As we have approached the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Queerty has profiled the people, issues and themes surrounding the tragedy that have made an indelible impact over the past decade, especially for the LGBT community.
Gay action heroes before 9/11 didn’t have such great track records. World War II Nazi code-cracker Alan Turing got forced to undergo chemical castration by the very country he helped save. He grew breasts from the court-mandated hormone injections and eventually committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple. Oliver Sipple stopped an assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford and his subsequent outing by the media caused his family to disown him. He grew deeply depressed, ballooned to 300 pounds, and eventually died unhappily at age 47. Harvey Milk got shot twice in the head by his co-worker and the murderer avoided prison by blaming his state of mind on a Twinky. Seriously.
But then came 9/11 and two unlikely gay heroes sprang to action and saved countless American lives. Rugby player Mark Bingham ganged up with other athletes on United Flight 93 to help wrestle control from the hijackers. Father Mychal Judge ran to the lobby of the World Trade Center North Tower to render aid and prayers to the rescuers, injured and dead immediately after the first plane hit. They both perished for their heroic actions, but they also helped change the nation’s view of gays from a community victimized by the religious right, HIV, and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to a people strong, confident, and powerful enough to save lives and even change the world.
So what about gay action heroes since 9/11? We don’t mean the superqueeroes who entertain us while doing great philanthropic work; we mean gay and lesbian people who have faced either serious risk or personal harm while trying to save lives or avert disaster in the world.
Did the likes of Bingham and Judge help recast gays as new empowered heroes in the national spotlight or did our gay and lesbian heroes fall back out of the national eye only to be celebrated by the queer community and few others?
The 2004 elections and the 2008 Prop 8 victory proved that gays still made worthwhile punching bags for the political aims of the Republican party, Catholics, and Mormons. But one could argue that Bush’s hateful re-election campaign and Prop 8 served as flashpoints, re-invigorating the gay community to organize more effectively nationwide and to support gay national figures while highlighting the worthwhile contributions of LGBT Americans.
Take Barney Frank for instance. At the beginning of the Obama administration, Frank served as Chair of the House Financial Services Committee and “helped avert full-scale disaster” by brokering a number of key deals that saved thousands of Americans from foreclosing on their homes and ensured that home mortgage rates did not fall too quickly. He helped the country avoid a financial ruin that could have easily wrecked the world economy.
On a different scale, Apple’s new CEO Tim Cook now leads the most valuable and influential technology company in the world. And while he hasn’t officially come out as gay, he did dramatically increase the company’s sales during the economic downturn, oversaw the company’s output of the revolutionary iPad, and will help raise the next generation of digital world communicators. It’s no exaggeration to call him “the most powerful gay man in the world” and his sexual identity will no doubt help change global perceptions about gays in business.
On a more local political scale, Annise Parker survived a homophobic election campaign in Houston to become Texas’ first openly lesbian mayor and of the fourth largest city in the U.S.. Lieutenant Dan Choi, though definitely dramatic, has also faced arrest by U.S. authorities, federal charges for protesting DADT, and even Russian police brutality for marching alongside Moscow’s LGBTs.
And don’t forget about Daniel Hernandez, the gay congressional college intern who saved Gabrielle Gifford’s life by pressing Safeway workers’ smocks against her head wound and holding her upright so she wouldn’t drown in her blood. When the press began calling him a hero, he modestly turned down the label saying it better applied to the first responders and public servants who help people live every day.
But what about gay heroes in entertainment and the silver screen? With so many prominent gay political dynamos about, have Hollywood, comic books, and video games caught up with the trend?