Coming Out In Comics

Happy National Coming Out Day! Thank you SO much to everyone who offered storiesyour bravery, diversity, talent, humor, and love makes me proud all over again to be part of the queer comics community. Thanks also to the folks at Prism Comics, who posted my call for stories on their front page, and who work like crazy to support and celebrate queer comics, creators, and fans.
Originally, I had planned this as two postsone about great coming out scenes in comics, and the other focusing on coming out stories from members of the comics community. But as I looked through what I had lined upand heard from youthey started to bleed together.
I considered setting these up with a table of contents and target links but finally decided against itless because I’m lazy than because every single one of these stories deserves your full attention. You don’t get to pick and choose your sexuality; you don’t get to turn a blind eye to lives and experiences; and you don’t get to choose which stories you see.
Some of these stories contain links to comics and stories off-site. Please show their creators and hosts the same respect you would be expected to on the Inside Out forum.
And, a final note to friends in and out of comics: Inside Out is not an inherently political columnbut queer visibility and rights are an inherently political issue. This November, three states have ballot items defining marriage as ‘between one man and one woman.’ If you live in Florida, California, or Arizona, please, please get out to the polls and vote NO against propositions 2, 8, and 102, respectively. And even if you don’t live in those states, take a few minutes to make a donation or some phone calls and strike a blow for equal rights:
And now, stories!
Arion Hunter:
For a long time, I was interested in comics, but could never find a space for myself in the comics culture. The one time I did visit my local store, the man behind the counter watched me the entire time as if he expected me to shoplift. Unsurprisingly, I was suitably scared off of comics after that.
So on my first day of college, I randomly ran into another freshman and we hit it off rather well. It turns out she was a huge fan of comics, and so I agreed to head back to her dorm to inspect her collection. I had, up to this point, not been out to anyone around me. As a test of the waters, I made an off-hand comment about ‘probably not meeting another gay person on campus.’ She looks at me, laughs, and says, ‘Well, you just met one.’
She’s still one of my best friends to this day.
Siduri (originally posted at
National Coming Out Day is October 11, so it’s come and gone for 2007 and it’s a long way away for 2008. It’s been a while since I felt any need to mark this holiday. But I recently got into a conversation about gay marriage on a mailing list I frequent, and I realized: for a lot of people, I’m in the closet. I’m a wife and mother, and some people—the people I’ve met recently, including my husband’s wonderful family—wouldn’t have any reason to realize that I’m queer.
So here we go. I’m a bi woman. I’m one hundred percent monogamous and one hundred percent devoted to my husband, but in the past I’ve had girlfriends as well as boyfriends. Not at the same time—that’s called being polyamorous, and it’s a different thing from being bi—I’m bi and I’m monogamous. But I’ve had girlfriends, at least one who I deeply loved, and she’s still important to me. I would never repudiate that part of who I am.
The way the dice fell for me, my soulmate is a man, and so I could marry him. But they might have fallen another way. I could have ended up in love, forever, with a woman. That’s why the issue of gay marriage is so very important to me. And also, of course, some of my dearest friends are gay, and I witness the very real and ongoing harm that our country’s unjust laws are wreaking.
I get a ton of legal benefits from being in a heterosexual marriage. That’s actually why I don’t talk more about being bi. It seems presumptive to claim a queer identity when I’m enjoying so much heterosexual status and privilege. But I came out to my friends and family a long time ago, and I’m not willing to go back into the closet.
Hearts and minds are changed when people realize that ‘gay’ isn’t some scary person they see on TV, it’s a real person they know and love. I’m a faithful wife and a loving mother, and I’m bisexual. If you didn’t already know that about me, surprise! Maybe it won’t make a difference to you and maybe it will, but it’s something I want everybody to know. Happy Coming Out Day, late or early, and God bless us every one.
Joe Palmer of Gay League:
