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
In 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 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.”
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!
Released 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.
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.
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 published 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!