Gay Times March 11 - Issue 390
By day, Zimmer Barnes, 23, is a technology journalist. By night he patrols the streets of Brooklyn, New York as real life superhero, Zimmer.
More from Gay Times March 11 - Issue 390
When did you start your work as a real life superhero?
I started patrolling my neighbourhood and high crime areas in 2006 after graduating high school. One of my first times out was the anniversary of Kitty Genovese’s murder. Ms Genovese was a lesbian who was brutally assaulted and killed in the view of over a dozen people. No one intervened. While the title “real life superhero” may sound cheesy, our goal is simply to fight apathy and be aware of the struggles of our fellow men and women.
Why do you do what you do as a superhero?
In today’s media era, you can do all the good in the world and never make the news. Put on a cape while you do good, and you make CNN. By framing our efforts in a certain way, we can bring awareness and enact change for causes we believe in, from crime to poverty to pollution.
You don’t have a secret identity. Why did you decide to do this work as a superhero, but use your true identity?
I grew up in a tiny town in Texas called Leander. While I was openly gay, many in the school and town were not. Wearing a mask and having a code name felt too much like being in the closet, the parallels were too strong. I feel more comfortable presenting myself as just me.
What kind of reception did you get from the other heroes?
The real life superhero community has changed drastically over the years. The very first anonymous crime fighting team in America was one composed entirely of gays and lesbians, back in 1973. They were called the Lavender Panthers and they were formed to fight gay bashing in San Francisco. Those roots are not forgotten in the RLSH community and it’s a very diverse crowd, though bigotry is still a problem at times. While I’ve certainly been called a faggot, I’ve also made lifelong friends in the superhero community.
Are you out as a gay man AND as a superhero to your friends and family? How did they take it?
I am openly gay and openly fight crime. My friends have always found it an interesting topic for sure. My mother is a lawyer and her mother before that was a forensic detective. Fighting injustice and catching bad guys runs in my family.
The whole article features in the March 2011 issue of GT magazine, out now and available to download.