I’m full gay? Like 100% gay? My matter is solely composed of this substance, gay? Amazing. Thank you, my invasive psychic friend, for telling me that I am a pure gay, not a half-gay or a quarter-gay. I am the truest of gays, apparently. How splendid.
Bobby Drake in an incredibly sarcastic voice, probably.
“Meet the new flagship X-Men title after Secret Wars:Extraordinary X-Men.
Announced in a CBR interivew with writer Jeff Lemire,Extraordinary X-Men will feature an eclectic team of mutants dealing with the fallout of an unspecified incident between mutants and Inhumans in the eight months between Secret Wars and the beginning “All-New All-Different Marvel.
This Extraordinary X-Men team will consist of the adult Iceman, young Jean Grey, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Magik, and Old Man Logan.”
Our first look at Storm post Secret Wars! Full article can be read here.
Why the Iceman thing makes me really annoyed about some comic fans.
Iceman’s gay? Fine.
Jean Grey outs him? That’s problematic.
The whole “Full Gay” thing about “Maybe I’m bi” thing? REALLY bothers me, as that would explain him dating other females.
No, what bothers me is that a much better gay hero appears in the book, and is revealed as a villain at the end of the same issue.
This is Karma. She’s a Vietnamese lesbian. Not only that, but her life has been a living hell after being a rape victim and even lost a leg in one Marvel event. Not only that, she’s a nice person who cares for her two siblings and even another mutant who has no face.
SO WHAT DOES BENDIS DO?!
WHY TURNS HER AND A BUNCH OF OTHER X-MEN INTO VILLAINS AT THE END OF THE ISSUE!
AND NOBODY CARES! NOBODY MAKES A SINGLE PEEP THAT A GAY CHARACTER HAS JUST GOT HER CHARACTER ASSASINATED! It’s all “GOOD JOB TURNING ICE MAN GAY!” “ICE MAN FINALLY COMES OUT!” OH JOY! ANOTHER FUCKING WHITE GUY BECOMES FORCED DIVERSITY!
And you know what?! The people who scream for diversity in comics are a big fucking joke!
If you want diversity, why aren’t you supporting characters who are actually diverse?! Why are you constantly hopping on to characters who take over the white guys mantle? Hell, even most of these changes are bullshit!
Falcon first Black Captain America? HOW ABOUT:
ISIAH BRADLEY AND ELI BRADLEY! BOTH BLACK CAPTAIN AMERICA ANALOGIES BEFORE FALCON!
HOW ABOUT FEMALE THOR?
Some person was going how “Look at Comic fans be mad about a female Captain Marvel” and I SCREAM “LOOK AT THE CAROL CORPS IGNORING A GAY AND BLACK CAPTAIN MARVEL THAT EXISTED BEFORE CAROL FUCKING DANVERS BEING CAPTAIN MARVEL!”
Hell, how is it that Anya Corazon gets so forgotten by the fandom, but SPIDER-GWEN IS EVERYWHERE??!!!! IT’S BULLSHIT! FUCKING BULLSHIT!!!
And you know what?! Back when I got into comics, I was really hoping the diverse heroes would start becoming more prevalent, but no, they don’t! INSTEAD SOME ALREADY POPULAR CHARACTER IS USED TO FILL IN THE DIVERSITY SPOT INSTEAD OF ACTUAL DIVERSE CHARACTERS!
I’M JUST FUCKING FURIOUS AND SICK OF TIRED OF THESE FANS WHO ACT LIKE THEY ARE PROVING SOMETHING WITH THESE NEW DIVERSE CHARACTERS INSTEAD OF ACTUALLY PROMOTING EXISTING DIVERSE CHARACTERS!!! YOU CAN ALL FUCKING KISS MY ASS!
All-New X-Men #40 and the reality of being a queer teen.
So it took me a little while to get this into the right words, but I wanna talk about those now-infamous pages from All-New X-Men #40 and the complaints I’ve read about brianmichaelbendis‘ writing in the scene. Which, to be fair, may change down the road as the story continues, and I’ll be happy to retract this if we see differently.
