Earlier this week, Batgirl #19 came out. While on the whole the comic was quite unremarkable, one scene has caught a fair bit of attention for the matter of fact coming out by a transgender character. This is a first for superhero comics, (while other comics have featured transgender characters, as far as I’m aware, this is the first in the capes and tights genre to). While some characters have breached the transgender gap before, through shapeshifting (the most famous of these being X-men villain Mystique), this is the first truly trans character in mainstream comics.
While chatting with her flatmate Barbara, the eponymous Batgirl, about Babs’ evil brother who Alysia is dating, Alysia reveals her transgender status. This moment comes suddenly and is revolved in the space of about two panels. Alysia outs herself to Babs’ initial shock, before saying that she loves her (as a friend) and they have a hug and cry session. Then it’s back to the main issue’s action. The way this isn’t presented as a big deal, is ironically a pretty big deal. It truly shows how far the comic book community has come that a character can out themselves without it begin a full on event. It’s just a fact of life, why should it be any different in comics?
It’s also quite interesting that Simone chooses to present her as bisexual, so her transexual identity isn’t totally tied to a desire to date men. She was simply a man who identified more as a woman, so had gender reassignment surgery, as people routinely do.
This issue has seen its fair share of haters already, denouncing the need for transgender characters in comics, just as bigots like to denounce everything. Gail Simone, the issue’s writer, says of the controversy “I just could not care less about that. If someone gets upset, so be it; there are a thousand other comics out there for those people. We have a problem most media don’t have, which is that almost all the tentpoles we build our industry upon were created over a half century ago… at a time where the characters were almost without exception white, cis-gendered, straight, on and on” It appears Simone wants to create a comic that is a bit different, diversifying their world in unprecedented ways.
However, the character does present something I’ve stated about DC before; that is they seem much more willing to have LGBT characters if they aren’t particularly major. I mean this is a secondary character, in a secondary comic book (essentially a spin-off of Batman); hardly a big deal as characters go. I suppose for now I should just be happy that Batwoman is a lesbian and leave it at that, but I still feel they could have benefited from making the first transgender character more involved in the story. Maybe someday we will be able to see every minority represented fully in comics, I suppose we can only dream.