So the other day while I was trying to do the opposite of doomscrolling by finding positive things on the internet, I came across the image above, shared by everyone’s favorite cosplaying drag queen, Dax Exclamation Point.
I haven’t read a Batman comic in ages, although for years that was the only DC book I followed. I knew enough to know that the character depicted was probably Alysia Yeoh, who I vaguely remember is roommates with Barbara Gordon(aka OG Batgirl). I didn’t know Alysia is trans, and I haven’t been keeping up with the storylines aside from that very boring new film so I had to go look up the character to know exactly what was happening in that panel.
All of this to say, when this image floated across my screen, I looked at it for a minute, checked the captions and the ‘fit and said to myself, “Hold the hell on…Batgirl is trans now?”
Alysia Yeoh isn’t the only transwoman superhero in comics. She’s not even the only one in books. To be completely fair, she isn’t even the actual Batgirl, she’s a member of the League of Batgirls in an alternate timeline. But she’s still something unique, although also completely normal–a trans, Asian superheroine, streetwise but also soft and smart and surrounded by a community of her own making.
Let’s talk about this, though. This one panel and its one throwaway line made something dawn on me. A trans superhero in an inner-city, diverse space would make SO much sense. I mean, think about it–how many trans people of color are real-life heroes and heroines in urban areas? Think Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Stormé DeLarverie, Sylvia Rivera, Tamara Ching, Willy Wilkinson, and countless unsung others.
Back in the day when I used to hang out in all kinds of unorthodox spaces and places in an attempt to understand the world from the “bottom” up, trans folk were usually the first people to stand up for soft naive Black femme me, the first folk to speak up for me when I couldn’t, and the first to protect me. I remember the time a trans woman who I barely knew at the time stopped a whole conversation in a bar, asked me what was wrong, walked me six blocks over to her apartment, put me in her car, and drove me all the way home one night because I was having a very bad time and the family member who promised to meet me to talk stood me up. I remember the talk she gave me on that drive about how as women, we deserved to be loved and protected just as much as we loved and protected the men and boys and children in our lives. I also remember her saying that there was also no shame in protecting myself if I had to and that in fact, I should and could and there was a way to do it that wouldn’t compromise anything about who I was as a woman. It’s taken me close to twenty years to really learn that lesson, but sometimes I still hear her voice when I have to chop someone down for trying to block out my light.
It was trans women who taught me how to carry a weapon safely, and how I should use it in a pinch. I’ve never had to, but I still know how.
Even when I was still very transphobic and prone to bringing the tyranny of fundamentalist religion into conversations without being asked, trans women were often the only people who would give me the space to be soft while also being smart without having to be “tough”–because they understood what it’s like to be continually denied the fullness of femininity by other people’s assumptions, and the fullness of your intellect because you are feminine.
A trans woman taught me how to properly order a martini. She taught me how to tell someone they were hateful and unwelcome in a way that made them laugh while they were leaving. She taught me that in her culture as in mine, femininity is not solely performed but also intrinsic. It was in her memory, many years later, that I truly understood how and why all women are valid and shook off(I hope) the last of the misinformation I’d been fed that had me out here hurting other women in the name of validity.
What I think I’m trying to say is this: a long time ago, I had a friend from Guam named Frances who was a superhero, and it’s ABOUT DAMN TIME somebody realized that trans women deserve space in the superhero gallery too.
But the first person this Batgirl needs to crack over the head is Batman. We’ll have to talk about that later.
(Beautiful people! Thanks for reading! This post really wasn’t very much about books, but if you want to read more books by transgender writers, I’ve got a list locked and loaded for you in the Equal Opportunity Bookshop. Click to find something good to read and don’t forget that we have an affliate relationship with the Shop of Books and will receive a commission for every book you buy at our links. Peace!)