled just under a year ago that it’s unconstitutional to outlaw same sex marriage in different states.”
Since marriage equality laws went nationwide June 2015, an increased number of LGBTQ characters can be found in the storylines of multiple comic book publishing companies. A list of 63 LGBTQ characters can be found in Marvel and DC comic books alone, according to comicbookresources.com, a website that features news, reviews, blogs, columns and other resources about comic books.
Oxford said the LGBTQ community is experiencing some positive changes, but she said there is still a long way to go.
“In one way, we’re living in a time of amazing rights that are being achieved by people who are part of the LGBTQ community,” she said. “But still, there’s an enormous amount of homophobia in the world.”
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