I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Batwoman saved my life.

*TRIGGER WARNING: This is a heavy piece. It has graphic recounts of physical assault and attempted suicide.*

On October 9th, 2018, DC revealed the first look of actress Ruby Rose as Batwoman for the DC/CW crossover. It’s the first official live-action adaptation of the character. This is a true milestone for not only comics but for TV and fans.

Batwoman is the foremost LGBTQ character at DC and, arguably, in all of comics right now. She’s headlining the CW crossover this year and will be the first LGBTQ superhero to headline a comic book TV show.

First look at Ruby Rose in the Batwoman suit.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Batwoman saved my life.

She’s my favorite comic character. (Well, she’s on par with Wonder Woman.) I have every print appearance she’s ever made. I have every statue and action figure. Variants and trades. Even a few signed things.

So, you can easily imagine, October 9th, 2018 was a very good day for me.

However.

October 9th, 2006 was a very bad day for me. But we’ll get to that later. I have a story to tell. I hope you’ll listen.

I first realized I was a lesbian around age 11 or 12. I was raised a Roman Catholic so there was a lot of shame and denial. A lot of it. I turned to priests and nuns for help. Anything to fix me, but it was usually brushed off as a phase or confusion.

I tried to bury or deny it, but eventually, I decided that if I was going to Hell I might as well try to live my life.

So, at age 14 I told my best friend that I thought I liked girls. She was surprised but seemed to take it well enough. She hugged me and told me we were still friends. I was over the moon. I thought I was on the path to acceptance. That I was going to be ok.

But, here’s the thing about 14-year-old girls, they talk. A lot.

I don’t remember why, but we had a long weekend that week. I told my best friend that Friday and the following Tuesday when we got back everything had changed.

No one was speaking to me and the teachers weren’t making eye contact. I felt uneasy. After the first class of the day, I discovered that something was wrong. It was the first time I heard it.

Faggot.

My blood ran cold. That’s when unease turned to fear. I wanted to run and hide. I was praying that no one told my parents. That was the first time I felt like I wanted to die.

The slurs and sneers continued throughout that week. I have no idea how I made it through, but I did find out that my best friend had told a girl, who really didn’t like me, that I told her I was a lesbian. They, apparently, laughed and talked about how gross it was. I found out it was the other girl who had sent emails and texts to everyone telling them everything. One boy told his parents who then called the school.

That Thursday I was called to the Principle’s office and lectured about “inappropriate behavior” around female classmates and told that I had to change for gym in a nearby bathroom because other parents were worried about me changing with their daughters. I was humiliated.

However, it was that Friday that humiliation turned into Hell.

To avoid classmates I had started sneaking out of a back entrance at the end of the day instead of going through the school. That day there was a group of 3 girls waiting for me. One of them had an aluminum baseball bat that we used in gym class. I got scared and tried to talk my way out of it and then tried to run.

That’s when I got cracked in the back of the head with the bat.

I remember going down and I remember being dragged away. I sort of came to a little while later when they were stomping on my legs and stomach. I was in the wooded area behind the school’s track and field area.

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If you feel like you can’t go on any longer: USE THIS NUMBER. You are valid and you deserve to be here.

I remember crying and begging them to stop. They laughed. Eventually, the kicking stopped and the punching began. After that one of them went digging in their backpacks and pulled out a spoon from the cafeteria and a lighter. They heated the spoon with the lighter and pressed it to my skin burning me. (I still have a scar from one of the burns on my stomach.)

That’s when I lost consciousness. I woke up a later as the sun was setting. My backpack was ripped open and my stuff was everywhere. My coat was taken off of me and burned at one point so it was smoldering off to the side.

I picked myself up, packed my stuff up as best I could, and walked the 4 miles home.

I managed to get home before my parents because my mom worked late and my dad had gone to get her. I cleaned myself up as best I good and then locked myself in my room. I told my parents I didn’t feel well and they believed me.

I wore long sleeves are scarves to cover all the cuts and bruises. (I even had to stitch one cut closed myself.)

That following week the taunting continued and that’s when I made the decision that death was preferable to this.

That’s when I decided to kill myself. I was gay and I needed to be punished. I’d rather burn in Hell than deal with that school one more time.

So, I set a date for a week later. October 9th, 2006.

That week was a daunting one for me. I planned it out, wrote letters to everyone, and said goodbye to my cat.

It was about 9:45 PM on October 9th, 2006 that I got into my closet, tied my scarf to the metal closet rod, and then around my throat. I took a deep breath and stepped off the stool.

I don’t remember much after that. I remember fear and darkness.

I woke up on the floor several hours later. It seems the metal rod I had tied the scarf to wasn’t strong enough to hold my weight. I’m not really sure. I don’t dwell on it.