And on one hand, I get it. It’s EXTREMELY uncomfortable for Bobby– you can tell from his reactions that he’s very upset by Jean’s intrusion on his thoughts, by her forcing the subject, by a lot of the things she tells him during that conversation. Jean says some really ignorant things. What Jean says and does in the context of the conversation is definitely problematic.
But does that make the text problematic? Is text where no fictional characters do anything problematic what what you want? Do you only want stories where coming out is done on the queer character’s own terms and the straight characters offer good advice and knowledgable insight?
Because it’s awesome when that happens, but that’s also not real life. These are teenagers. These are teenagers dealing with things that are awkward and uncomfortable and that they probably haven’t been taught to talk about properly.
One of my favorite teen-coming-out-in-comics stories is the one where Kevin comes out in Archie. It’s a bit dated in retrospect, but at the time, there was nothing like it, and I still remember my excitement when it was published. The story is one where Veronica has a crush on him, and keeps aggressively pursuing him, and he’s afraid to come out to her because, as a teenaged boy, he doesn’t know how to handle this teenaged girl and he’s afraid of how she’ll respond– not because he thinks she has a problem with gay people, but because of the crush. He tells other people, people he’s comfortable with, perhaps the badly-chosen Jughead, but he can’t bring himself to tell her.
And then Jughead spends the entire issue using Kevin to fuck with Veronica. It’s actually kind of awful. He convinced Kevin not to tell her, he eggs Veronica on. Jughead’s name through the whole issue should probably be Shithead. He is a Jerk with a Capital J (for Jughead, I guess). I accidentally made two jokes about his name in a row, but you get the picture. Jughead is an asshole to both of his friends, and thinks it’s hilarious. Because that’s what teenagers do. I don’t think anyone thought that Dan Parent was suggesting that Jughead’s behavior was a model for how straight friends should treat queer friends who aren’t out to everyone they know. So why does that apply to Bendis and Jean? Is it because we know Jean is trying, and that makes the scene even more uncomfortable than Jughead, who was deliberately acting with malice because he was angry with Veronica?
Jean is trying to be supportive and fails in some ways, using the wrong language, crossing Bobby’s boundaries in extremely intrusive ways.
For me, that seems like a very sympathetic portrayal of a teenager being outed by a friend. Maybe things have changed a lot since I was that age, maybe this is an issue of generational experience and difference, but this rings a lot more true to my own experiences as a teenager than something where Jean lets Bobby come out on his own terms, and says all the right things, understands what it means to be queer and listens to what Bobby has to say about it.
I mean, my own teenaged experience involved a friend telling me I “wasn’t a real lesbian.” When I was like, no shit, I’m bisexual– except I didn’t even really have the word bisexual yet. It involved me, a really politically active kid, with very open and accepting parents, with out queer family friends an active part of my life, who wasn’t afraid of anything, who was really supportive of other queer people, terrified of the possibility of me liking girls. It involved friends and adults saying awkward things to me or lecturing me about what “experts say” about my own identity. It involved being convinced I must be a lesbian because bisexuals don’t really exist, right? We internalize that stuff, and our friends don’t know any better and enable that internalization, just like Bobby and Jean do in this conversation.
I remember so many kids being asked flat out if they were gay, being hounded by people trying to prove they were queer against their wishes. It wasn’t until I was in college that I found myself in a place where people could actually have a decent dialogue about it, and I still heard ignorant things from well-meaning friends who were trying to be supportive or sympathetic. I dated a boy all through college– I had plenty of people doubting that I was queer, or telling me what they thought my sexuality was. I remember someone once saying in one of my classes that poor gay people didn’t exist because you had to have a certain amount of money before you could do things like be gay– and she was a lesbian. And I’m fairly sure I said some pretty ignorant things myself– probably still do from time to time, when I’m talking about an identity that isn’t mine.
