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In a historic move, 'Batgirl' will cast the first trans actress in a superhero movie

Ivory Aquino is slated to play the beloved character Alysia Yeoh, noted for being the first trans character in a contemporary comic book series.

In a historic move, 'Batgirl' will cast the first trans actress in a superhero movie
Image Source: (Left) Family Equality Council's "Night at the Pier". NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Family Equality Council) (Right)

Actress Ivory Aquino has officially been cast for the role of Alysia Yeoh in the upcoming "Batgirl" movie. Aquino, best known for portraying transgender activist Cecilia Chung in the 2017 miniseries "When We Rise," will be the first trans actress to play a major role in a superhero movie. The casting has been described as a "watershed moment" in the world of superheroes. She will star in the highly-anticipated DC Universe film alongside Leslie Grace, who plays Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, and Michael Keaton as the Bruce Wayne/Batman. The move has been praised for its attempt to bring greater LGBTQ+ representation into the field, with many hoping it will inspire more creators to do the same, Variety Magazine reports.


Aquino's character Yeoh, a trans woman of Singaporean descent, made her debut in a 2011 issue of “Batgirl” written by Gail Simone and penciled by Ardian Syaf. She appears in "Batgirl" Vol. 4 #1, where she is introduced as Gordon's roommate in a building called Cherry Tree Hall. She is a bartender by night and a painter by day. However, her ambition is to become a professional chef one day. Yeoh's girlfriend and then eventually wife is Jo Muñoz, who she met through political activism. According to Yeoh's creator Simone, Yeoh was at one point supposed to temporarily replace Barbara Gordon as Batgirl. The comic book creator shared on Twitter, "Barbara was going to be injured in the fight with Nightfall, and she confides in Alysia, who decides to wear the suit for a while. It would have made the book more of a neighborhood patrol, only the neighborhood is the worst part of Gotham."


News of Aquino’s casting was initially leaked online in mid-January after Grace posted a photo that appeared to be taken on the set of the film to her Instagram story. She tagged Aquino and captioned the shot (of two women crossing the street): "Barbara and Alysia." As both Aquino and Yeoh are trans, the casting is particularly important, breaking a decades-long pattern of casting trans actors as cis characters in superhero movies). In the past, for instance, Elliot Page has played the character of Kitty Pryde in the "X-Men" series. While superhero TV shows have had greater representation for several years now—with much credit awarded to "Supergirl’s" Nia Nal, portrayed by trans actress Nicole Maines—this is a big step forward for the genre.


The casting joins a short but notable list of similarly empowering moments in the more mainstream Marvel and DC cinematic universes. For instance, CW's Batwoman was revealed to be lesbian and went on to be played by both Ruby Rose and Javicia Leslie; Loki revealed he is canonically bisexual, and Marvel had Brian Tyree Henry play the first openly gay character in the MCU. There are, of course, several other highlights that are sure to soon become important points of character development and storylines in the near future. The upcoming "Batgirl" movie is scheduled for release on HBO Max later this year. It will be directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. Joining Grace, Aquino, and Keaton are J.K. Simmons as Commissioner James Gordon, Brendan Fraser as Garfield Lynns/Firefly, and Jacob Scipio in an unknown role.


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