BATGIRL Creators Apologize in the Wake of Transgender Controversy

page from Batgirl #37
Credit: DC Comics

Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher and Babs Tarr, the creative team on DC's Batgirl, posted an apology this weekend about last week's issue #37, which caused some controversy among trans-friendly bloggers and transgender and transexual fans.

The controversy centers on the issue’s villain, a bling-wearing, crime-committing Batgirl impersonator whose mask was removed in Batgirl #37 — revealing that his real identity is Dagger Type, a character who's apparently male. Some fans, assuming the bling-wearing Dagger Type is trans, were offended because the crazed villain  perpetuates a negative stereotype in the eyes of some.

Others took issue at Barbara's reaction when she removed Dagger Type's mask. After realizing the Batgirl impersonator is most likely a man, Batgirl appears to be surprised as she says, "But you're a —."

"If you pull the wig off of someone who you thought was a woman, it is 100 percent transmisogynistic to yell in shocked horror that they are a man," said a blogger on Autostraddle.com.

page from Batgirl #37
page from Batgirl #37

Fletcher and Stewart both posted a statement on their Twitter feeds that acknowledged "the hurt and offense" their story caused. In the writers’ words, “We made mistakes. We’re deeply sorry. We will do better.”

Batgirl has been praised in the past by transgender advocates as a series in which transgender and transsexual persons have received positive representation, particularly after the previous creative team revealed in April’s Batgirl #19 that Barbara Gordon's roommate Alysia Yeoh is a trans woman of color. (Alysia is still in the comic’s cast, and was actually part of last week’s issue, although in a separate scene from the one in question.)

Fletcher, Stewart, and Tarr, who took over Batgirl in October, earned critical praise for their debut issue, including positive reaction from female comic bloggers for the title’s diverse cast, its realistic portrayal of female characters, and its less-sexualized redesign of Batgirl's costume.

Here is the full text of the creative team's apology:

We have heard the complaints about this issue and are listening carefully to the reactions with grave concern.

We could go on all day about our intentions for the issue and the character of Dagger Type, and what our goals were and weren'y. But, our intentions do not invalidate the legitimate reactions that some have had to this story. Those reactions are honest and heartfelt, and exist regardless of our creative intentions, and we don't wish to dismiss this.

Instead, we want to acknowledge the hurt and offense that we've caused, and express our sincerest apologies. We're all deeply troubled by the reaction to this issue and have made it a point of serious discussion amongst ourelves. While we expected a degree of controversy in regard to the issues of identity and the artistic process that this story was meant to evoke, we do now realize that our presentation of this character was flawed, for any elements whatsoever of the story to have reminded readers of the sordid and misguided tropes that associate both drag and gender expression with duplicity.

We deeply regret upsetting readers who placed their trust in us. But we're indebted to those who stand up to speak out about their perspective on stories like this -- their commentary leads to universally better storytelling, from both ourselves and others, and we hope to live up to that standard in the future.

Regards,

Cameron Stewart

Brenden Fletcher

Babs Tarr

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