How Comic Books Made Me Realize I Was Queer But Gave Me Body Image Issues

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I have been a tomboy all of my life. I grew up in the rural south with tree houses and ringworms. I hardly wore a shirt and was always allowed to play in the water hose. (Jealous? Knew you would be.) Everything was going fine in my life until my dad brought home something that would change my life forever—a comic book.

My dad started buying me comic books at a very young age. The first book he ever bought me was The Uncanny X-Men: A Nation Rising. It was the first of many Fridays in which my dad would stop at the 7-11 to buy me a gift.  It was also how I learned that the day before Saturday was called Friday. “Oh, Friday is the day my comic books come and Saturday is the day when I watch them.”

I don’t know why my dad started buying me comic books.  I had never asked for one or even knew what they were before he brought one home. But I tell ya this: When he brought that first comic book home there was a new Santa in town, and his name was Dad.

My dad is so fucking rad that he didn’t even think about gender–but comic books are for boys bullshit—and just bought me these damn books because he knew I would love them.   

I was hooked from the first page. Front and center was the hottest drawing I had ever scene. A heat rushed over me and I quickly ran to my room.

Who is this Rogue and why do I feel weird looking at her?

originalvia Marvel

 

Rogue was the first female superhero that I connected with. Sure, she was “mutant” and “fictional” and “just a drawing,” but why must we continue to put labels on our love? 

Here was this tough tomboy from the south (just like me!) who did whatever she wanted (I hardly ever wore shoes outside!), and didn’t need a man to save her. (Wait, what? Say that again—she didn’t need a man? ) This was eye opening to me.  Prior to this I had only known male superheroes with less than equal female counterparts who always needed saving.

I also liked looking at her. The first page features her in Daisy Dukes leaning against a hot rod in the middle of the desert. Then I realized why I felt weird looking at her: I didn’t want to be her; I wanted to be the hunk that was with her. For a long time I suppressed that feeling.  Not the I-want-to-bang-a-comic-book-character feeling, but the feeling that I was gay.   

roguevia Marvel

Even as a young girl I would stay awake at night and think about my abs and pectorals and my soon to be biceps. Then my period happened and I had to come to terms that I would never have the chemical or the—eh hem—physical requirements to be Cyclops. But I also realized that I for sure wanted to bang chicks. 

cyclops1

I used to try to emulate my body to those drawings that I looked at when I was younger.  Which is weird, because even then I knew that these were just drawings. I knew that this made up world was just that—made up.  I knew that no man or woman could ever look like these beings (mutations and super powers aside). However, it was the ideals behind the drawings that always made me feel like shit—the idea that every man should look like these weird muscle hunks and if you’re not a man, you better be as hot as these women. The idea that I would have to look like some perky tit, skinny waisted, longhaired girl seemed further away from reality than turning into Wolverine.

I have always had a weird relationship with my body. I am constantly losing and gaining weight and striving to fit some unreasonable standard. In my mind’s eye, my body should look like Ryan Gosling or at least Laura Croft.  In reality, my body resembles a Missy Elliot verse: “I’ve got a cute face/Chubby waist/ Thick legs/In shape….” You know the one.

Even with this love hate relationship I’m grateful for my body. It’s not in pain, there are no deformities, and I have a functioning vagina. (Hear that, ladies?) However, it’s taken me a long time to realize that I have unrealistic body goals of hyper-masculinity. I used to scoff at my girlfriends comparing themselves to models in magazines. “You know that’s all photoshopped, right?”

Imagine my surprise hearing the same thing right after pointing out some dudes abs in a magazine ad. Boy, was my face red. Here I was on my high horse judging her for holding herself to an unreasonable body goal and I was doing the same thing!

Sexuality is hard enough to navigate through as it is. Throw in gender and body image and the whole thing turns into a shit show. I spent a lot of time hating who I was because I didn’t look like somebody else, and you know what?  That’s really not OK.   

I wish there was a greater importance to teaching children about positive body image and how to love each other more.  There are all these ways that media sneaks into our brains at a young age that perpetuate the ideals of an unreasonable body.  I’m just saying that a game of “photoshopped or not?” would have really helped me out as a kid. I think we should start teaching how Barbie has a great bod for a doll, but a terrible body for a human being. SHE WOULD NEVER BE ABLE TO STAND UP ON HER OWN. Maybe lay the news on thick at a young age: “Hey kids, you’re not all going to have a Barbie bod. Some of you are going to have Cabbage Patch bodies, and that’s OK too.  Because there’s nothing wrong with being a little thick on the bones and curvy at the waist.

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