SHINING KNIGHT 'OUTED' As DC's First Intersex Hero/ine?

Demon Knights, the ongoing comic set in the medieval past of the DCU, has been constantly introducing and resolving new mysteries since it was launched last year.


But this week, one mystery's resolution had a lot of readers scratching their heads.

And when Newsarama reached out to writer Paul Cornell, he didn't clarify much.

Yet Cornell clearly knew readers would react. The writer warned fans on Twitter to watch out for this week's issue. "There's a big character moment for the Shining Knight in Demon Knights #14," he wrote. "Might get some coverage."

So what was worthy of "some coverage?"

The Shining Knight, the hero who dons a knight's armor, is apparently both male and female at the same time.



Well, something like that.....

The Facts from Cornell

In this week's Demon Knights #14, Shining Knight says:

"I think you like one... aspect of who I am. But I'm the other too. I was born this way. I've kept saying, whenever anyone asks.

"I'm not just a man or a woman. I'm both."

Newsarama asked Cornell to clarify — asking point blank, "Are you saying he/she is anatomically both male and female? Or just in his/her mind? Or what?"

Cornell's answer: "I think that's down to what each individual reader wants from that exchange, or most identifies with. Why shut down any of the possibilities?" 

On Friday November 16th, Cornell clarified his personal position on Ystin, saying on twitter, "It's great that a DC character can come out as transgender and it not excite much comment. Very refreshing," when referencing this story.

A Little Background

Before DC's 2011 reboot, the Shining Knight was a Golden Age character who had been revamped by Grant Morrison for his Seven Soldiers limited series in 2005-2006.

In that series, it was established that Ystin, the Shining Knight, was actually Ystina, a female who was pretending to be male so she could be a knight of Camelot.

Then, after last year's reboot of the DCU, the Shining Knight character showed up again in the cast of Demon Knights. But this time around, the feminine-looking Shining Knight wasn't yet "outed" as a female.

Instead, it became somewhat of a running joke for the team members to ponder his/her gender. But for many issues now, some of them have suspected he was actually a female pretending to be male.


Then in October's Demon Knights #13, Ystin was confronted by the hordes of hell to finally make a choice. They even dressed up one male and one female demon in wedding clothes and said, "You have to choose the bride or the groom. Either promises quite a wedding night. Too long have you refused to declare your sex. Reveal yourself before everyone! Now!"

The Joke More Serious?

In our interviews since the launch of the title last year, Cornell was always very careful to not identify the gender of Shining Knight. But he obviously found the ambiguity to be somewhat humorous.

Way back in August 2011, Newsarama interviewed the writer about the series and he said then:

"Most asked question: it's Grant [Morrison]'s Shining Knight [from Seven Soldiers], but with a few new angles to her. I mean him."

And then in November 2011, we had this exchange with Cornell about the character's sexuality:

Nrama: And I always did like the Shining Knight, from Grant Morrison's portrayal of her.

Cornell: Him or her.

Nrama: But Grant said it was actually "her," right? Oh wait, you haven't said in the new DC universe, have you?

Cornell: It's a him. She keeps insisting it is, anyway. Or he. Or she keeps insisting it's a him. So why aren't we taking him or her at their word?

Nrama: And it's a new universe, so who knows?

Cornell: Exactly!

That humorous ambiguity about Shining Knight's gender has been maintained in the series ever since it was launched. Nobody ever said whether Shining Knight was male or female.

Until this week's reveal: "I'm not just a man or a woman. I'm both."

DC's Earliest Hero/ine?

Cornell isn't explaining what Ystin's declaration means, but readers are certainly buzzing about what appears to be DC's earliest hero/ine.

Over on the Jinxworld forums, one poster said, "Okay, if I'm reading this properly, Shining Knight is explaining that he is intersex. Interesting. I'd previously thought that he was pre-operation (since it's the past and operations don't exist yet) female-to-male transgender, but now he's saying that he's both."

On Tumblr, one poster said, "my first thought was, so is Ystin intersex…? But based on all the interactions we’ve seen so far, it could also be that Ystin meant that he was assumed a female at birth (like preboot canon stated) but identified as a male?"

On the Comic Book Resources forums, a poster says, "I guess the 'I'm both man and woman' thing is still ambiguous enough to be up to interpretation, but I think it confirms that she's a transgendered person: mentally male, but with a female body. And since she was born that way, she can't just be pretending to be male like Morrison's Ystin."

What Comes Next

It's obvious that Cornell likes the mystery about Ystin's sexuality, but this month's revelation may be all we get from the writer on the subject. Cornell is finishing up his run on Demon Knights with next month's #15.

As new writer Robert Venditti explained in his interview with Newsarama, Demon Knights #16 will open a few decades removed from where issue #15 leaves off.

So the world may never know what Cornell and young Ystin meant by "both."

Correction: On Friday November 16, 2012, added new comment/clarification from Paul Cornell stating that he views Ystin as transgender.

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