Happy Pride Month! In honor of LGBT nerds, I would like to spend the next few paragraphs discussing the current state of representation in popular science fiction and fantasy media. While some shows are loud and proud about how their show is portraying LGBT people, others do so in a more subtle way. Later, I will also discuss why there are so few examples of LGBT people in these genres.
In 2007, Harry Potter author JK Rowling announced to the world that she had always written the character Dumbledore with the intention that he was gay. Some fans applauded this as revolutionary since, up until that point, there were no LGBT characters in the Harry Potter universe. Now, at the age of 13, I did not really care that Dumbledore was gay; I thought of it was an interesting character development at most. Looking back on it, however, it is very clearly virtue signalling on the part of Rowling. At that point, there had been no indication that Dumbledore was gay, much less that he had any real sexuality to speak of. He was simply the super-powerful head teacher at Hogwarts. If an author wants to have a diverse cast of characters in his or her work, there should at least be some reference to it. It does not even have to be a huge, “ooh look at me I’m so progressive for having a minority character!” kind of reference, it can be as subtle as saying something like, “character a was walking home one day when his husband came running out of the house…” Since then, however, there have been much more clear, well-written examples of LGBT representation.
A far more well-done example would be Princess Diana of Themyscira, AKA Wonder Woman. She was born on the island of Themyscira where the Amazons reside, and there are no men on the island. In 2016, a DC Comics writer confirmed a long-held fan suspicion: that Diana is bisexual. The writer went on to say that Themyscira is meant to be paradise, and part of paradise is to be in a healthy, functional, romantic relationship, and that the only option for Amazons is another woman. While this example is similar to the previous one in that a writer had to confirm it, it is much better because it makes sense for the character since she is from an island made up entirely of women. While Diana has always had male love interests in previous comics, the option remains open for her to have a relationship with a woman, and DC Comics would be wise to expand on that.
One of the best examples, at least in terms of comic books, has to be Kate Kane, AKA Batwoman. This heroine made her written debut in 2006, and was immediately portrayed as a strong lesbian woman, even having a backstory of being kicked out of the military due to her sexual orientation. Throughout her adventures, she has many flings and eventually gets married. While her story arc is not dependent on her being a lesbian, it’s a wonderful example of how to have diversity without shoving it in the reader’s face. This character will even be getting her own TV show this year, and they cast a gender-fluid actress in the lead role.
The last example will be the TV show Steven Universe. The premise of the show is that a young boy (Steven) is having adventures with a group of monogendered aliens known as the crystal gems. These aliens, being monogendered, are portrayed as being in same-sex relationships as most of the characters are shown to be more feminine. When Steven Universe debuted in 2013, it was applauded for boldly showing same-sex relationships and also addressing more serious topics such as abuse, trauma and mental health issues. It is expected that all these aliens would be in same-sex relationships considering they are all the same gender. This show has a lot of problems, and I will not get into those here as I have not watched the show myself.
There are many other examples of LGBT representation, such as same-sex characters in the TV show Flash, Elsa in Frozen, and a few others. However, there are still limits to what TV channels and movie companies will allow to be put on screen, which is a shame. There are many reasons creators are hesitant to write LGBT characters, from fear of messing up to the other fear of being hounded by religious organizations who are anti-LGBT rights. However, in the current age, more creators are getting bold, and we could be on the precipice of a new age of representation.