Raising LGBTQ+ Visibility Through Pop Culture (Part 1)

June is Pride Month, a time for celebrating the vast diversity that makes up the LGBTQ+ community. Our community encompasses a plethora of different genders, identities, and sexualities, and promotes love and acceptance of self and others. Whether you’re transgender, bisexual, androgynous, masculine, feminine, demisexual, homosexual, or any other sexuality or identity in the spectrum, you will find a home under the rainbow flag.

One of the biggest concerns for the LGBTQ+ community involves visibility and positive representation in the media. Wider representation benefits the movement, as well as allowing individual members of the community (especially youth) to see themselves portrayed positively in the world around them. I wanted to start the month off with a post highlighting various creative works that contribute to this visibility. In my selection process, I tried to choose works that represented a wide variety of the sexualities and identities that make up our community.

True to myself, I wound up with an entire miniseries rather than just one post! Keep an eye out this month for follow-up posts containing more titles!

But First, A Brief History

StonewallIn 1969, a series of violent riots broke out at The Stonewall Inn, a known safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. The violence occurred in response to police raids on LGBTQ+ spaces common at the time. Police would storm known hangouts of queer folk and make arrests based on laws and regulations intended to discourage LGBTQ+ activity. One such regulation required that a person wear at least three articles of clothing matching their gender and sex. Tired of the constant threat of oppression, the patrons of Stonewall stood their ground. The Encyclopedia Britanica does a great job of describing the atmosphere that sparked these events:

“Many historians characterized the uprising as a spontaneous protest against the perpetual police harassment and social discrimination suffered by a variety of sexual minorities in the 1960s.”

The Stonewall riots (also called the Stonewall uprising) are credited as being an important catalyst in the fight for equality that we see today. The movement’s momentum really picked up in response. In part, this is due to the fact that these riots raised awareness of what was happening to the gay community throughout the country. It also served to galvanize advocates and members of the community into action to fight for and promote social change.

President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 as the first official gay and lesbian pride month, which president Barack Obama expanded to include the entire LGBTQ+ community in 2009. The Stonewall Inn became an official national monument in 2016 in honor of the historic impact it had on the quest for LGBTQ+ equality.

Increasing Visibility in Popular Media

Now let’s take a look at a few games, movies, comics, and shows that work proudly to raise visibility for the LGBTQ+ community.

Overwatch

Overwatch is well known for slowly introducing new characters and information over time and allowing its players to piece together that information to better understand the game’s backstory and characters. They pepper story and lore throughout the game, as well as tucking it away in animated shorts and digital comics. This month, the OW team introduced a new voice line for the poster character Tracer that started an excited buzz around the internet. In the new line, Tracer says “I wonder if I have time to visit Emily? No, better stay focused.”

Tracer Action Shot

The Emily in question is Tracer’s girlfriend, previously only known by fans who read the digital comic Reflections. The team confirms that Tracer is homosexual rather than a different orientation with a statement made to IGN:

“Tracer is a lesbian on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. As in real life, having variety in our characters and their identities and backgrounds helps create a richer and deeper overall fictional universe. From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world. As with any aspect of our characters’ backgrounds, their sexuality is just one part of what makes our heroes who they are.”

Including the voice line in the game raises LGBTQ+ visibility by reaching players who do not read the comics. Many players speculate on where this new voice line will come into play, and what details it will reveal about the ever-unfolding OW lore. Cheers, love!

Tokyo Godfathers

Hana Tokyo GodfathersReleased in 2003, Tokyo Godfathers (東京ゴッドファーザーズ) follows the adventures of three homeless people who unexpectedly become the protectors of a baby they find abandoned on a cold winter night. One of the three is Hana, a former drag queen who has discovered herself as a trans woman. She lives on the streets following the death of a boyfriend who’s loss came as a hard blow to her. Throughout the film, she proves herself to be a strong individual with a big heart. Her companions occasionally call her a crazy queer guy, but she corrects them in stride.

Wandering Son

Another great series raising visibility for transgender folks is Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son (放浪息子 Hourou Musuko). The series follows two children, Shuichi Nitori and Yoshino Takatsuki, as they discover their gender identities. They’re at that awkward stage in life where girls and boys start hitting puberty, leading to not only the development of physical differences, but also social differences that weren’t apparent in younger ages. The trouble is, these two find that they do not identify with the gender assigned to them. Both are transgender, and work together to help one another navigate their way through this confusing time.

wandering son

On a side note, I recommend reading the manga before trying the anime. The anime picks up somewhere in the middle of the story, dropping the viewer in with no explanation whatsoever. It feels more aimed at already established fans of the manga rather than new audiences.

Love is Love

Lastly, I wanted to give a shout out to the beautiful Love is Love comic love is love comicpublished by IDW and DC in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting. This comic is a collection of one to two page stories celebrating the LGBTQ+ community. It offers a mixture of hope-filled tales and reactions to the tragedy, making for a potent combo of uplifting and devastating feelings.

