Gay Superheroes Invade New York City


It’s a big gay bird! It’s a big gay plane! It’s… the front page of the Sunday Style Section in the Paper of Record!

Skin Tight U.S.A., the costume-fetish party at the West Village’s Stonewall Inn, gets the “let’s explain this zany subculture to stodgy old people” treatment, while the good-humored subjects doubtlessly laugh it up at the thought of being anthropologically considered by the New York Times. But then it turns into a captivating cultural critique of comic book culture. Let’s observe the geeky homosexuals in their natural habitat, shall we?

“Out of the Closet and Up, Up and Away” reads the headline, but a simple glance at the image is all you need to know: this is Sunday Style at its best. And it has quite the lede to pull ’em in:

DIM lighting. Rendezvous-friendly nooks. Muscled bartenders. Pulsating dance music. At first glance, it could be any Saturday night in any gay bar in New York.

Aesthetically, the objective of the gathering is clear: “Some wear heroic outfits; some, wrestling gear … The common thread is that the muscle-cuddling garb often leaves little to the imagination.” But the conceptual tie-in to comic books requires a bit more of a leap. X-Men, you see, are okay for gay men to like because they’ve had a few gay characters. Transformers, though, are puzzling because they “seem straight.” Hm.

Really though, it’s not about playing dress-up and goofing off, it’s about finding yourself. It’s “one way that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender comic book fans are expressing themselves today.” It’s important:

They are coming out, loud and proud, in blogs, peer groups, Web comics and more, simultaneously pronouncing their sexual identity and their devotion to comic books. But it wasn’t that long ago that the environment was less than welcoming for those who wanted to make the two seemingly disparate worlds one.

“I do remember feeling like I had two secrets I had to keep: being gay and being a comic-book fan. I’m not sure which I was more afraid of people discovering,” says one man. And interestingly, as this theme of acceptance and a dissection of comic book history’s handling of homosexuality take over the story from its Gay Men in Tights Party first act, it becomes insightful. And nerdy!

One comic book creator nails the complications:

“This is always the unfair truth of any new character created to represent a minority: it’s nearly impossible for them to thrive as characters because they have to ‘represent’ a population whose members do not all behave the same way, see themselves in the same way, dress in the same way, share the same political beliefs.”

And he could be talking about any trend piece. Unfortunately, this one marketed itself as a look at wacky gay parties instead of the nuanced and well-researched piece it becomes. Check it out for an ultimately pleasant surprise:

Gay Parties in New York Attract the Superhero Crowd [New York Times]