Coming out has always been central to Supergirl’s story and to the superhero narrative. The only reason that Supergirl exists at all is because Kara, when faced with the prospect of losing her sister to a plane crash, came out as a superhero and began the long, arduous journey of balancing her two identities. But Kara’s isn’t the only coming out story on Supergirl. Her sister, Alex Danvers, is embarking a coming out journey of her own.
In last night’s episode, Alex found her entire worldview shifting when she confronted the possibility that she might not be straight and that her feelings for her new NCPD gal pal, Maggie Sawyer, might not be entirely platonic.
Seemingly small moments took on greater significance as Alex considered for the first time the possibility that she might not be straight. And at the end of the episode, after grappling with some confusion and a botched attempt to tell Kara what she’s feeling, Alex sought out the one person who might get it. At Maggie’s favorite alien dive bar, Alex admitted in halting, stuttered words that she might be into girls.
Even though she doesn’t know what she wants say or how to say it, and even though she doesn’t quite say it at all as she tip-toes around the word “gay” or an admission that she might like girls, it feels very real and true in a show about aliens, ray guns, and superheroes.
Because this is often how it goes. Coming out happens in stages, in waves, and it’s never really over. Alex confronting a reality that she’d never considered and coming to terms with it in fits and starts is the most realistic and honest way that Supergirl could’ve hoped to portray part of her journey.
Alex’s kinda sorta coming out is a natural mirror of Kara’s own coming out journey. Kara came out as Supergirl last season and fumbled toward figuring out how to be a superhero. This season, Kara’s piecing together who she is outside of Supergirl and outside of her work with the DEO. Alex is doing the same thing (though in a very different way), and last night’s episode saw those journeys intersect in a scene that made it clear that while Kara may still be in the dark when it comes to what Alex is going through, Kara and Alex’s relationship remains at the heart of this show.
Kara and Alex are working through their own coming out stories, but at the heart of both of their journeys is a common element that speaks not just to being a superhero or an alien, but to the way we know ourselves and the extent to which we allow others to know us.
Superheroes have long been a particularly poignant metaphor for some of the struggles that LGBTQ people face when trying to reconcile an inner truth with the part of us that longs to fit in and be accepted by an outside world thats not always kind, tolerant, or even well-informed.
The struggles that Supergirl, J’onn J’onzz, and many of the aliens that frequent Maggies favorite watering hole face aren’t the same as those faced by LGBTQ people, but we can find some commonality in the fear and frustration that comes with the sound of other people shouting over us about the rights that they think we should have. Just like superheroes, most of us can identify with the fear of not being accepted, of not being good enough for those around us, of letting someone down, of disappointing.
The thing that I keep coming back to in Alex’s story in last night’s Supergirl is that it felt real. It wasn’t perfect, she didn’t say all the right things, she’s still confused, and there were moments where you could feel Alex’s blood pressure spike every time she came face-to-face with the possibility that she might be queer, even before she had a real way to categorize those feelings. It all rang true.
Alex’s realization was mostly quiet. She was confused, but as is so important with coming out storylines, there wasn’t an ounce of self-hate. There was no earth-shattering angst or world-ending drama. And Alex’s quiet realization shares a common thread with Kara’s story, with superheroes, and with human beings as a whole. It’s the realization that to be loved in this world means surrendering to the scary prospect of being known for who we really are.