Like most people who lurk on the fringes of the comics world, I've been following the whole Orson Scott Card Writes Superman debacle for a few weeks now. I'm not sure if anything else needs to be said about it beyond the broad strokes - famous author who actively campaigns to withhold the rights of others gets opportunity to write beloved character, fans of beloved character who (like the character himself) want equal rights for all get mad and promise to withhold support. DC is tone deaf on the issue which causes more consternation leading to the original artist who was paired with controversial author to bow out, delaying the whole comic.
Outside of wanting two people who love each other to be able to legally bind their lives together and not have to worry about being denied visiting their loved ones in a hospital, I don't have much of a horse in this race. I mean, the last time Card wrote comic story featuring a pre-existing character, he turned Iron Man into a big blue brain slug that was just shaped like a person.
But it did get me thinking about what would happen if Superman was gay? This line of thought distracted me for all of ten seconds on the train ride in this morning because, well, it wouldn't change much. Would Superman still rescue people? Yes. Would he still fight intergalactic badguys? Sure. He'd be pretty much the same hero he always was, only instead of smooching Lois, he'd smooch Jimmy.
Hell (H'eL?), you wouldn't even need to change much of his backstory. I mean, he's a person with a secret who grew up in a conservative farm town in Kansas. In Superman's case, that secret is that he's an alien. For a lot of people, that secret is that they are gay, bi, or transgender and feel that they are unable to admit it due to societal pressures. Compared to being an alien, being gay is so far down the list of Things Clark Needs to Worry About (below 'Pa Needs To Watch His Cholesterol,' above 'Warranty on the Tractor is Running Out in Two Years') that he'd probably be out by his senior year just to get Lana off his back.
Would we see a change in Superman's behavior? Maybe. It'd be hard for him to be more of a champion for equality, but then again he is an immigrant and I don't recall him speaking up on those issues as well. He might have been distracted by all the alien-punching, plane catching, and Luthor-thwarting he does.
Because Superman's sexuality is rarely at the forefront, it really doesn't matter where on the Kinsey scale he falls. It's just not important to the character or the stories he appears in. He'd still appear to be the same hero he is now.
I wonder, though, if the same could be said about changing Superman's ethnic appearance or gender? In those cases, you'd have a hero who would physically appear different than what we have now. We'd still have the Kents' upbringing guiding the hero's behavior, giving him/her a sense of right and wrong. The character would do the same things - fight Mogul, throw missiles into the sun, jump tall buildings - and would probably be treated much the same in the world of the comic. Given that the majority of people are okay with a big green guy from Mars flying around, I'm pretty sure they could take a darker skinned Superman. They have no problem with Wonder Woman, so I'm sure Superwoman would get a pass too. In the setting, Superman is Superman is Superwoman is Superman.
No, the big change would come from how the creators and the readers would treat this Alternate Superman. Think about how Wonder Woman is drawn. Think about all the lazy stereotypes applied to minorities in comics. Could the current comics industry pull off a Superman who isn't a white dude?