My whole coming out story is a gradual one and not all that exciting in its retelling. I have early memories of when I was four and five, having an internal monologue and knowing something about me was fundamentally different from everyone else around me. I didn’t have a word for it. Who does at that age. It wasn’t till I overheard my grandmother whom I loved dearly tell my mother she’d ‘better cut loose the apron strings or she’d have a sissy on her hands’ that I knew there was a word for it and hearing it reinforced the understanding to never let anyone know. I was six years old.
My understanding began to clear up some when I became fascinated with watching TV shows like Batman and Robin, Green Hornet, and Star Trek. I was consumed with looking at Kato, Sulu, and Chekov, Imagine my surprise when George Takei publicly came out. Around this time I discovered comics. Unlike a lot of gay men, my coming out and sexuality don’t have a strong, early connection and identification with Wonder Woman. It’s almost heretical, right? I fall into another group because the Legion of Super Heroes became my first and lasting passion. Here was a group of teens, more guys than girls, living together without parents. It was how I came to understand the idea of a chosen family and it was an extremely important idea for a nine-year old whose family was very dysfunctional. Of course, it was impossible for comics to have any gay content back then. This is 1967 after all and the Comics Code Authority is at full strength. Like with TV shows, there were male characters I became fascinated with, especially Ultra Boy and Element Lad. Unlike TV, comics were an entirely private ritual that allowed me to gradually come to understanding that realization of being different I had as a young child.
At one point when I was a teenager my father tried to stop me from reading comics because they had nothing to do with Christianity and were therefore Satanic. He watched television for hours on end so I thought tit for tat would be good. For two or three weeks I blacked out everything in the TV Guide that wasn’t a Sunday morning religious broadcast, and got my message across. If he’d had any real idea how I’d related to comics I think he wouldn’t have relented.
The following are coming-out storiespersonal and fictionalin comics form. Follow the links to read the full comics.
I Like Girls, by Erika Moen, was part of the inspiration for this post. I read this for the first time when I was in college, long before I met Erika, and it remains one of the most powerful coming-out narratives I’ve read. For another incredible comic by Erika on coming out and why visibility matters, read When We Hold Hands.
Erika writes:
‘I Like Girls’ was originally written as an essay for my ‘Memoir and Autobiography’ class, freshman year of college. I had JUST gotten into my first openly gay relationship and had not yet come out to my (homophobic) mom, so the paper was kind of a mental practice/preparation for that.
The comic I didn’t start working on until my sophmore year again, I think I did it for a class? An art class? I don’t exactly recall, but it is still the longest single comic I’ve ever completed and even though the artwork is oldy moldy it’s still the project I’m most proud of.
Everyone always asks if I came out to my mom by having her read the comic. That’d be a great story, but no, I did not. I told her face-to-face towards the end of freshman year, so she already knew (and was in denial) before I started illustrating my essay.
After four years, my mom is as supporitve as she possibly can be (Though it’s no secret she desperately would prefer me straight)
I Like Girls, by Erika Moen
I Like Girls, by Erika Moen
Brian Andersen, of Unabashedly Billie:
I have been a comic reader since I was a wee little boy of 8. Comics were (and still are) my safe haven from all the meanies and bullies at school who harassed me relentlessly (stupid, dumb jerks!). Growing up I always felt awkward and different and didn’t realize that my outsider feelings were because I was totally, completely, and utterly gay! In fact, I didn’t even come out until I was 26 whopping years old! ‘Unabashedly Billie’ is my semi-autobiographical comic book story of my coming out, my first date with my now boyfriend (we’re going on eight years together) and all the internal fears and joys that went along with me discovering and accepting the real me! Yay!
Unabashedly Billie, by Brian Andersen
Unabashedly Billie, by Brian Andersen and Preston Nesbit
My comics about being out appeared in Lavender magazine, but that was years ago.
My characters have been coming out their entire lives (at least the GLBT ones!).
Here’s a page I did lo these many years ago for Gay comics #25:
I’ve done little comics work dealing with sexuality in recent years- maybe I’ve said what I have to say, or else I just want to think about it for a while before I say anything else.
Thank you again to everyone who contributed stories and comicsand to everyone who has stood up and spoken out about queer rights and identity, in and out of comics.
You can discuss this postand share more storieshere (I’ll add stories to this post as/if they arrive!).

