Today is National Coming Out Day: a day of LGBTQ awareness and a celebration of the act of coming out — openly revealing your true romantic, sexual, or gender identity to friends and family. This can be done as a form of active resistance to the environment of silence and ignorance that leads to homophobia and bigotry in general, or simply a gesture with the purpose of fostering a sense of trust and a stronger bond among loved ones.
Coming out is a difficult process regardless, and one that people do at many different stages of life. While I myself came out at a fairly young age, others maybe come out later or not at all, preferring to keep that aspect of their lives private. But in a world where being LGBTQ+ can lead to harassment — verbal, physical, or online — then coming out and declaring you will not stand for hatred can be a hugely important thing. Perhaps more so in media.
After all, representation does matter, and in many ways. It allows young LGBTQ+ people the opportunity to see themselves in their favourite stories and feel strengthened by the chance to be seen as a valid part of the world (and hopefully see some positive possibilities for his future), but it’s also important for non-LGBTQ+ citizens to see these people and their stories — to be exposed to diversity they may not see on a daily basis.
Comics are a great medium with which to share these kinds of stories and people, and it has brought us a fairly broad range of coming out stories.
One of the first coming-outs in mainstream comics was Northstar, who came out in Alpha Flight #106 in 1992. Though the character was always intended to be a gay character, it was only at this time, in a story written by Scott Lobdell and with art by Mark Pacella, Dan Panosian, and Bob Sharen, that Jean Paul Beaubier officially said the words (in an admittedly rather over-the-top fashion).
That story was indeed a moment of social political commentary, as Northstar’s coming out tied in to how the world viewed gay men at the time.
Other coming-out tales have looked more at the complicated emotional side of the coin, for the individual scared to lose their loved ones. Karolina Dean of the Runaways feared losing the only family she had after losing her parents to their secret supervillainy; and Alyssa Yeoh feared losing new friend and roommate, Barbara Gordon in Batgirl. It’s an important thing to see, as coming out can be a difficult time. It’s important to understand how difficult a time it can be for those wanting to finally be honest and share this part of themselves with the world.
For others, it can be a moment of self-realisation, such as Prodigy in Young Avengers. Coming out as bisexual, as he shares it was something which came to him after a long time of introspection and self-discovery.
Self-discovery doesn’t always come easy, either — and sometimes it isn’t as obvious to some as it is to others. The Young Iceman, in an admittedly controversial scene, came out when Jean Grey confronted him about his sexuality. While it wasn’t her place to define his sexuality for him, in the context of the story, young tactlessness could actually can lead to self-discovery.
Young Iceman realising he was gay led to him finding happiness in the honesty of that fact. It also led to the adult Iceman admitting it in a moment of honesty with himself. It was a powerful moment as the character shares just how he reached adulthood without admitting his sexuality to himself and the world around him.
And those are just a few of the coming-out moments in comics. If you look outside of the mainstream, there are many, many more to find. Let us know in the comments which ones affected you the most!
So this National Coming Out Day, think of the superheroes in comics and outside of comics who have come out to their friends, family, and the world.