Batgirl has come back into discussion around the interwebs this week, but for purely in-story reasons this time round. This week’s issue #19 sees one of the supporting characters, Alysia Yeoh, reveal that she is transgender. Which is notable, as it means Alysia is the first openly transgendered character in the New 52, (bearing in mind that Sir Ystin in Demon Knights has only been inferred, and not outright stated to be transgendered). It’s a nice, progressive move from DC.
It’ll be no surprise to learn that Gail Simone is the writer in charge here, as Simone has a long history of support for LGBT rights and exposure in mainstream comics. The character has been around since the start of the series, although only now has decided to ‘out’ her past to Batgirl.
This has allowed writers like Laura Hudson to look at the history of transgender characters in mainstream comics, with the most common response obviously being “well, there aren’t many transgendered characters in mainstream comics” . The X-Men books understandably lead the way in the portrayal of transgendered characters, both allegorically (Mystique, whom Chris Claremont always intended to have been Nightcrawler’s biological father, not mother, although perhaps that would qualify the character as a hermaphrodite rather than transgender) and outright, in the form of Courier.
(Courier, for anybody interested, was a Gambit supporting character who moved into the body of a woman, willingly, after Mr Sinister sort of dissolved his male body. Courier embraced the move wholeheartedly, and in his last appearance got a kiss from Gambit for her efforts.)
But Yeoh is the first trans character I know of who hasn’t been involved in magic, or body swapping, isn’t an alien, and isn’t involved in any of the former ways writers used to get past the comics code to explore transgender characters. It’s not news that the character exists in a mainstream comics title — but it is rather nice that mainstream comics can now feature transgender characters WITHOUT Mr Sinister being involved.