If you’ve read X-Men in any meaningful capacity, you’ve no doubt heard about Kitty Pryde. Introduced back in Uncanny X-Men #129, Kitty Pryde stood out among the X-Men — not for being a girl or for having the ability to phase through walls, mind you, but for being Jewish.
The X-Men stand as a metaphor for oppressed minorities. Always have. The Hebrew people have a long, disturbing history of being oppressed and ostracized from society, and, as such, Kitty Pryde stood as a good real-world contextualization of mutant oppression. You can only go so long in a series featuring metaphorical oppression without including a hint of reality to remind the reader “Oh yeah, this thing exists.”
The fact that mutants are “oppressed” is never enough. We as readers need the metaphor extended just a wee bit so we understand just what it means to be hated and feared by the world.
Kitty Pryde, in her early days, represented a bravery on the part of Marvel and Chris Claremont. The bravery to just up and say “Hey, this metaphor we’re talking about? Well, here’s the reality. Metaphor? Reality? Meet.”
However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t…limits.
Specifically, Kitty Pryde has been written as a bisexual since her inception, but none of the writers are able to outright say it. Or, perhaps, have been willing to say it. Or even know they’ve collectively been writing a bisexual character. And here’s why that’s bad, and here’s why we need openly bisexual Kitty Pryde.
Also, spoilers ahead for basically the last forty years of X-Men history.
Kitty Pryde, Closeted Bisexual
What follows in this article is not a criticism of one of my personal favorite mutants. Rather, I’m going to patiently set the record straight by assuring you Kitty Pryde sure as hell isn’t straight.
That is not to say Kitty Pryde isn’t sexually interested in men. In fact, saying she’s bisexual sort of confirms she is. Since she joined the X-Men as a teen, Kitty Pryde has been in an on-again, off-again relationship with Colossus. There are, of course, issues with this relationship that kept them from being steady until their marriage in X-Men Gold 30 — HA! No. She leaves him at the alter, continuing the long, complicated history these characters have.
So in the cold periods of their relationship, one would expect the writers to pair Kitty up with someone else. And the writers have. Brian Michael Bendis, in his excellent run on the alternate reality of Ultimate Spider-Man, pairs Kitty up with Peter Parker. And…that’s the only other long-term relationship she’s had with a man. I mean, sure, Kitty Pryde did spend a little time with Bobby Drake…but, you know. He’s gay, so that didn’t exactly work out. And then there’s Star-Lord. Let’s…not talk ’bout that.
But the rest of Kitty Pryde’s relationships of note? The rest have all been women.
Two stand out, however. Colossus’s sister, Illyana, had a close relationship with Kitty that bordered on physically affectionate friendship and something more intimate. They did, after all, get in bed with one another — quite literally. And this is framed in a rather suggestive way. After all, this relationship is a matter both of circumstance. Both are young mutants who work together. Both are connected to Colossus. An argument can be made that Kitty tried to replace Colossus with Illyana after the relationship didn’t work out…
Which, again, suggests that Illyana served as a romantic replacement for her brother. Which would not happen unless Kitty were bisexual.
Her most noteworthy relationship, however, was with fellow Excalibur member Rachel Summers. The two have had a long-term relationship throughout the 90s. They were very intimate, had pet names for one another, and when Colossus came back to life, Rachel Summer expressed regret that she and Kitty would no longer share a bed.
Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers were written for years as a queer couple without calling it a queer couple.
However, without the actual labels of “bisexual,” the relationship remained coding. Nothing more. Nothing less. Enough to bait fans hoping for more, but never enough to actually mean something.
Add to that Kitty’s relationship with Captain Britain’s ex Courtney Ross and later Karma, Kitty Pryde seems to establish herself as someone who enjoyed intimate relationships with women.
So What Gives?
Writers such as Elle Collins claims that Illyana was Kitty’s first love. Well, great. But why didn’t they make that explicit? Why have writers written a queer character, but for years pretended she was a straight girl? Or thought that someone who proudly declared herself Jewish before calling herself a mutant would, for some reason, NOT proudly be an out bisexual?
An argument can be made that, back in the 90s, many writers didn’t feel the need to present characters of diverse sexuality in any explicit fashion. That or the bisexual elements might’ve just been male-gazey in nature. Maybe they didn’t intend on the relationship striking a cord with their audience. Maybe it all means nothing.
Or maybe the writers were just too afraid to say it. Or perhaps the editors removed any explicit mentions. I am not entirely sure, and, quite frankly, I don’t care, either. What I care about is that it hasn’t been explicitly stated despite decades of material reinforcing Kitty’s bisexuality.
Many feel that people, and by extension fictional characters, have to be either gay or straight. They forget that sexuality, as a spectrum, has a range of potential modes. Levels of attraction towards like and unlike genders. These mindsets are incorrect and damaging to people outside the gay/straight binary, but manage to permeate and reinforce themselves in pop culture and society.
Because of the erasure or over-simplification of sexualities in fiction, many who might actually be bi never get their sexuality validated through the lens of pop culture. They never hear or see something that might offer them a chance of self-reflection.
Kitty Pryde’s erasure isn’t simply bad for the character. It’s bad for the readers. It presents audiences with a queer relationship, but then contradicts that by saying there is nothing queer going on. If you see something queer here, you’re wrong.
This mentality is harmful, as comics offer young readers a chance to discover themselves, especially with characters many readers grew up with like Kitty Pryde.
In many ways, it’s ironic that Kitty Pryde, whose abilities let her phase through matter, has become erased. Yet this erasure is very transparent. Audiences picked up on the queer implications and ran with it. Many fans regard Kitty as unofficially bi. We only need a writer or editor brave enough to just come out and say it.
Don’t worry. We’ll accept her and you for writing it. Just don’t pretend to hide it anymore. This closet door is as transparent as a piece of glass.