Summer Q&A Part 2: Infrequently Asked Questions

More questions from you! Answered by me!
Benel R. Germosen asks:Best fight sequence ever rendered in comics…ever?
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. All of it.
hippokrene asks: What was the first comic you fell in love with?
According to my parents, I used to make them sit and explain Kliban cartoons to me when I was one or two, so I guess those, followed fairly closely by Nicole Hollander’s Sylvia, Mark Marek’s Hercules Among the North Americans, and Tintin in Tibet. I had a gloriously weird childhood.
Who is your favorite female action movie heroine?
It’s a toss-up between the two main characters of Outrageous Fortune, the Bride from Kill Bill, and Yu Shu Lien from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I seriously think Michelle Yeoh is going to revolutionize the roles of older women in action movies over the next few decades.

What is the best flavor of ice cream?
Baskin-Robbins’s Gold Medal Ribbon.
I don’t know if you’ve read The Hollows novels, but if you have, what do you think of Ivy Tamwood as a portrayal of bisexual women?
I think I’d have a stronger opinion on the topic if I’d read the novels.
In a visual medium like comics, can a character be ‘feminist’ even if she’s continuously dressed in spandex thongs and contorted into spine-breaking sexual poses, or will the art always undermine other aspects of the character?
If that portrayal is clearly tongue-in-cheek, sure. The art will always trump the rest of the character’s portrayal for some readers, but considering how many people make social judgments based on appearance, that’ll be a problem no matter how a given character is drawn.
And I think most readers will realize that portrayals like the one you’re describing say a lot more about the artists than they do about the characters.
Urbane Zombie asks: Do you ever privately imagine One Fish Two Fish being recited in the deep, sonorous voice of James Earl Jones?
I sure as hell do now.
If you had to take care of someone else’s big, smelly, drooling dog for a week, what would be the absolute worst comic-style superpower for that dog to have?
I’ve thought through the more obvious awful superpowers, but all those seem like cheating, so I’m gonna go with the power to drool on things from a distance. That would be really damn creepy.
Let’s say you inadvertently killed the Scorpion King and found yourself the absolute commander of thousands of big, musclebound, jackal-headed spearmen in little gold lamé skirts. What would you order them to do?
Moonwalk! And then I’d probably be wracked with guilt and have them go volunteer for community garden projects or something.
Do you think that pies can be used to express respect as well as ridicule?
Absolutelyin fact, I use most pies I make to express respect, affection, and the fact that blackberries are in season. Which I respect.
Does having children of elementary school age telling someone not to use drugs decrease that person’s level of drug use?
My partner’s stepfather quit cigarettes for almost twenty years after his six-year-old stepson burst into tears and told him he was afraid it would kill him, so I’ll guess yes.
Are there any decent names for a dark-costumed character who fights crime when it is night-time, that haven’t been used yet?
Yes. They’re stockpiled in a warehouse in Queens, along with mint copies of the Shade miniseries. AND SOMEDAY, THEY WILL ALL BE MINE.
Is Order really Good? Is Chaos Really Evil?
Only about a third of the time.
If you could only have one minion, but they could be any kind of minion you wanted, what would they be like? (They need not be a previously existing minion.)
Definitely Warren Ellis. I can’t imagine anything cooler than being able to say that Warren Ellis was my minion. I’d take him to parties and go ‘Hi, I’m Rachel. And this is my minion, Warren Ellis. That’s right. Warren Ellis. Who is my minion.’ And then I’d probably make him play scrabble with me, because I’m really a terribly dull person.
Giant spider… or giant centipede?
I don’t care, as long as I can ride it to work.
Of all female comic book characters, who do you think best exemplifies the middle ground between useless passivity and openly sadistic ultraviolence?
I can think of a lot, actually, but if I only get one, I’ll say Kate Corrigan. She’s freakin’ awesome.
Of all male comic book characters, who do you think best exemplifies the middle ground between useless passivity and openly sadistic ultraviolence?
Again, I can name more than I can count on fingers and toes, but let’s go with Jack Knight, my all-time-favorite super guy. I would definitely party with him, even though I suspect he’d talk a lot about art deco furniture if he got drunk.
If you had to make a feature-length live-acted summer blockbuster action movie remake of Dr. Snuggles, what acting-type-person would you cast in the title role? (Note: Sir Peter Ustinov is unavailable.)
He already looks an awful lot like Sir Ian Holm.
If you were making gender-swapped James Bond movies, what would be three good names for the boy versions of the Bond Girls?
Rock Hard, Jack Hammer, and Penis Penis Penis. Oh, yeah. I went there.
If you could distill secular morality into a sort of glowing green liquid, what would happen when you splashed it on people?
Revolution, baby!
If you really want to, you can discuss this column (or ask more questions) here.

