Ivory Aquino will essay the role of Alysia Yeoh in the HBO Max feature film Batgirl. She thus becomes the first trans actor to appear in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), according to Variety.
Aquino’s Yeoh will also be the first-ever openly trans character in a DC Comics-based film. She is the best friend of the titular superhero, aka Barbara Gordon, played by Leslie Grace. Yeoh first appeared in the 2011 issue of Batgirl written by Gail Simone and illustrated by Ardian Syaf.
According to the Variety report, the news of Aquino’s casting first broke after Grace posted an Instagram story of the two of them crossing a street and captioned it, “Barbara and Alysia.”
This is not the first time that LGBTQI characters have appeared in a superhero film, television show, or comics.
The CW series Supergirl included the first trans superhero on TV, Dreamer (played by Nicole Maines), and the titular superhero’s sister, Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), came out as a lesbian in Season 2.
Even DC’s Batwoman, who initially started out as Batman’s love-interest, was soon given an independent identity as a lesbian in the comics. She is one of the few openly gay superheroes. The television adaptation, which featured Ruby Rose and Javicia Leslie as Batwoman, in the first and second season, respectively, also followed suit.
Maines, Rose, and Leslie are LGBTQI individuals in real life as well.
DC announced in 2021 that Jon Kent aka the latest Superman is bisexual, in the comic book Superman: Son of Kal-El #5. In August 2021, Tim Drake, who took on the identity of Robin, the sidekick to Batman, came out as a gay in Batman: Urban Legends #6.
Marvel’s Eternals recently introduced the first ever Black gay superhero, Brian Tyree Henry’s Phastos.
Loki became Marvel’s first ever queer character after the superhero came out as a bisexual in Disney’s web series Loki. In June 2021, director Kate Herron confirmed the character’s sexuality after the release of the third episode of the series featuring Tom Hiddleston.
However, the big banners continue to employ cis actors to play trans characters in films and are hesitant to feature open LGBTQI characters.
For instance, the 2019 animated series Harley Quinn, that is part of the DCEU, fleshes out the relationship between the Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, but the films with Margot Robbie do not explicitly mention her sexuality.
The casting of Aquino in Batgirl is, therefore, a significant step forward.