When it was first announced in 2011 that DC Comics would be relaunching its entire line, writer Gail Simone told GLAAD that she planned to feature LGBT characters in the new books she was heading, including what would be "a first for mainstream comics." With the new issue of her ongoing hit series Batgirl, Simone made good on her word by revealing that Barbara Gordon's roommate Alysia is transgender.
Readers first met Alysia Yeoh in issue #1 of the series, after she and Barbara moved in together. She was depicted as a young woman of Singaporean descent who worked nights as a bartender and described herself as an "activist." Since then she has remained a presence in the book and was briefly involved with Barbara's brother James Gordon Jr., before learning how dangerously insane he was. In the just released issue #19 of the series, after Barbara reveals a great deal about her violent past, Alysia responds that she's been trying for a while to tell Barbara that she's transgender.
In a new interview with NewNowNext, writer Gail Simone reveals that readers can expect to learn a lot more of Alysia's backstory and that she "will only become more important as the issues continue." Simone thinks Alysia will also provide a counterpoint to the grim atmosphere that often pervades the Bat-family books, saying "Thank god she's there to add some spunk and brightness!"
The writer also revealed that she's been working on Alysia's character with input from trans friends and writers for some time, and that her being an already established character is an important factor: "The nice thing is, with Alysia, she’s been in the book since issue one, readers already know her and care about her. They’ve been asking for more of her story, so I think they are already rooting for her…It makes me happy—I have met so many trans readers over the years. I hope they love Alysia as much as we do."
Series like Grant Morrison's The Invisibles and Neil Gaiman's Sandman have included transgender characters over the years, and another DC title Demon Knights stars Sir Ystin (or Shining Knight) who was born female, but lives as a man. However, Sir Ystin is from 8,000 BC and doesn't use modern terminology to describe himself, making Alysia the first major transgender character written in a contemporary context in a mainstream comic book. Can the first mainstream transgender superhero be that far behind? You can see the full pages of Alysia's coming out and Barbara's reaction below, and another interview with Simone at Wired.com.
GLAAD thanks Gail Simone for her longstanding and continued dedication to representing her LGBT fans and readers.