Published on October 18th, 2011 | by Joe Glass0
Tales from the Four Colour Closet: Boldly Cruising Where No One Has Cruised Before…
This may not seem entirely comics related, but hey, it’s my column, so shut up, bear with me, and we’ll see where this goes.
This week sees Heroes and Star Trek actor Zachary Quinto come out of a frankly transparent closet and announce to the world that yes, he is gay after all; to which the world replied with a collective “Well, duh, but thanks for finally being open with us anyway.” Now, I by no means mean to belittle his statements, nor do I feel any ire at him for taking so long. I can understand the situation he was in. However, I do heartily commend him on making this move of being open and letting the world know another member of the LGBTQ community is out there, and is someone they’ve welcomed into their homes and Cineplex’s with joy.
You see, up until this point, Quinto would always bypass and sidestep the issue of his sexuality whenever it came up. This of course served to make it obvious he was gay (because, sadly, whilst gay men often feel the need to bypass the issue, straight men do not…because we’ve been raised to believe there’s nothing wrong with that). However, he never admitted it. That lack of admission and active aversion to the topic tacitly implies a feeling that there is something wrong with them being gay. Which is neither the case nor the real reasons for Quinto hiding it.
Sadly, it took the death of Lady Gaga fan and teen gay Jamey Rodemeyer for Quinto to step through those sci-fi swooshing closet doors, as he points out in a statement he released on his blog after the news hit:
“When I found out that Jamey Rodemeyer killed himself – I felt deeply troubled. But when I found out that Jamey Rodemeyer had made an it gets better video only months before taking his own life – I felt indescribable despair.”
The It Gets Better Project, for those who don’t know (though I’m positive I mentioned it before), was a series of videos posted by celebrities, politicians, everyday people, animated childhood friends, and even the President of the United States, in response to a wave of highly publicized teenage suicides of gay teens in the US around this time last year. As Quinto points out, Jamey had made one himself. We all believed he was finding it better, or at least knew it would get better. Sadly, we were wrong, and the hate that surrounded him at his school became too much, and he lost another light in this world.
Quinto’s admission of despair is moving. In his own It Gets Better video, Quinto did not come out; he presented it as a ‘straight’ actor…or at least presumed straight, as he had hitherto avoided the topic. This had to change, as he later goes into in his blog:
“But in light of Jamey’s death – it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it – is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality.”
And this is what I am saying about comics characters and the books they are supposed to be in.
Too many times have there been characters presumed to be gay, but have never explicitly said it. Too many times have creators refused to comment on the sexuality of a character as it is ‘unimportant’. Too many times have we finally had a gay character come out, only to find them undermined by restrictions on what they can do and deal with; or worse yet, get relegated quickly to the background and quickly forgotten.
We are at the precipice of a great change in inclusion and representation of LGBTQ within the comics that so many of our community read. We have a book with a lesbian lead character, we have others where gay and bisexual members play important roles. We are still lacking any significant trans characters, but there have been attempts and toe-dipping in that area.
However, there are still a large number of characters that vanish without a trace, or who are given nothing to do and become worthless to the fans, no matter how beloved they are. And there are even still too many cases of homophobia amongst creators and accidental homophobia from publishers who are unwilling to tackle the issues and the full range of our community, as they’re worried about stepping on someone’s toes. Step on them! We get nowhere by having no representation, and I would rather there be stumbles on the way to full inclusion and equality than a reluctance to go down that path at all.
And still, what representation we do have pales in comparison to how it should be. Much like the hugely public outcry over the inclusion and treatment of women in comics of late, there are still only a statistically tiny number of lesbian and gay characters in mainstream comics. If we account for 5% of the population, it would be nice to see a similar figure in our comics, instead of the woefully under-represented figure we do have (for example, out of DC’s recent New 52 relaunch, the number of gay or lesbian characters in the comics account for 0.3% of the total character ‘population’).
Zachary Quinto made a belated but terribly brave move this week, and more celebrities should be doing it. And comics creators and publishers should take note, because they should be doing it next too!