I was angry and scared. I curled up and cried until morning. I had a red ring and fabric burns around my neck with a turtleneck. No one was really the wiser. Certainly not my parents. The only person I told about my attempt was my childhood best friend John, who was also gay.

At this point, I was broken. I just became an empty shell.

John insisted I meet him at the public library after school a few days later. He wanted to make sure I was safe and wanted to try to “get my mind off of it.”

We did what we always did. Got food from Taco Bell across the street, made our way to the library, settled down in the Young Adults section and pour over their dozens of single issue comics.

I was shuffling through the comics when a particular issue caught my eye. 52: Week 11.

A woman in a red and black batsuit was on the cover. The words “Batwoman Begins” were off to the left. I stared at the cover in mild annoyance.

Was Barbara not Oracle anymore? I was about to be pissed off. (I had just tried to kill myself but I was about to be so angry if Barbara wasn’t Oracle. What can I say? I’m hopeless.)

Textless cover for 52: Week 11

I flipped open the issue and read it. I saw Renee Montoya and felt a little sick. Her coming storyline in Gotham Central had scared the shit out of me. (Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t end well for her.) So it was always a little unnerving to see her.

As I flipped through the book I saw Renee talking to this pretty mesmerizing character named Kate. (Even teenage Mary was a sucker for a redhead.) I got really excited when it’s revealed that this mysterious Kate was an old girlfriend of Renee’s. I couldn’t wipe the grin off of my face.

Sexy Kate is sexy.

I flipped through some more I hit the pages that would change everything for me.

In the latter part of the book, a fight had taken a negative turn for Renee and Charlie but the mysterious Batwoman charged into a fight and absolutely fucking owns everyone in that room.

She single-handedly defeated the villains and saved Renee and Charlie while making it look so damn easy. I was mesmerized by the strength and power. Then it hit me. It hit me like a goddamn freight train.

The panel that changed everything for me.

Kate was Batwoman. Kate was a lesbian. Batwoman was a lesbian.

This superhero who had swooped in and dominated this fight was a lesbian. This character who was powerful, determined, and seemingly a little headstrong was a lesbian.

Those few panels of Batwoman fighting random henchmen changed the course of my life.

There was something transformative about seeing a lesbian superhero after I had tried to end my life for being a lesbian. Each time I reread the panels I wanted to die a little less, in fact, I felt a little stronger.

It was everything I needed at that time. In those panels, Batwoman had the strength, bravery, and confidence that I needed at that moment. It was a hand reaching down to pull me out of the dark and murky waters I was drowning in.

I know that seems a little overdramatic, but at the time I was a kid who wanted to die. That one issue was enough to give me pause. It was enough to show me that I could be gay and be brave. You could be strong. You could be unshakable. You could be you.

I sat down with the issue and just broke down. I just remember hugging the issue to my chest and sobbing. It’s hard to describe the feeling that came over me at that moment. It was a defining moment for me.

I quickly became obsessed with Kate and Batwoman. Over the next 12 years, I would buy everything I could, read everything I could, and obsess over everything I could. She wasn’t just my favorite superhero. She was my hero. She was what I wanted to become. She was that source of strength when I didn’t have one.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Victoria Roberts, people smiling, people standing, suit and wedding

Me (L) 12 years and 7,000 pounds later.

12 years later, I’m a grown woman who is proud of her sexuality. I am married to the love of my life. I couldn’t be happier. Had I not found that comic on that day, I can’t promise that I would have tried again. I can’t promise I would have moved on. 

I can’t promise that I would be the person that I am.

The announcement of Ruby Rose as Kate on the CW Crossover and headlining the Batwoman TV show is just news that I never thought I’d see. I never thought it would be possible.

The fact that the costume to reveal was on the anniversary of my attempted suicide is a profoundly weird feeling. I can’t put it into words, but it hits me hard.

I knew one thing though: I wanted to share my story. I wanted to illustrate the impact this one character had on my life. The fact that this one character saved me when I thought nothing else in the world would or could.

I’ve spilled my feelings enough here, but I have only one more thing to say.

Thank you.

Thank you to Greg Rucka, Paul Levitz, and DC Comics for taking a chance with this character. You taking that chance gave me a second one and I am eternally grateful.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Batwoman saved my life.

 

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Mary Swangin

Mary Swangin

Chief News Editor
A lesbian who spends too much time/money reading and overanalyzing comic books. Also the co-host of the LGBTQ comic podcast Rainbows to the Rescue and the Chief News Editor of Shoot The Breeze Comics.
Written by
A lesbian who spends too much time/money reading and overanalyzing comic books. Also the co-host of the LGBTQ comic podcast Rainbows to the Rescue and the Chief News Editor of Shoot The Breeze Comics.

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