June is Pride Month, a month where the LGBTQ+ community comes together to celebrate themselves. A month in which they find strength in knowing that there is a community, a family, that loves and supports them.
However, the struggle to accept yourself can be a much more difficult fight. At times, it can be a damn near impossible one. The Trevor Project states that LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. While a national study stated that 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.  These statistics highlight the fact that the LGBTQ+ community still faces adversity on a day to day basis.
I would know because I am one of those statistics. I was 14 when I attempted suicide. I hated myself for being a lesbian and I wanted the pain, fear, and shame to go away. Obviously, I was not successful and I could not be more thankful. What saved me was comics. A week after my suicide attempt I was at the library finishing homework when I took a break to peak at the new single issues that the library had. I found a copy of 52: Week 11 and discovered the lesbian superhero Batwoman. I saw her be a hero and be a lesbian. She had faults but still had pride. She had regrets, but so much strength. One comic character showed a suicidal lesbian teenager that life is hard and sometimes it’s unfair, but we should never, not even for one second, stop fighting for ourselves and for others.
But it’s not just suicide. LGBTQ+ folks face more than that but are still able to find strength in characters that reflect ourselves and our struggles. James, the Editor-in-Chief of Shoot the Breeze Comics, had a different but no less life-changing experience. “I am a big Wolverine fan and I always will be. He was this stand-in for my [absent] father in comics,” James told me. “Wolverine was the surrogate badass dad and the protector. He didn’t give a rats ass of who you are or what you were if you needed help he had your back.”
James was in middle and high school when he first thought he may have liked men. At this time Dark Reign, the new printing initiative from Marvel, was released. This is when he was introduced to Daken, a character who barely knew his father but still wanted to be like him in some capacity. No matter how much he hated him. James later discovered that Daken was a bisexual man, when James was trying to suppress his own bisexuality. Out of fear of being judged, he began to hate Daken and, by extension, himself. The similarities between Daken and James were mounting.
Later James saw the similarities between his life and Daken’s story converge and speak to him, instead of fueling hatred. The Orphans of X arc in All-New Wolverine saw Laura teamed up with her genetic brother Daken and it saw Daken being the hero, instead of a villain. James saw the hero he could become. He saw that the next generation could be different, if not better, than the first. The ultimate revelation came when the interaction of Daken and Laura reminded him of himself and his younger sister. This contributed to James finally coming out and working to accept his own identity. A bisexual man, struggling with his father’s absence, chose to be a force for good and not let the hatred consume him. James founded this site. He chose to be a force for good and change. “I’m thankful that my website can showcase not only ourselves as representative of the LGBT+ community, but to showcase heroes and sometimes villains who can be an inspiration to others.”
These are only two stories in a much larger tapestry of the good that LGBTQ+ representation in comics can do, but these stories are not necessarily unique. Many comic reading LGBTQ+ folks have similar stories. LGBTQ+ characters matter and have saved lives, fueled journeys of acceptance, or even just give us a little reminder that we are not alone in our experiences.
Christina our Chief Operations Officer, managing editor, and a fellow queer person wanted to offer a sentiment to remind us that you don’t have to be out and proud to want to celebrate Pride Month. There are still those in the closet and those who are wanting to come out. “Coming out is scary. It’s scary when you have a large support system. It’s scary when you have no one. However, when you are finally out, part of you unfurls. That last bit of tension in your gut disappears. You’re not hiding yourself anymore. I hope that in time, we will find more positive representation for all fronts. Shoot the Breeze strives to be a positive contribution. If you’re out right now, I’m proud of you. If you’re closeted or doubting your sexuality, I’m still proud of you. You are valid.”
We at Shoot the Breeze wanted to highlight just a few of these experiences to add our voices to those who fight for further LGBTQ+ representation in comics. To add our voices to the fight to prove that our voices are just as valid as anyone else’s. We may be LGBTQ+ run, but we are comprised of more than that. We have a family of loving and supportive allies who stand with us.
We are Outlaws.
We are family.
We love you.