DC Introduce First Transgender Character to the New 52

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.

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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.

Comments

  1. What about Wanda from Sandman (as my smart and literate wife Randi pointed out). The Sandman stories do exist in the DC universe thanks to crossovers with major characters,, and although it was a Vertigo title, it was definitely set on DC-Earth.

  2. Kate Halprin says:

    And Coagula from ‘Doom Patrol’.

  3. Bytowner says:

    Guessing that Coagula joins the ranks of the other characters retconned away by Flashpoint, though…?

  4. MWorrell says:

    Since Simone is rather public about her advocacy, this is less than surprising. I’d be far more shocked if she introduced a dedicated Republican who attends an Evangelical megachurch. But, you know, how many of *those* are there in America?

  5. Wheezie says:

    What about John Byrne’s Wonder Woman?

  6. Yeah, I was thinking of Wanda from Sandman, too. She was a great character. Both Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman were very ahead of their time with doing stories like this. I don’t recall any “coming out” scenes, though. They just were what they were. I’m also a fan of Dr. Girlfriend but I know she doesn’t count as a comic book hero.

  7. Mary Jo says:

    Maybe people aren’t counting Wanda as the first transgender character because of two reasons; Wanda hadn’t fully transitioned, and, as you said, Neil Gainman always treated his characters as people who may have been this or that or whatever-which, I feel, is one of the reasons Sandman feels so timeless.
    Also, I still remember how powerful Wanda’s funeral was-his/her family not accepting Wanda’s transition, and Barbie’s apt final eulogy. it’s almost as if Neil was writing a roadmap to the unexperienced of how to go from being whitebread bland to just accepting a weird wonderful world.

  8. Mary Jo says:

    Oh, I also forgot: back when Sandman was quietly breaking barriers, DC didn’t PR each change to death. Someone someday should write articles about the changes in attitudes Gainman and Moore’s writings did.

  9. MWorrell – hopefully there’ll be a villain down the line who runs a megachurch.

  10. I think all DC characters should become lesbians,gay and transgendered.
    Why?
    Because the majority of DC`s audience is.
    Mainstream America stopped reading DC comic books a long time ago.
    respectfully
    “The Amazing Stam”
    Make Mine Marvel!

  11. Mary Jo says:

    Shoot-I also forgot about this storyline from the, I think, late 1980′s-1990′s-what about Element lad’s science police girlfriend who was later revealed to be a ‘chemically altered” man? Legion of superheros is mainstream-so, that might have been the first, or one of the first mainstream trangender storylines.

  12. Stam: “I think all DC characters should become lesbians,gay and transgendered.
    Why?
    Because the majority of DC`s audience is.”

    Ehh, what?

  13. Rich Harvey says:

    Laura, you forgot to quote the rest of Stam’s comment.

    And he’s right … mainstream America is not purchasing DC Comics. They may be seeing movies and cosplaying at shows, but they ain’t spending any money on funny books.

  14. No I just quoted what I was questioning – where are the stats that suggest the majority of DC comic readers are LGBT? And why does “mainstream” not include them?

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