In other words, my own teen experience with my sexual identity was exactly like what’s going on in these panels. Exactly. And that’s what I want from my media: characters who are trying to be good people steamrolling other people’s boundaries and essentially betraying their friends in a terrible attempt at what they believe is support, saying upsetting stuff that they think is a sign of friendship. We all do it, we all say things that hurt our friends when we think we’re trying to be nice. That’s way more real to me than characters who understand everything perfectly and say all the right things.
And yeah, you know, they still hug and support each other, because Jean is trying and Bobby knows she’s trying, even if she fucks up– even if he continues to tell her he’s upset with how she handled it throughout the sequence. But you know your friends at least mean to be kind people, and when you’re a queer teenager, having friends who hurt you seems like a better option than having no friends at all, and having one person who knows can be such a relief, even when it doesn’t happen on your terms. Nothing is all or nothing. Nothing is 100%.
Personally, I think Jean is acting exactly like a typical awkward straight friend in this sequence. I wanted to metaphorically strangle her. Which is what I wanted to do to a lot of my straight friends at that age. Just because it’s what Jean’s saying doesn’t mean it’s what the author’s saying– she’s a fictional character, and I don’t think she’s intended to act as a mouthpiece here.
I spoke with darrylayo about this scene and we talked about where, for him, the part that didn’t work was that he felt like this would be much more devastating for Bobby than it’s displayed as being– we talked a lot about how Bobby’s upbringing and experiences up till this point might have a huge bearing on the scene, because something that rang true for me rang a bit false for him. But I also remember letting my friends get away with a lot when I was that age, even when I was upset– sometimes it would take a day or two for the gravity and the sheer awfulness of what they’d done to sink in. As a teenager, I didn’t know it was okay to be angry about feeling violated, sometimes. We talked about Bobby’s reaction in this scene, how it’s very withdrawn, reticent, and reserved, which is a big contrast to Bobby’s usual emotionality, and how that could be read as particularly out-of-character writing– or as an out-of-character reaction– that this scene is such a huge moment for him, emotionally, that it essentially inverts his character, makes him close himself off, which would be a really dramatic reaction from someone who generally expresses his emotions quite openly.
There’s only one line, reading it, that I’m iffy on, and that’s the one about how Adult!Bobby’s relationships have failed being a sign that he’s gay. And even then, I’m not so much iffy on it because it’s a bullshit line– since it is bullshit, but I’ve heard real life people say that too, when someone comes out after a divorce, or realizes in the middle of a long-term relationship that they’re perhaps not as straight as they thought. “No wonder his marriage didn’t work out, he likes men. That explains why none of her boyfriends stuck around.” Heard it. It’s a real thing people say. Most of the reason I’m iffy about it is that in Marvel? EVERYONE’S relationships fail. By Jean’s assertion, everybody in the entire Marvel universe is now probably queer.
Wait. I take it back. Maybe I’m not iffy about that, either, because THAT WOULD BE SWEET.
If this scene were written in a way where Bobby were depicted as being 100% comfortable with it (he’s not), or where he behaved like he was in control or wanted her to out him (he’s also not), then I’d be more inclined to agree that this was the author losing the thread. But Bendis chose to write Bobby telling her to stop, remember. He chose to write Bobby not being okay with how things went, even at the end, even when they’re hugging. He chose to write Bobby floating thoughts about his sexuality and having Jean shut him down. If you think this is okay, you don’t write Bobby saying no all those times. You write Bobby being okay with it, or saying no once and then laughing it off. That doesn’t happen. Bobby continues to be upset about it and continues to remind her of that.
Which is how it works in real life. It’s not all strawberries n’ cream. And I felt like I needed to say something about this, because as far as I’m concerned, I want my fiction to work like real life, not like some perfect utopia where everyone says the perfect thing. Seeing things work like real life can be really nice, can remind you that you’re not alone when things suck, a lot more that seeing everything go smoothly and wondering why it doesn’t go smoothly for you.