In Batgirl #19, on sale today in both print and digital formats, the character Alysia Yeoh will identify as a transwoman in a conversation with her roommate, Barbara Gordon (aka Batgirl). Taking care to distinguish Yeoh’s sexual orientation from her gender identity, Batgirl writer Gail Simone noted that the character is also bisexual, Wired Science reports
“Once banned from the world of mainstream comic books by the infamous Comics Code Authority, LGBT characters now have a stronger presence in the world of superhero comics than ever before, with gay and lesbian heroes like Batwoman, Northstar and Green Lantern Alan Scott openly declaring who they are — and even getting married. Today, DC Comics told Wired that it will continue to expand the LGBT diversity of its superhero universe by introducing the first openly transgender character in a mainstream superhero comic.”Simone attributed the inspiration for the character to a conversation she had with fellow comic book writer Greg Rucka several years ago at the Wondercon convention, after a fan asked why there were fewer gay male superheroes than lesbian ones. Rucka, who co-created (and rebooted) Batwoman as a lesbian character, replied that it would be a real sign of change for a gay male character to appear on a comic book cover — and an even bigger step for a transgender character to do the same.
“I looked out into the audience, saw dozens of faces I knew well — LGBTQ folks, mostly — all avid comics readers and superhero fans and DC supporters,” said Simone. “And it just hit me: Why was this so impossible? Why in the world can we not do a better job of representation of not just humanity, but also our own loyal audience?”
“Simone suggested the story to DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio at lunch one day, prepared to offer a passionate defense for the idea of a transgender character. ”I thought I might have to sell it, so to speak,” said Simone. “But he just paused for a moment, asked how this would affect Barbara’s story, and immediately approved it. And we went back to our excellent nachos.”
“Still, Simone believes that diversity isn’t just a continuing issue for superhero comics: “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. 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.”