Chapter Break

I’m writing this post to announce my resignation from the board of, and to reassure my readers (That’s you! All six of you!) that said resignation does not signify drama, angst, or imminent meltdowns and is, in fact, a Very Good Thing for all parties concerned.
This isn’t a break-upI am still snuggly with both Girl-Wonder as an organization and its board members as individuals and a group. Neither I nor Inside Out will be going anywhere, and I will still be serving as a community moderator on the forums, so don’t get any ideas.
The reasons for my departure are nominally ‘personal,’ in that they have nothing to do with Girl-Wonder, and everything with the fact that I had hopelessly overextended myself and needed to either find things that I could stop doing without fear of them crashing and burning, or resign myself to life with no time for creative projects, interpersonal relationships, or sleepand I’d pretty well fulfilled my quota for the latter situation in college.
That I’ve been able to detach myself from my board responsibilities this painlessly says a good deal about the grace and competence of the remaining board members, and I am looking forward to watching from the sidelines as Girl-Wonder continues to flourish under their care.
If you’re so inclined, you can discuss this column here.

Establish Articulate Act Trackback

Remember that little letter-writing campaign I proposed a few days back?
It’s grown.
I’m proud to announce a new, ongoing part of Girl-Wonder’s work: CAHP, the Con Anti-Harassment Project. The CAHP’s goal is to help make conventions safer, more fun, and more accessible by encouraging organizers to establish, articulate, and act upon clear anti-harassment policies. We’ve got a letter-writing guide complete with templates; a database of conventions, policies, and contact information; resources for organizers; and a comprehensive faq; and a moderated safe-space forum!
You can discuss this column, and CAHP’s future, here.

Establish Articulate Act

Remember that little letter-writing campaign I proposed a few days back?
It’s grown.
I’m proud to announce a new, ongoing part of Girl-Wonder’s work: CAHP, the Con Anti-Harassment Project. The CAHP’s goal is to help make conventions safer, more fun, and more accessible by encouraging organizers to establish, articulate, and act upon clear anti-harassment policies. We’ve got a letter-writing guide complete with templates; a database of conventions, policies, and contact information; resources for organizers; and a comprehensive faq; and a moderated safe-space forum!
You can discuss this column, and CAHP’s future, here.

Blogging Isn’t Enough

In the last week, a plethora of bloggers have linked to and/or mirrored this post, which discusses the issue of harassment at ComiCon International. Many have shared personal stories; others have expressed their general problems with the general indifference they’ve seen toward harassment and assault at conventions.
Let me make one thing abundantly clear: by harassment, I am not just talking about wolf whistles, ‘Nice costume’ comments, or accidental touch. ComiCon is crowdedREALLY crowded. It is pretty much impossible to navigate without coming into physical contact with another person. What I’m talking about is people deliberately touching, stalking, demanding sexual favors from, or actively harassing other congoersfans and professionalswithout consent. These things are not only rude, they’re illegal.
Which may go a fair way to explain why ComiCon international doesn’t have a clear policy against them in their programs or do much in the way of briefing their security staff. It makes a certain amount of senseafter all, they don’t, say, explicitly tell you not to shoot heroin on the floor, but it’s pretty well taken as read that that’s not appropriate at a convention. I’d like to think that’s because most con organizers are decent people and therefore assume that this stuff should be a matter of common sense.
But apparently, in the case of physical and sexual harassment and assault, common sense isn’t enough. There are still people who treat these things as a default part of con culture, who don’t get that there’s one hell of a difference between telling someone that you like her costume and adding that it would look better on your hotel room floor; or that not everyone wants to be hugged; or that ‘woman working at a booth’ does not equal ‘booth babe’; or that ‘booth babe’ does not equal ‘petting zoo’or, from another angle, that ‘favorite and/or famous creator’ does not equal ‘fan property.’
I am not suggesting that ComiCon install propriety police, or that congoers should walk around with their hands in their pockets at all times, or that it’s anything short of ridiculous to expect to have a three-foot (or one-foot, or six-inch) radius of personal space on a crowded con floor. What I am saying is that ComiCon desperately needs a clear, public policy against personal harassment.
In light of their quick response to the fake SDCC MySpace page (you rememberthe one with the ‘Girls Who Like Comics & Geeks’ section), I’m inclined to believe that the folks behind ComiCon International are open and responsive to attendees feedback. In fact, they post their contact information right on their front page.
You can probably guess where this is heading.
If you think that ComiCon International needs to articulate a clear policy against personal harassment in their programs, please drop them a line and say so. (And when you do, please be polite, patient, and respectful. As I wrote above, this doesn’t look like malevolence to mejust omission.)
You can reach them via the following means:
Comic-Con International
P.O. Box 128458
San Diego, CA 92112-8458
San Diego, CA
HOTLINE: 619-491-2475
FAX: 619-414-1022
And, while you’re at it, check other conslocal or otherwise, comics or gaming or scifi or whatever you’re intoand if they don’t have clear personal harassment policies, float them a line, too.