The stories contained include many different viewpoints from all over the spectrum, including those of allies and advocates. All proceeds for this comic go to the Pulse survivors, victims, and families of victims. I highly recommend the digital version if you decide to add this beautiful comic to your collection, as it contains a few additional pages of content not published in the print copy, including a beautiful candlelight vigil.

Wrapping it Up

I know that I didn’t name all of the pop culture works that bring visibility to our colorful community. As much as I want to pay homage to these important creative works, I needed to limit my selections for this blog. If I were to include every single one, this would be a very long miniseries indeed!

Do you have a favorite game, show, comic, or movie with LGBTQ+ characters or themes that didn’t make the list? Please share them in the comments! You can also connect on Twitter at @Popliterature, or send a message on the “contact me” page. And remember to keep an eye out later this month for posts containing more titles that bring visibility to the spectrum!

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13 thoughts on “Raising LGBTQ+ Visibility Through Pop Culture (Part 1)

    1. I love it too! It always makes me feel pretty happy when I see the growing diversity in our media. One of the things that made Overwatch catch my attention was its diversity. I don’t usually play shooters because I am dreadful at them, spending more time figuring out how not to aim at the sky than actually taking out my opponents, and probably wouldn’t have really noticed the game otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I do play the game! I’d like to think I’m actually a pretty decent Lucio 😉
          I love the shorts, and the comics are next on my list. I went to read them recently, but couldn’t figure out how to make the text big enough to read! Entirely user error, I’m sure, requiring a brain reboot and eventual second try.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Love the post. It’s great to see that the LGBTQ+ community is being represented in pop culture.

    I’ve been meaning to read/watch Wandering Son. Thanks for the advice.

    A series I can’t stop thinking about is Bokura no Hentai. I know the name sounds dubious, but it’s a serious manga that touches upon serious topics.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The history of Two Spirit people go back THOUSANDS
    of years in this country, it is sad to see so many
    people ignore or do not research Americas very long
    history of gender freedom within our native population.

    Two Spirit have been a part of this nations rich
    culture since the beginning, accepting all parts,
    there is never any need to feel less than oneself
    since there is no gender binary. Understanding the
    extreme damage the Judaeo-Christian outlook on
    sexuality & also colonialism have done more harm
    to this narrative than good. So popular culture in
    no way shape or form represents or acknowledges
    its true history. LGBTQ+ does not go far enough or
    look far enough to truly grasp our parallel struggle.

    Rainbow flags & floats will never undo the massive
    genocide of the Native American, not only eradicating
    autonomy, gender freedoms, & ecological balance w the
    land. Most people see pride month as one big party.

    Like

    1. When Two Spirit traditions became targeted by the colonizers all across the Americas, the world lost something amazing. This is such an important piece of not only LGBTQ+ history but also Native American history and American history that doesn’t enter into enough conversations. This narrative is being picked up more frequently now as people are noting its loss, thankfully, but that can never repair the damage that has been done both by attacking the tradition and by dropping it from the general narrative.

      Pop culture and media definitely don’t represent any true facet of LGBTQ+ history. At present, it can only increase general visibility for the narratives and individuals in our world today. It’s still got a long way to go, but what’s here is still worth celebrating. Celebrating something, I find, is far more rewarding than telling somebody that in trying to do something positive and meaningful, they didn’t try hard enough and should be ashamed.

      Pride month is about celebrating the narratives of people, pushing back against the notion that LGBTQ+ identities are wrong. For some, reclaiming this identity takes the form of bright celebrations to say “there is hope” even in the face of a bleak world. For others, Pride also entails recognition of individuals who can’t be themselves due to fear of rejection, discrimination, or violence. It’s a time for reflection, for raising visibility and awareness, and for history. These more reflective Pride month celebrations aren’t as visible in the media or even in public spaces because it’s hard to make reflection visible. It is there, though. Every day.

      I look forward to the day (which we are in the process of building, though it will be a long journey) when we reclaim a cultural understanding similar to the Two Spirit tradition.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank You for participating in this dialogue,
        we all have unique insights & stories to share,
        thank goodness for platforms like WordPress,
        that allow us to converge on this mental plane.

        This freedom of expression & conversation was
        something that was not possible not so long ago,
        it is always a pleasure to gain new perspectives,
        as in this multi-dimensional experience we are
        sharing, there is no one correct viewpoint, true
        diversity is a thing of beauty. It is a shame that
        after the build-up & global response to the plight
        of the Sioux @ Standing Rock this past year, it
        seems everything went back to busine$$ as usual.

        Luckily the dialog ignited something very powerful
        in this younger generation, who are remembering
        and exploring much more than any generation in
        recent history, & that is the silver lining in all this.

        Sending you love, respect, & good vibes from Miami.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I marvel at how much the internet allows for the open exchange of diologue, culture, and ideas. It’s amazing. It always reminds me that even though terrible things happen every day, we really do live in a beautiful world full of amazing individuals!

          I truly look forward to seeing the changes that both the newest generation and the newly minted adults (my generation!) change things. Both generations have been raised with the world at their fingertips and with, largely, a huge emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving. It’s going to be incredible.

          Like

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