Queer Comics
Gail Simone to Write Transgender Character
By J. Skyler
January 1, 2013 - 03:15

"A trans story is definitely coming... can't say more at this point, for fear of spoilage!" - Gail Simone

A few weeks ago, following her initial discharge from writing DC Comics' Batgirl, Gail Simone stated via Tumblr that her plans to include a transgender character had been scrapped, along with all other scripts she had completed for Batgirl that were ready for publication. Since her reinstatement on the ongoing monthly title, however, it would appear that the debut of a new transgender character is back on track. It remains unclear to what degree of her original scripts remain in-tact, considering Ray Fawkes will temporarily take over the title as a guest writer for issues 18 and 19, but even if Simone was required to start from scratch, her inclusion of a transgender character will be a huge leap forward for a highly disenfranchised community.

While gender-variant themes are not uncommon in fiction (through supernatural elements, such as the ability to shape-shift), explicitly identified (or self-identified) transgender or transsexual characters are a distinct rarity. Fetishism associated with cross-dressing still carries undue weight in the public perception of trans persons and a number of trans characters that have been depicted in film and television are created exclusively to explore their sexual proclivities over anything else. While the depiction of sexuality in and of itself is not problematic, reducing trans women (as well as cisgender women) to sexual objectification is.

Surprisingly, DC Comics gave way to one of the world's first transsexual superheroes through its Vertigo imprint. In the Doom Patrol series in 1993, science fiction and comic book writer Rachel Pollack (an outspoken transsexual woman and activist), introduced Kate Godwin (codenamed Coagula), a male-to-female transsexual (MtF) sex worker who gains the ability to clot liquids and dissolve solids. The following year, Grant Morrison introduce Lord Fanny, another MtF sex worker (see a trend here?) in his series The Invisibles. I have encountered a number of trans women who felt they had no choice other than to become sex workers in order to survive due to discrimination in the work force. Legal protections barring corporations from refusing to hire and/or terminate someone on the sole basis of their gender identity are not universal. While it is important to illuminate such struggles (even the conscientious choice to engage in sex work independent of financial woes), if these are the sole representation of trans women, it creates a double-edged sword in that these depictions reinforce the schema that trans identity is restricted to sexual arousal, fetishism or prostitution. At a time when an award-winning director, New Hampshire state legislator and television broadcaster can all stand proud as unapologetic trans women, it's vital to cast a wide net in the fictional depictions of transgender people.

Interestingly enough, Gail Simone's run on Batgirl would not be the first time a transgender character would be associated with the Dark Damsel. In the flash animation series Gotham Girls produced by Noodle Soup Productions (staring Batgirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn), the character Detective Selma Reesedale is revealed to be a trans woman in the third season. Although the detective chose to keep her gender identity private, Batgirl learns that her father, Commissioner Gordon, is one of the few individuals Reesedale entrusted her secret to. It's doubtful Simone is planning on adapting this character for the comic book, as a number of rumors online already point to Barbara Gordon's roommate, Alysia. Of course, there's no concrete indication Alysia or anyone currently appearing in Batgirl is Simone's template for a trans arc, but Simone's dedication to developing a well-rounded transgender character, either in a supporting role in Batgirl or in a starring role in their own independent title, will not go unappreciated.

Follow me on Twitter @jskylerinc

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