The World Needs a Hero

A transgender writer brainstorms an idea to create a new LGBT superhero origin story.

Recently I had a conversation with one of my coworkers about the status of my transition; I was slightly shocked when he brought up the conversation, as 1) we've never been close and it was the first time the topic had come up in the year since I came out in the bank; and 2) he tends to be very vocal about his support of politicians who tend to stand strongly against our community. My coworker, Nick, asked a few very appropriate conversations, showing an interest in learning about our struggles and being obvious that he wanted to make sure that he was respectful in his interactions, not only with me, but with any other transgender individuals that he might ever encounter.

We spoke briefly about a few matters, and I recommended our website to him, knowing that if he truly wanted to learn about our struggles, both with our identities and with the outside world, that Transgender Universe was an amazing place to start. Once I said the name of the website, Nick began to laugh; then apologized and explained that the name immediately made the "nerd" in him imagine that it could be a comic book universe. I hated to admit it, but the idea actually appealed to me. I would love to see our community represented in such a medium; and I firmly believe that it would be a fantastic representation.

I started searching the Internet, looking for as much as I could find about such a topic. But sadly all I could find was our own two articles about the series Alters and about a hundred articles about transgender actress, Nicole Maines, who has recently been cast on the CW series Supergirl. I don’t personally watch the show, and while I'm excited for the representation on such a recognizable level, the character that Maines will be portraying, Nia Nul, is not one who has ever been characterized as transgender in the comics; so while I appreciate the representation, what I want is more original characters from our community.

"SO HOW DO WE CREATE OUR OWN SUPERHERO?"

So how do we create our own superhero? What would this person's origin story be? Who were they before they became super? How did they become super? Upon discussing the concept with a friend, they asked if our new hero was "a person who gained powers, or a "mild mannered cis-person who was bitten by a radioactive trans-person." While the concept did make me laugh, I think the first idea is significantly less offensive; so let's go with that route, with a character who is seeking some level of transition, although, as I work on the actual story that will come from this outline, I plan on placing my character somewhere out of the binary.

Next we need a good, dramatic event to set things in motion. Some of the best superhero origin stories begin with a very traumatic event in our hero's life; so I came up with the idea that my character would be suffering from terrible dysphoria, and is trying to move forward with their transition; however, due to insurance issues, they were denied coverage for gender reassignment surgery. This sets them onto a terrible downward spiral of depression, until, they learn about a new, experimental process for GRS that they just can’t turn down, even though; it seems too good to be true.

Fast forward a bit and the fateful day comes for our reluctant hero, the process involves some sort of crazy high-tech machine, I imagine it looks somewhat like a tanning booth, that after being programmed with the patient's information, as well as their desired appearance, it essentially transforms the body, incision free, and with a fraction of the pain as modern surgical techniques. Of course, this wouldn't be a sci-fi origin story if something didn’t, sadly, go wrong; for the sake of this article, I'll keep the catalyst somewhat minor and we'll say that a passing electrical storm causes a brief power surge that shuts down the system while our hero is in the middle of their procedure. Because of this malfunction, their cells are only halfway transformed, leaving them with their new, soon to be discovered superpowers.

"THIS WILL ALLOW MY CHARACTER TO NOT ONLY KEEP A SOLID SECRET-IDENTITY, BUT ALSO HELP EASE MUCH OF THEIR PERSONAL DYSPHORIA..."

As I have been working on this concept, I felt that the best place to start with our superpower list would be the power to change their bodily form at will. I don't want to get too cheesy with this, so it will not be a general shape shifting ability, they cannot assume any number of forms that they please, but are limited within the appearance of their assigned gender and the new look that they had created in the computer prior to the procedure. This will allow my character to not only keep a solid secret-identity, but also help ease much of their personal dysphoria, as they still aren’t stuck within the binary.

As the story continues, like many famous superheroes, there will be a series of awkward events that helps our character learn of their new powers and find the best way for themselves to learn how to use them. But then of course, comes the final heart-wrencher, some traumatic event that will convince this character to use their powers to fight crime. Considering the general theme of our hero, as much as I hate writing this type of tragedy, I feel that the most powerful event would be stemming from a hate crime. So our hero will have to witness the death of a close, LGBT friend, murdered for living their truth and being who they were always supposed to be. This will tear apart our hero, leading them down a dark path that will lead them to the choice, to become a hero or do something terrible for vengeance.

I'm looking forward to developing this project, and carefully making sure that the dramatic events at the end don't copy that of Spider-Man too closely. I hope to update future articles with the progress as I create this, and hopefully additional transgender superheroes over time.

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No. 1-1
Rachel Redhead
Rachel Redhead

in my 2nd Jen Hunter book the US super hero character Dreamstar, who is trans and had previously appeared in a book of short stories I wrote a few years ago, joins the UK based group of heroes established in book 1, and continuing in book 2, I expect to write book 3 next year to complete the trilogy. I published a collection of stories called Trans* as a comment on the visible lack of trans characters in genre fiction.

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