The first man I fell in love with wasn’t even a man. If we’re going to be exact, he was a mutant and beyond that, a cartoon character — a series of black lines and primary colours dancing across my parents’ Toshiba on a Saturday morning. But as a gay boy who had spent much of his youth playing with hand-me-down Barbies and (almost exclusively) female action figures, the way in which those lines came together was a revelation.
The key details remain: an immaculately sculpted torso beneath a strong square jaw, windswept sandy hair above a yellow visor, muscular thighs framing a bulging Speedo.
In Scott Summers, I saw change. A moment of recognition and an appreciation that went well beyond wanting to be the hero and saving the day — he represented something else, something much more carnal.
I wanted to finger Cyclops from the X-Men.
Now, some context. Heroes had always bored me. The stories compel us to support them, and we inevitably find ourselves cheering along as they reestablish order and save the day. But it was the villains who remained the most interesting characters and, especially in those late ’80s cartoons, almost always vaguely queer. They obsessed over the hero and came up with elaborate plans to capture him or her. Occasionally, they longed to brainwash said hero and take control of their immaculate bodies. Death was rarely the goal, but more so a chance to hold the puppet strings. They wanted the hero on their team, fighting beside them. They wanted the hero.
I’ll get you next time, Gadget! Kneel before your master!
And I wanted the hero, especially this hero. Anyone familiar with the X-Men comics will know that Cyclops was about as dull as heroes come. In contrast to Wolverine, he was upstanding and uncomplicated. He was selfless and believed in authority. There were no moral shadings to him, and even his wife, Jean Grey, started to stray out of boredom.
(It should be noted that in revisiting my feelings for him, my track record for boring, somewhat upstanding exes makes a lot more sense.)
Still, there was something about him — that firm, unwavering air that made me long to be with him, to have him. It certainly didn’t help that he was also wearing one of the more revealing get-ups on team. The full-body coverage suggested modesty and propriety, but the tightness of it certainly did not. At least He-Man didn’t beat around the bush.
And so there, on those Saturday mornings, I started to feel something very complicated happen within me that made the cartoon ritual just a tad unsavoury and most definitely forbidden. Adulthood announced itself in between commercials for Skip Its and Polly Pockets. The pink and blue gloss of childhood started to fall away, and all I wanted was him. His body. To be mine.
And so it was that on a Saturday morning in the mid-’90s, I conquered Cyclops from the X-Men.