An Open Letter to the Asshole with the ‘Free Hugs’ Sign at SDCC

Dear Asshole,
This is not an apology. I’m not sorry for yelling at you or swearing at you or for threatening to call security if you didn’t fuck off. In fact, I think you should feel damn lucky that you didn’t get a boot to your squishy sensitive bits, because I would have been damn well justified in planting one there.
If you ask someoneparticularly someone much smaller than you, and particularly someone female in a context where a lot of women already feel on-edge because of the way they’re treated, and particularly if she’s in a fairly isolated areafor a hug, and that person says no, it is NEVER appropriate to whine and wheedle and move closer. If they say ‘no’ a second time and ask you to leave, and you keep approaching them and keep insisting? YOU ARE PHYSICALLY THREATENING THEM.
It doesn’t matter if ‘all’ you want is a hug. It doesn’t matter if you’d hug me if our positions were reversed. What matters is that I said ‘no,’ and you kept pushing.
There is nothing wrong with wandering around ComiCon with a sign advertising free hugs; in fact, until you approached me, I thought the ideas was kind of cool, and I’m sure there are people who carry those signs and respect others’ physical boundaries (and if you, Dear Reader, are one such person, I suggest that you let this douche know in no uncertain terms that he is making you look very bad and you do not appreciate it). But what you did? That’s not free. And it’s not okay.
You can discuss this columnand the politics and etiquette of touch at conventionshere.

Why It Still Matters

I spent last weekend at the Emerald City ComiCon (which is awesome, by the way, and which I heartily recommend to anyone who hangs out in the Pacific Northwest or is interested in heading in that direction for a few days), mostly working at the Dark Horse table. It was pretty low-keywe weren’t doing any in-booth signings or sales, just giveawayswhich meant we had time to chat with a lot of the people who came by.
One of the people I talked to was a guy in his thirties or forties. He had stopped reading comics decades ago but had returned recently; when I asked him why, he said it was because of Young Avengers, specifically Hulkling and Wiccan: for the first time in his life, there were gay characters in superhero comics who were more than stereotypes, with whom he could actually identify.
This stuff matters more than most of us will ever realize, because we are more or less privileged enough to see ourselvesor at least facets of ourselvesreflected in almost everything we read. Our paper mirrors are everywhere. We have a lot of representations to choose from. This is why it matters when there areand when there aren’tcharacters of color, queer characters, non-Christian characters, disabled characters. This isn’t just about demographics, or representation. It’s about identification and validation: the day you finally get to open a book and discover that it’s not just lip service, that comics really are for you, too. That someone gets it.
Think about what that means for a minute. And when you choose comics, and read comics, and make comics, keep thinking about it. We need more mirrors, and we need mirrors that reflect a wider range of faces, because there is NO ONE who does not craveor does not deservethat moment of genuine identification.

