With the Supreme Court currently presiding over the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, it may seem that LGBTQ rights are finally getting a good amount of press attention. While that’s true in a general sense, the trans community in particular still faces what is arguably the most difficult battle for public acceptance.
States like Arizona are currently spending taxpayer’s money trying to legalize trans discrimination, and others like Idaho are arresting and citing trans patrons from using public restrooms that don’t match their birth sex.
As this kind of discrimination continues to reach bizarre new heights, there’s one place where trans acceptance seems ready to take hold—in the hallowed halls of geekdom known as DC Comics. This week, the comic book giant published Batgirl #19, featuring a storyline involving the first ongoing, trans-identifying character in a mainstream superhero book.
Wired reports that in the latest Batgirl edition, the character Alysia Yeoh reveals to her roommate, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl), that she is a trans woman. In addition, Alysia is also bisexual.
Author Gail Simone tells Wired that the impetus to include a trans character came from a pretty obvious source of inspiration—her fans. And building out a world as diverse as they are is her ultimate goal.
“It’s the issue for superhero comics. Look, 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,” she said.
“It’s fine—it’s great that people love those characters. But if we only build around them, then we look like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show for all eternity.”
While it’s true there have previously been transgender characters in comic books, they’ve mostly been relegated to mature content or independent titles.
On the other hand, mainstream companies like DC and Marvel have sometimes blended gender lines with trans characters, but it's a quality that either remains strictly unmentioned, or it's based in fantasy, where the characters utilize shape-shifting or magic to move from one gender to the other.
Alysia, however, is out, self-identifying and based in reality—being a trans woman is not her superpower; it’s simply a part of who she is as a human being.
While politicians may continue to argue over the legalities of shunning the trans community, others like Batgirl author Simone are busy demonstrating that different doesn’t have anything to do with being wrong or bad, and everything to do with being human.
What other changes are you hoping to see in comics that would make them more inclusive of their diverse audience? Let us know in the Comments.