Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Why Can't Tim Drake Be Gay?; or, In Defense of Late Bloomers

As a lead-up to the upcoming DC Universe reboot/non-reboot/sales ploy, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan Didio did an interview with the LGBT news site The Advocate with plenty of positive things to say about LGBT characters in some of the upcoming books. One comment, though, has whipped up a bit of a fuss in the more progressive parts of comics fandom:
DC has several popular teenage heroes such as Robin, Wonder Girl, Superboy and the other Teen Titans. With gay teens becoming more visible in the media, can readers expect to see a teenaged gay superhero in the future?
One of the things we’re very focused on doing for these types of stories is rather than [change an existing] character, we want to make sure that this is the basis of who that character is right from the start. So if we’re going to introduce a gay character in Teen Titans, we want to make it a new character and make sure that is an iatrical part of who he is, or who she is, right from the start so we can really lean and grow with her or him.
 There have been plenty of people pointing out the contradiction of making massive changes to characters all the time but declaring their sexual orientation to be off the board. That is absolutely a valid point. But here's another one: Are gay people really so inherently different that it has to be established at the moment the character is created, that a character who has up to now had romantic relationships with one gender can't start having them with another?

Full disclosure for anyone reading this who doesn't already know me well: I'm a late bloomer myself. I didn't figure out until I was 31, when I finally gave being single a try after a few failed relationships, that just because I liked to hang out with guys didn't mean I actually wanted to sleep with them. I love how Peter David has handled Rictor in X-Factor because he took an existing character and acknowledged that sometimes it takes you a while to accept that you're different - even when you've already accepted other ways in which you are! I love Rictor because his coming out has been most like my own.

That's the problem with Didio's view here: It assumes everybody has everything figured out about themselves the second they hit puberty, that they don't have any societal expectations/familial expectations/opposite-sex friends wanting to date them confusing the issue until they're a little older, and that this makes them significantly, inherently, inextricably different from straight people. Teenagers are increasingly declaring themselves gay or lesbian or bisexual in high school, but those are the lucky ones. Most people don't figure it out that quickly. So why can't Tim Drake realize that's why he was so despondent over losing Connor? Why can't he grow as a character? And how would realizing he's gay make him any different from who he already is?

Everyone is Gay recently posted about writing gay characters. Maybe Dan needs to read it.

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