What’s red, black, and gay? Batwoman, of course!
After much anticipation, the caped vigilante came out. And not as Kate Kane, the devilishly charming socialist of Gotham, but as herself — loud, proud, and openly queer.
In the iconic episode of The CW’s Batwoman, the storyline follows Kate Kane as she deals with an irking dilemma. No, not her evil twin this time. Instead, Gotham social media has made the lovely assumption that her persona, Batwoman, is heterosexual by basically shipping her with a male police officer. Ughh.
While Kate is repulsed by the idea of anyone assume thinking she’s straight (according to her, she’s “very, very gay”), ally Luke Fox says that Batwoman being in the closest would help to cover up Kate’s real-life identity.
But there are repercussions of staying masked (in more ways than one).
Within the episode, Batwoman meets a troubled young woman named Parker Torres, who was recently outed to her homophobic parents. Rightfully angered by her situation, Parker tells Batwoman that she cannot understand what she is going through as a queer woman and that her only hope to be represented in the world is by an “ancillary character on her favorite TV show.” Definitely breaking the fourth wall here.
Of course, Batwoman does know what Parker’s going through because she’s been there herself as a queer woman. Batwoman has dealt with the discrimination for being a lesbian when she was outed from the military in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” fashion. Despite what Gotham thinks, she’s not some straight person quoting “It Gets Better” for a marginalized audience. She is that audience, she is Parker, and every other queer person who has felt the need to hide who they are.
For decades, the LGBTQ+ community has loved superheroes. Not just for the colorful costumes and extravagant personas (though there’s that, too), but for the way superhero identities have mimicked queer identities. As people living in a world that often does not take kindly to those who are “different,” both superheroes and queer folks deal with the stress of having “secret identities.”
“Masking” oneself, whether with a literal or metaphorical mask, stands as a powerful metaphor for what it feels like to be in the closest, having to hide who you are in order to protect your true identity from those who wish to use it against you. Not only does Batwoman illustrate understanding the power of identity and representing one’s community by casting a queer person to play a queer character, but then to also have that character be openly proud and loud about who they are, both behind and without the mask, is truly iconic.
Kate Kane understands that when she dons the Batwoman outfit, she is not only wearing a costume but a signal. As a queer superhero in the comics and show, she not only stands as a symbol for justice but as a powerful representation for a community that has been marginalized both in the media and the real world.
The effects of Batwoman coming out to the world is seen when Parker says to Kate that she never expected a hero like Batwoman to be queer like herself, “someone like me,” but that she’s glad that she is.
Shows like Batwoman stand to show the power of representation, to show young queer youth that they exist, that they deserve to be seen, and that they can become their own superheroes.