Celebrate Marriage Equality with these 12 Beloved LGBT Characters from Geek Culture
Willow and Tara, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy was more fantasy than sci-fi (aside from that universally hated fourth season), but I had to put Willow and Tara first. Willow was portrayed as heterosexual for the first three seasons of the show, even having a well-received relationship with fan favorite Oz. But when she met Tara in the fourth season, there was an immediate attraction, and she quickly realized that she was in love with Tara as a person, and then that she identified as a lesbian. Her process of self-discovery was organic, respectful, and richly drawn, which was incredibly groundbreaking for the 90's. That doesn't sound like that long ago, but a lesbian relationship on network television was groundbreaking enough that Buffy was constantly pushing the boundaries of the censors, until they managed to be the first lesbians shown in bed together on network TV in the show's sixth season.
Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter
Dumbledore was never explicitly homosexual in the Harry Potter books, but J.K. Rowling made his preferences canon after the fact, confirming that there was a romantic relationship between him and Grindelwald. One could argue that it would have been more valuable for future acceptance of homosexuality if it had been stated explicitly, but making such a beloved and admired character homosexual, even after the fact, is a huge step forward. Plus, it's hard to fault J.K. Rowling, as she has proven herself time and time again to be a staunch defender of gay rights.
And then today:
John Constantine: Vertigo Comics
The charismatic, antiheroic, chain-smoking hero of the Hellblazer series is one of the most beloved characters in comics, and he also happens to be bisexual. As in most positive portrayals of the LGBT community, there's never too much of a fuss made about his sexuality, it's just the fact of the matter, which is almost more progressive than explicitly advocating for LGBT rights.
Helena Cain, Battlestar Galactica: Razor
Helena Cain was one of the few female antiheroes out there, and she was a badass. A morally ambiguous, often detestable badass, but a badass all the same, and we need more female characters like her. Her romantic relationship with Gina/Six was meant to humanize her, but only in the sense that she had affection for another human being. It was never treated any differently than a heterosexual relationship, which is exactly the way it should be.
Sam Adama, Caprica
Another member of the BSG universe, William Adama's uncle in the prequel series was gay, and it was not only a positive portrayal of a homosexual person, but exemplified the series's progressive treatment of sexuality in general. Sci-fi is socially valuable because it can depict ideal futuristic societies, and Caprica's portrayal of a civilization that accepted gay marriage, gay adoption, and homosexuality in general as completely normal was commendable.
Honorable mention: Lieutenant Gaeta, the only homosexual character on the BSG series, but unlike Cain and Adama, his sexuality was only confirmed through webisodes.
Inara Serra, Firefly
Inara never identified as bisexual; her primary love interest, Mal, was a man, and most of her clients were men. But she would accept female clients if they were "extraordinary," and she felt that she could be herself with women in a way that she couldn't with men. As a result, her characterization was groundbreaking, as she was one of the few portrayals in television or film with a complicated sexuality that didn't necessarily fit into any type of label.
Catwoman, DC Comics
After much speculation, Catwoman finally came out as bisexual when she kissed another woman, and the writers went out of their way to confirm that her bisexuality was "canon." As a result, she's officially the first female bisexual character to lead her own series, not to mention that it was extremely progressive of DC to make such an iconic character part of the LGBT community, especially one who is famous for her on-again off-again relationship with Batman. Even better, it seems that the writers will deal with that plotline sensitively, as they assured readers that while Catwoman would be having a "relationship" with another woman, her relationship with Batman would not disappear, as "that is not how bisexuality (or humanity) works."
Jenny and Vastra: Doctor Who
Jenny and Vastra have long been a positive example of a healthy, loving lesbian relationship, and it was a disservice to them that (like Willow and Tara for the first two seasons of their relationship) they never got to kiss on screen. Then, this year, they finally got to share a kiss, but it was really just a glorified form of Whovian CPR. Even so, it was cut from the Asia broadcast and caused a whole mess of controversy, bringing LGBT issues to the forefront in a way that few television shows have.
Iceman, Marvel Comics
The X-Men have always served as a canny metaphor for homosexuality, but Marvel Comics finally decided to make that theme explicit when a founding member of the X-Men, Iceman, came out as gay earlier this year. There were potential problems with the storyline, including the fact that he didn't decide to come out himself, but was outed by psychic Jean Grey, but overall it was a huge step in the right direction.
"There are thousands if not millions of stories of people who, for many different reasons, felt the need to hide their sexuality. The X-Men, with the conceit of time travel, give us a fascinating platform in which to examine such personal journeys," said X-Men writer Brian Michael Bendis. "This is just the first little chapter of a much larger story that will be told."
Sara Lance, Arrow
Sara is last on this list, not because she's the most iconic or positive portrayal of the LGBT community, but because her existence goes to show how far we've come. The fact that a mainstream superhero show like Arrow, which isn't especially socially aware, would make one of their characters bisexual without playing it for laughs, shock value, or exploitation, is remarkable. More mainstream shows and movies should portray homosexuality with such little fanfare; pop culture both reflects and affects the general culture and helps make progress like today's gay marriage decision possible.