By: Nicholasville Eskey
Predominate over this last decade, there have been great discussion, controversy, and positive changes in the LGBT community. It is sad that such advancements for those that identify as queer has taken so long, such as being recognized as legally eligible for marriage rights and benefits. As a gay man, this topic is very close to me. Despite the amount of recent social changes, I still see a great climb ahead to destroy prejudice. The recent tragedy in Orlando is a clear indicator of this.
As a young LGBT person surrounded by such disheartening media coverage, it’s easy to feel lost and depressed. This panel at San Diego Comic-Con, It Gets Geekier: How Being Gay and Geeky Turned Out for the Best, featured 6 people that either identify as gay, lesbian, or bi. All of them discussed how their sexualities played a part in their geekdom and careers.
Collected were moderator Joshua Yehl (Head of IGN Comics), James Tynion IV (Writer/DC Comics), Steve Orlando (Writer/Scripter/DC Comics), Kristen Ankara (Artist/Marvel Comics), Noelle Stevenson (Writer/Artist/Lumberjanes), and Brett White (Writer/Editor).
Joshua Yehl first thanked everyone for attending and then announced that the panel was dedicated to his friend Drew and Drew’s boyfriend, both of whom had unfortunately been in the Orlando nightclub and subsequently passed away. After some touching moments of Joshua explaining why panels like this are so important for the community at large, he started directing questions at the panel.
“What are some of your experiences in that which your geekdom and sexuality collided?”
James answered first, saying “I got into comics because of a crush on a guy. It was over the span of middle school and grade school. I made sure I knew what I was talking about, haha!” As for his career, James then shared how he hadn’t told any of his workmates about his sexuality until 5 years into working with comics. “When I first got into the industry, I didn’t let people know I was bisexual. I sort of slipped back into the closet. My fear when working at DC was I wouldn’t get the characters I wanted to write.” But on New Years Eve 2 years ago, he decided he couldn’t keep it in any longer and posted a large message on his social media. “I got a lot of love when I did that.” James now writes for 3 characters that he feels reflects him the way he wants them to.
Steve Orlando said it was an important point in his life when the character Midnighter began to date Apollo. “Up to that point I only had Jack from Will and Grace as a reference on how to act. But then came Midnighter!” He also said that this helped him to realize, “You don’t have to choose. You just have to be you.”
Kristen Ankara next talked about how his bisexuality helped to shape his art. “I could make everyone hot,” he joked. “[Being open] helped me to focus what I wanted to do in my career.” Joshua Yehl then added, “Equal opportunity hotness!”
For Noelle Stevenson, she talked about how she herself had only came out relatively recently, after having broken up with her then boyfriend. But she said that she had harbored feelings for the same sex for some time, though then they were confusing. “I remember coming home from a Christian craft faire, and my sister was watching the very first X-Men movie. ‘Who is this blue woman doing flips?! Why do I have feelings about her?’” Noelle went further to add on how she also felt strangely toward the female bounty hunter Zan in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
“It really wasn’t until Lumberjanes where I was able to really talk about it… So that’s me! I’m really gay!”
Brett White was next to share. “I’m a southern boy, and a Southern Baptist. So, that was a big whammy… I really knew I was gay when I saw a Jim Lee swim suit spread. Wolverine, on the beach, in a speedo, cooking hotdogs. Like come on!” It was when he was asked to do a spread in CBR however that he finally came out to his family. “I had already been out to my friends for 5 years then, and I knew I should tell my family before the spread came out. I was so scared. I ended up sending an email.”
Joshua Yehl was last to share his story. “IGN was my homepage. One day I saw that they did an article talking about the video game characters that you didn’t know was gay. I was like, ‘Are they legitimately doing this?!’ Now I’m in charge of IGN comics, been doing that for 2 years. When Ice Man came out, all eyes were sort of on me to respond. Then I wrote an article asking why it really even mattered. It’s one of our highest trafficked articles.”
Afterward, the panel took questions that ranged from “what superhero did you wish was gay” to “is it okay for writers to make existing characters gay?” The parting words for the panel that held with me were that we need to talk about everything more, and in a public light; for if we keep the discussion going, it is then that bigoted mindsets can be educated and thus changed.