'Captain Underpants' "Outs" Character In Best Way

by Caitlin White

While young adult fiction continues to vastly increase commercial titles featuring LGBTQ main characters, it's crucial to have books for the younger middle grade set that reflect these same stats. And while there are exceptional MG stories that center on LGBTQ characters — recently Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, Gracefully Grayson, and Fat Angie spring to mind — often their sexuality represents the main story arc or conflict of the novel. But Captain Underpants creator Dav Pilkey revealed his main character Harold is gay (or bisexual) in a simple way, worthy of applause. The book was published August 25.

The hit middle grade series has seen its fair share of controversy from book gatekeepers, having been banned for its "potty humor" and "offensive language." In the series' 12th book Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot, the two main characters, George and Harold, meet their future selves and get a glimpse into their life as adults with families. Here's Pilkey's description of the scene:

Old George, his wife and their kids, Meena and Nik, sat on the couch, while Old Harold, his husband, and their twins, Owen and Kei, plopped down on the giant beanbag chair.

There's no fanfare, no big reveal. Harold's sexuality isn't touched upon again. Captain Underpants' Harold identifies as gay or bisexual, but his sexual orientation is just a fact, a part of his identity. It's not used as conflict or controversy. It just is. And as both YA and MG novels start to be more inclusive of characters from diverse backgrounds, races, and sexual orientations, this is the direction we should be moving in.

Logo interviewed Arthur A. Levine from the self-titled imprint of Scholastic, about the 1989 children's book Heather Has Two Mommies and its effects today. Levine, who notably identifies as gay and is a parent himself, said:

At this point, 20 years later, we get it. Heather already knows she has two moms. Now we need stories where Heather has lost her teddy bear and we see how her two moms help her.

It seems this is just what Captain Underpants and Pilkey are doing.