Hereville: A Review

I’ve been working on this review for a while, and it’s been giving me a lot of trouble, because when I try to express my thoughts on Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, I usually end up bouncing up and down and making enthusiastic noises of inarticulate glee. These are behaviors that are generally frowned upon in critical circles, and they translate poorly to text, so I’m going to try my damnedest to use actual here.
Hereville is good. It’s really good.
It’s the kind of good that makes me want to carry a copy with me at all times, just so that I can look at it every few minutes as a reminder that any world that produces books like this one is probably worth the benefit of the doubt.
Comics that can honestly be described as all-ages are few and far between. Knitting a narrative that appeals to adults and remains accessible to and appropriate for kids is no easy feat. Imbuing that story with layers of rich culture and tradition without overwhelming readers, and doing so while slyly subverting both form and trope take serious skill.
Barry Deutsch is seriously skilled.
In many ways, Hereville is a classic coming-of-age story, the first adventure of a fledgling hero. It’s also a cultural narrative, steeped in the language and traditions of Orthodox Judaism. But at the same time, it’s full of contradictions and quirks that turn heroic convention topsy-turvy. It’s telling that the story begins with a friendly argument, as Mirka (the eleven-year-old heroine) and her stepmother Fruma discuss the theology of knitting.
Fruma herself is perhaps Deutsch’s most visible wink at tradition: as the heroine’s stepmother, a woman with ‘odd looks’ (including ‘the longest nose of anyone in Aherville’) and a stubborn fondness for argument-for-argument’s-sake, Fruma could easily have turned into a tired misogynist sterotype. But even though—or perhaps because—she forces Mirka to knit and plays devil’s advocate in every argument, Fruma is cast as Mirka’s mentor and ally. She’s challenging rather than vindictive, and we are led to believe that wisdom and experience inform her cheerful antagonism. And role in Mirka’s story is more empowering than authoritative: Fruma’s lessons, both subtle and direct, are what ultimately allow Mirka to defeat a troll and take the first steps toward her destiny as a dragonslayer.
Fruma’s complexity is characteristic of Deutsch’s approach to storytelling: he excels at simultaneously celebrating and questioning the tradition that saturates his narrative. The Orthodox Jewish rituals and traditions are no less warm and beautiful because of the limitations they impose on Mirka, nor does that beauty render her frustration any less acute or her ensnarement in the rigid roles of her culture less unfair. In the world of Hereville, nothing is simple—and its complexity makes it all the more accessible to readers used to the intricate tangles and contradictions of real life.
Deutsch is an experienced editorial cartoonist, but Hereville is (to the best of my knowledge) his first attempt at a full-length comic, and that inexperience shows through a handful of rough spots. Both designs and style develop and refine over the course of the comic, and the difference between the art at the beginning and the end is a bit jarring—a difficulty common to webcomics when they make the transition to print form. And while Deutsch’s sepia-toned palette looks beautiful by day, it becomes a good deal less discernable in nighttime scenes, where muddy coloring comes close to obscuring the art; Deutsch’s narrative (and readers’ eyesight) would be better served by more emphasis on shadow and less on general darkness.
But if there’s any lesson to be learned from Hereville, it’s that the quality of craftwork is determined not by snagged yarn or adherence to patterns, but by innovation, intent, and intricacy—and despite a few dropped stitches, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword is an exquisite piece of work by any standard.
You can read Hereville a bit at a time starting hereas of this post, twenty-four pages are available onlineor get the whole first story in either digital or paper form (which I heartily recommend) via the links in the sidebar.
And while you’re waiting for your copy to arrive, you can discuss this column here.

Stumptown Miscellany – Day Two

Phew–that was a lot of con. Today was more intense at the table, and I hardly had any time to wander. Now, I am entirely braindead, so again, just a handful of notes before I crash. Proper write-up and forum thread tomorrow.
-No matter how cool you are, Sky McCloud is probably way cooler than you.
-It always kind of blows my mind to discover that people other than my parents read Inside Out.
-Colleen Coover drew a pirate with a strap-on in my sketchbook! How awesome is that? PRETTY DAMN AWESOME!
-One of the fun things about cons is meeting friends of friends. I had long conversations with Raina Telgemeier and Dylan Meconis about how much we all love Dean Trippe (and you should, too).
-I met a wonderful woman named Maria who’s starting a geekspace-for-women website called .51 (Premiering May 1, 2008 at She is ridiculously neat, and we are going to interview each other once her site is up and running!
-Have I mentioned that I adore Barry Deutsch? Not only does he write a fuckin’ brilliant feminist blog and make splendid comics, he also loves Baker Street, one of my all-time favorite comics.
-My favorite artist-I-just-discovered-at-this-con is probably Maxine Frank (actually, she found us).