It’s no secret that geek culture has long been a refuge for outsiders and an engine for social progress. From Kirk and Uhura’s interracial smooch to Buffy’s feminist butt-kicking, geek culture has had the power to change minds and champion diversity. So, in honor of Pride Month 2014, we bring you the definitive list of LGBT geeks both in and outside of reality.
10. MystiqueX-men‘s Mystique has always been a known bisexual – in the comics, that is. The truth of the relationship between Mystique and her long-time lover Destiny was confined to subtext for thirteen years due to Marvel‘s then anti-LGBT policies. However, the character’s co-creator has stated that Mystique’s queerness was always his intention, and he even pitched the idea of Mystique shapeshifting into a man to fathera biological child with Destiny – leaving many to question whether Mystique could be trans as well as bisexual. Meanwhile, the X-men movie franchise nailed the blue skin and the ambiguous villainy, but somehow bypassed this essential facet of Mystique’s sexuality. Disappointing, yes, but Mystique still deserves a place as one of the earliest and most notorious bisexuals in comics.
9. Cosima Niehaus
Recent breakout series Orphan Black has no shortage of well-written female characters, most of whom are clones played by the brilliant Tatiana Maslany. Cosima, a dreadlock-sporting and lady-loving scientist, is often considered the favorite among them. While Cosima’s bisexuality is hardly the focus of the sci-fi thriller, her relationship with Delphine is treated no differently than any heterosexual couple on the show. A refreshing and exciting queer character on today’s geek scene, Cosima stakes her position on the list.
8. Bryan Fuller
Bryan Fuller likes to use his powers for good. Creator of Hannibal and Pushing Daisies, and with writing credits ranging from Star Trek: Voyager to Heroes, Fuller is an outspoken advocate for LGBT media representation. Far from trying to circumvent the topic, the openly gay showrunner welcomes discussion of TV’s diversity problem in interviews and on social media. Moreover, Fuller has fought for diversity in every one of his many shows. He hasn’t always succeeded, and compromises have been made, but for sheer effort Fuller earns a spot.
Though perhaps among the lesser known on this list, Ellie is still remarkable. The teenage apocalypse survivor is the secondary playable character in The Last of Us, a critically acclaimed video game with the second largest launch of the year. In a 2014 DLC, Ellie shares a breakthrough kiss with her female friend Riley. Creative director Neil Druckmann later confirmed what many fans hoped to be true: Ellie was a lesbian. Since three-dimensional, high-profile queer characters continue to be a rarity in gamer-land, Ellie is certainly worthy of her place on the list.
6. George Takei
Oh myyy, George Takei. This 77-year-old actor, activist, and Starfleet veteran has been on the geek scene since before many of us were born. Known for playing Hikaru Sulu on the original Star Trek, Takei bounded out of the closet in 2005 and quickly became a vocal proponent of LGBT rights. Between his championing of human rights related politics and organizations and his truly inspiring social media presence, George Takei is the herald of gay geeks everywhere.
5. Mark Gatiss
Mark Gatiss is a powerhouse. Co-creator of Sherlock (BBC), face of Mycroft Holmes, and consistent writer for both Sherlock and Doctor Who, no one can deny that Gatiss has had a massive impact on geek culture. That being said, the “famously” gay Gatiss has not exactly been the loudest voice for LGBT representation on television. Its his collaboration with the problematic Steven Moffat, and the lack of queer characters in his writing, that prevent Gatiss from taking a higher spot.
4. Albus Dumbledore
Few characters stir more controversy on the queer geek scene than the wise and troubled Hogwarts headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. While some have praised Harry Potter‘s JK Rowling for writing a gay character who defies stereotype and whose sexuality is nowhere near the focus of his highly significant story arc, others have criticized the author for failing to provide visible representation. Surely, Rowling’s post-publication “outing” of Dumbledore and his doomed boyhood love for Gellert Grindelwald – without any textual mention of it – leaves something to be desired. Nevertheless, the reality that such a cherished character is known to be gay, in a series beloved by all ages, merits this twinkly-eyed wizard a high spot on the list.
3. Willow Rosenberg
On a show that was designed to be progressive, it’sreally no surprise that Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) became half of one of the first lesbian couples on U.S. television. Willow, an integral member of the “Scooby Gang”, stole viewers’ hearts as the brainy and earnest witch who battles with the darkness of her powers. The show loses a few points for ignoring four seasons’ worth of her romantic past and thereafter insisting that she’d “turned” gay. Still, Willow places solid third for being one of the most influential and strong portrayals of a queer woman in TV history.
2. Jack Harkness
The man whose name itself is a pick-up line, Jack Harkness could make a rock swoon – not that he’d discriminate. You can rest assured that whether you’re human or extraterrestrial, fauna or sentient flora, Captain Jack probably thinks you’re smoking. The immortal time traveler (portrayed by John Barrowman – an LGBT activist in his own right) was the first non-heterosexual character to be featured on Doctor Who, and he became so popular that he was honored with a spin-off, piloting the alien-fighting gang on Torchwood. For all-inclusive charm and intergalactic badassery, Jack Harkness earns his second place ranking
1. Ian McKellen
Rarely is a master found who can dominate two huge and radically different geek havens. Sir Ian McKellen, the face of both The Lord of the Rings‘ Gandalf and X-men‘s Magneto, must be the true master. Brilliant acting aside – plus the fact he’s got a tattoo in Elvish and that he’s besties with Patrick Stewart – McKellen is an outspoken LGBT rights champion. He is co-founder of Stonewall, a UK-based LGBT lobbying group, and patron of numerous other organizations. Also, McKellen once told a homophobic politician badgering him for an autograph to “F*** off, I’m gay”. In conclusion, all should bow down before him as the official king of this list.
Turns out there are a lot of awesome LGBT geeks who fuel our passions and shape our culture. While compiling this list, the lack of queer women in geek creator positions, as well as the scarcity of gay people-of-color on all tiers of geek media, became dishearteningly evident. However, we continue to believe in the potential of geek culture to be a beacon of positive change. Happy Pride to all!