Trans* characters in comics

KWilsher posted a lengthy post about the history of homosexuality in the comic world. After this post, DC comics introduced its a transgender character in Batgirl #19



The writer of Batgirl, Gail Simone,  attributed the inspiration for the character to a conversation she had with fellow comic book writer who said a real sign of change would be for a gay male character to appear on a comic cover and an even bigger step for a transgender character to be on the cover.  Simone recognized there was so many LGBTQ people who were huge fans of comics and decided to create a better representation of humanity and the fan base of comics within the comics (link).

I think this is a huge step, representation is very important in all forms of media. While more gay and lesbian characters have been making their way into mainstream media, transgender characters have not had as much of an increase of representation in media. There are many people do not know what “transgender” means or know how to properly talk about it. A lot of people say things that mainstream America is not “ready” to deal with these issues, but we shouldn’t have to wait for the mainstream to be “ready” because transgender people exist. Trans* people cannot hide until the rest of America is ready to accept them. Things like this are positive because they push unknown forms of identity into the spotlight and begin the process of “teaching” the rest of America about people who are not like them.

Comics like this not only show the diversity of society, but also provide role models for people who are different than the cis-gender, white people who so frequently dominate media. Providing these role models for young people leads to more acceptance of identities that are different than their own and allow young trans* people to be less afraid to reveal their identities.

Obviously one comic isn’t going to solve the issues transgender people face on everyday basis, but I think it is a step in a positive direction and might encourage people to write more trans* characters in the future.

  3 comments for “Trans* characters in comics

  1. ldry
    April 18, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    As a supporter of gay rights, it is really awesome to see that graphic novelists are incorporating this issue into their writing and artwork. Already a huge point of discussion in text-only literature (I’m thinking of Running With Scissors and critical theories like queer theory in particular), it is nice to see people take a stand in the comic medium, as well. I haven’t noticed this topic being brought up too much in the graphic novels that we’ve read this semester except for Watchmen. Moore and Gibbons confront homosexuality head on in this graphic novel by proclaiming that a few of the members of the Minute Men were gay, a potentially controversial matter due to the hetero-normative expectations of super heroes. The Silhouette’s lesbian relationship ends in a double murder, demonstrating the inhuman cruelty of hate crimes. The casual representation of what we can assume to be Hooded Justice and his partner in the restaurant scene towards the beginning of the graphic novel is a possible demonstration of the authors’ support. It is great to see that this subject is being brought up more and more in different mediums because that leads to more awareness and potential progress.

  2. April 18, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    It is good that you are pointing out this subject and the fact that it is arising in comics, but the way in which you describe it does not well-communicate the impact or scope. The entirety of your second paragraph (‘this is a huge step…’) does not elaborate sufficiently for readers unfamiliar with your topic to understand. Instead of using scare quotes, could you link to examples that support your argument? Especially on knowing how to properly talk about transgender.

  3. Ave
    August 21, 2013 at 8:07 pm

    It should be noted that transgender characters HAVE been included on comic covers, but very few and people hardly know about them. One of the founding comics of Vertigo was Doom Patrol, the debut of writer Rachel Pollack, taking over from Grant Morrison. She introduced Coagula (mostly known as Kate–Doom Patrol really wasn’t using codenames at the time), who was a transwoman. Kate appeared on multiple covers and was a nifty character–who was promptly killed off by the next author when Doom Patrol was back in regular DC.

    Morrison himself for Doom Patrol introduced intersex character Rebis (intersex does have parallels with trans issues), who I can think of appearing on one cover (a photo cover!) and then later, for Vertigo, launched the Invisibles, which had transgender Lord Fanny appear on at least one cover.

    In the Golden Age, crossdresser Madame Fatal appeared on the cover (though just her head) of the first issue of Crack Comics, and later in the New 52 appeared on the cover of an issue of the Shade. People might not think crossdressers count, but they are included under the transgender umbrella.

    The problem is the marginal aspect of these comics. The Shade cover was the most mainstream, yet still difficult to call a household name. Vertigo was created as a line for adults, and the books that started it were Vertigo books prior, in all but name.

    Well, there’s another problem, and that’s what identity the characters might have. All most people know about Alicia is that she’s transgender and Batgirl’s roommate. The latter is not a character trait, instead a position, so we just know her as the trans character. Maybe the readers know more, but I come from this as one who doesn’t read Batgirl (despite liking Gail Simone’s writing), and many people are in the same boat.

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