Texas native Zimmer Barnes moved to Brooklyn at age 21 to help form the New York Initiative (NYI), a four-member crime-fighting team that includes his masked partners T.S.A.F (The Silent And Forgotten), Z, and Lucid. “Zimmer” (his nom de guerre) doesn’t wear a mask while doing good deeds because he doesn’t want to closet himself. In fact, he and his team will soon reveal themselves in HBO’s documentary Superheroes premiering August 8th at 9PM. The Dallas Voice caught up with Zimmer to ask him about his gay superheroics, how to handle anti-gay bullies in this “It Gets Better” age, and whether he’s got a boyfriend:
What sorts of things didn’t make it into the documentary and what else is NYI up to these days?
A lot of stuff ended up on the editing room floor. We do a lot of outreach to homeless organizations — there’s a tunnel people live underneath in the Bronx and we brought supplies to them, but that didn’t make it in. Because in New York it gets freezing during winter, we try to collect and hoard blankets and medical supplies throughout spring and fall and when it gets cold we try to hand out all that stuff. Today the NYI is undergoing several missions protecting the West Village from muggers and providing self-defense information and outreach to sex workers. We’ve got exciting stuff in the works but I can’t talk about it yet.
Are other LGBT people doing what you’re doing?
Yeah, there are. The earliest [superhero group] we know of was actually a gay and lesbian group in San Francisco, the Lavender Panthers. There was a lot of gay bashing going on, and [a gay Pentecostal Evangelist named] Rev. Ray Broshears was being harassed. The police didn’t do anything so they formed their own group and looked around for gay-bashings and handled it. It’s not something I would believe, it sounds like a comic book, but Time Magazine did an article on these guys in 1973. They were around before the Guardian Angels. As far as I know they were the original group.
I was dating during the course of making the documentary. We broke up and [my work as a superhero] was one of the reasons why. They were really worried about what I was doing and the more dangerous aspects.