“Batgirl #19” Reveals DC’s First Transgender (And Bisexual!) Character

When Batgirl #19 hit stands yesterday, it unveiled a wonderful surprise: Barbara Gordon’s roommate, Alysia Yeoh, is transgender. In a conversation in which Babs opened up about how she was once paralyzed, and about all of the pain and misadventure that has gone along with being a target of the Joker, Alysia told her that she had an identity thing to reveal as well.

After the issue was released, writer Gail Simone spoke to Wired about it. Distinguishing between Alysia’s gender identity and sexual orientation, she told the magazine that in addition to being transgender, Alysia is also bisexual. She said the inspiration for the character came from a conversation with longtime Batwoman writer/re-launcher Greg Rucka.

I looked out into the audience [at Wondercon], saw dozens of faces I knew well — LGBTQ folks, mostly — all avid comics readers and superhero fans and DC supporters. 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? … 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.

Alysia was introduced in the first issue of Batgirl‘s New 52 reboot. She was the first stranger Barbara let into her life in a long time, but Alysia’s affability and candid conversation and ability to make a good cup of tea caused Babs to drop her walls and let Alysia in. They have become dear friends and confidantes. According to DC, Alysia is the first transgender character in mainstream comics. She’s also the only bisexual character in the DCu right now. (When the New 52 launched, Voodoo was also bisexual, but that exploitative title has long since been cancelled.) Oh, one more thing: Alysia is of Singaporean descent. Asian-American transgender bisexual character? Gail Simone, we honor your commitment to honesty and diversity in your storytelling!

What do you think of the news that Batgirl has unveiled Alysia’s gender identity and sexual orientation?