Holding Out for a Hero? Meet the LGBTQ Batman

LBGTQs have a superhero.

This may or may not be news to you, though I'm willing to bet you probably have no idea what I'm really talking about. (Welcome to my wife's world.)

For comic book aficionados, there have been LGBTQ superheroes for quite some time now. Northstar was the first in 1979. He stayed in the closet, however, for more than a decade. His "apparent lack of interest in women was... due to his obsessive drive to win as a ski champion." Really? Having worked for four years at a ski resort and met a lot of skiers -- even some Olympians -- I must say their "obsessive drive to win" never seemed to get in the way of chasing down anything, including girls.
Making up for lost time, however, when he came out in 1992 he became a champion of LGBTQ issues and vocal in fighting the AIDS epidemic. "Northstar! Fighting for truth, justice, and the American gay!"

No, that's not his motto. But if it wasn't, would you really know? Because let's face it: Unless you are a comic book aficionado, you have never heard of Northstar. Just as you have never heard of nearly 100 characters Wikipedia has listed as an LGBTQ superheroes.

(OK, I have heard of the Ambiguously Gay Duo on Saturday Night Live. I wouldn't want them getting my cat out of a tree, much less my ass out of a sling.)

I'm not saying this to insult people that love comic books. If I'd wanted to do that I'd have used the words "nerd" or "geek" instead of "aficionado." But the simple truth is, when people think superheroes they think "Ironman," "Batman," and "Anyone Played by Hugh Jackman." Not "Bling," "Blithe" and "Sailor Uranus." (No, I did not make those up.)

Now, I'll admit I'm ignoring the fact that Green Lantern was relaunched in 2012 as an LGBTQ character. Not because it's not important, but simply because most people in the general population have no idea he's LGBTQ. Let's face it, when people hear "Green Lantern" they think one of two things:

1) "I think I saw him once on 'Superfriends.'"

2) "Please, dear God, don't let Ryan Reynolds EVER do that again."

Clearly, the LGBTQ community needs a superhero that everyone knows about -- our own Batman, as it were. But here's the good news: I have someone! And, like Batman, he's rich and on a mission to use his powers for good.

His name is Chuck Williams.

No, not the most exotic name on earth for a superhero, though you have to admit it's better than "Sailor Uranus."

Like many men who become superheroes, Chuck did not set out to become one. Like fellow super dude Bruce Wayne, Chuck's wealth and story began in corporate America, where Williams was a senior executive at the Sperry Corporation.

Also like Bruce Wayne he acted in secret to make his world a better place. Anonymously, because he had not yet come out, Williams was an early organizer and supporter of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ rights group in the U.S.

And there the Batman/ Bruce Wayne analogy ends. Because unlike Batman, who seems to groove on being dark and miserable, Williams came out, and not just from the closet. Indeed, these days Williams could be considered the LGBTQ Tony Stark: rich, out there, and loving it.

That's why in 2001 he donated $2.5 million to the UCLA School of Law to create The Williams Institute. Just a bit more than a dozen years later, that number is up to $13 million. A think tank that researches LGBTQ issues, The Williams Institute is the most prominent organization of its kind on the planet.

That alone makes him a superhero in my book. But it's what he's done with the Williams Institute that should make him a hero to everyone in the LGBTQ community. Because instead of just furthering a cause, he has legitimized LGBTQ's as a people:

"He was very clear he did not want to create an activist organization or one that might be seen as only interested in furthers gay and lesbian causes. It needed to be broader... We are not going to be thinking about thinking. Whatever we do has to have a practical result."

To that end, the group does methodically and academically what I try to do casually and humorously: "rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity..."

If you've read this column often you know how often I go to the Williams Institute for my facts. In a world full of hyperbole and hate, it's wonderful to have a source purely grounded in science and data.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Advocate magazine called The Williams Institute "The Most Important LGBTQ Group You've Never Heard Of." The Edge called them "The LGBTQ Nerds Who Could and Can and Will." If you do a Google News search on "Williams Institute," it pops up in dozens of articles from every corner of the country every time. Superman doesn't get press like that and he works at a newspaper.

So there you have it. Chuck Williams: Superhero. Not exactly a name you'd put on a cape, but you have to admit it works pretty well just about everywhere else.

And it's a helluva lot better than "Bling" and "Blithe."