Supergirl's Alex Danvers Gave Us the Coming Out Story We Deserve
2016 was a tumultuous year for the queer girl TV viewer, with the now notorious deaths of Lexa from “The 100” and 28 other lesbian or bisexual characters. The reality of a queer character’s mortality rate on TV makes the few shows that feature one a fearful watch. But, for once, this is not what this article is about! Despite the above, the emergence of a queer woman on a TV show is still thrilling, and “Supergirl” has surpassed any previous expectations that I had.
When I began watching “Supergirl”, as happens with a lot of TV shows that I watch, Alex Danvers’ character immediately stood out to me. “She’s gay,” I would yell at my laptop, as the show had her go out to dinner with a man. “She’s so gay,” I screeched, shaking my girlfriend’s hand as we watched the show together. This is, as I’m sure many can attest to, the queer person’s typical viewing of most TV. The desperate grasping at straws, holding on to any character that gives even the slightest hint that they might not be of the heterosexual persuasion, is a very small way to feel represented. This is often the basis of queerbaiting in many TV shows, but this time, I was right. And being right about Alex Danvers, was so much better than I thought.
Many coming out stories on TV often don’t address the confusion that comes along with it, they are often just “into hot people”, and they don’t think about the dynamics of their identity. But Alex Danvers, and the “Supergirl” writers, performed my favourite coming out story to date. From the moment Alex meets Maggie Sawyer, NCPD detective and out lesbian, their relationship plays out like your classic rom-com. Whilst they originally butt heads, they quickly forge a friendship and get regular drinks together. This is where Alex attempting to understand her own sexuality really emulates life, or at least mine.
Having assumed she was straight for her whole life, Alex’s sudden interest in Maggie, although she blows it off as just a friend thing, (what I used to call a “friend crush”) is confusing to her. When Maggie gets dumped she exclaims, “She dumped you!? Who would do that?” While speaking to Wyn about Maggie, he says “It’s not like you’re into this Maggie person.” And when Alex eagerly invites Maggie out for drinks she says to Alex, “Oh, I didn’t know you were into girls.” Alex’s reaction to this is to say “I’m not,” and then spend the rest of the episode with a confused look on her face, until she meets Maggie again and admits there “may have been some truth” to what Maggie said. Seeing Alex going through these thoughts, trying to figure out the truth of what she really feels, resonates so deeply with me. For so many, the hardest person to come out to is yourself - and Supergirl really nails that. Coming to terms with your feelings for someone who you thought you were never supposed to like isn’t easy, it’s life changing.
The episode in which Alex comes out to Kara, and truly to herself, aptly titled “Changing”, had me in tears about 5 different times, and even more in my rewatch for this article. Seeing any LGBT+ character fall in love is enough to make me weep, but to see one allowed her own coming out story, allowed to understand herself fully - and not just in terms of a relationship - fills me up with so much warmth and hope. Chyler Leigh’s performance is actually heartbreaking: I can see in Alex all the fear, all the confusion, all the suppressed love that lived in me. I wasn’t as old as Alex when I figured out I was gay, but at 20 I also felt like I was too old to only just be realising this - didn’t most people realise this in their teens? As a child? How could I only just be coming to terms with the fact I like women?! It seemed absurd, like it wasn’t real, or valid, probably because it wasn’t something I had seen happen in life, and barely ever on tv. However, I was lucky enough when I was coming out that I had friends who could tell me, as Maggie told Alex, “It is real, you’re real. And you deserve to have a real, full, happy life.” Seeing a coming out story treated as important, “the biggest thing that’s ever happened” to Alex, made me sob! How many other times have we seen coming out and understanding your true self as important to the gay character? I think I can count on one hand the few that have hit me as hard as this, including this year’s Elena Alvarez from “One Day At A Time”.
My favourite part about this storyline is that it doesn’t end with one episode, or one scene. The writers acknowledge that coming out is a constant process, that it takes time to understand yourself and come to terms with this kind of information. The show also takes the time to delve into Alex’s past, and explain that her feelings for women are not limited to just Maggie, that, without realising, she has felt this way before. It also speaks to straight people, especially those who are family members of LGBT+ people, and informs them about appropriate reactions. The main character, Kara, Alex’s adoptive sister, doesn’t react negatively, but she is surprised at first. Later, Kara and Alex talk again, and Kara apologises, saying “I owe you an apology for not creating an environment where you felt like you could talk about this with me.” Honestly, writing out those words has made me tear up again, because that’s what so many LGBT+ people are missing. People need to start cultivating a world where we can talk about being queer, and not feel scared. Most importantly, Kara tells Alex that she’s not alone, and when she comes out to her mum, she makes sure Alex knows that she is loved, no matter what. This storyline makes me proud to be a part of this community, and hopeful for what it means for younger LGBT+ people. It’s important for all LGBT+ people to know that we deserve to be happy, you are not alone, and you will always have a home within this community.
Alex’s coming out develops, she and Maggie don’t get together at the end of “Changing”, but the relationship isn’t the only important thing. Having taken the time to understand herself and her feelings, her presence in the show strengthens, and she gets to give kick ass speeches about how she was proud to come out. Apart from Grey’s Anatomy’s Callie Torres, I have never seen a character so vocal and outspoken about her sexuality on a show of mostly straight people. Alex is a single, gay woman and she is allowed to be out and proud and she isn’t reduced to just a dating life. When confronted with Maggie again, Alex tells her about discovering herself, that being gay is her “new normal”, “And I’m happy that it is. I finally get me. And now I realise that it wasn’t about you, that it’s about me living my life.” If I could, and if it wouldn’t be totally weird, I would send Chyler Leigh and the writers of Supergirl hundreds of flowers for this coming out story. I hope that somewhere out there, young people are watching Supergirl and realising that it’s okay to be who you are. Coming out isn’t about who you’re dating or who you’re sexually attracted to. It isn’t about your family, your friends, or anyone else. It’s about you.
When Maggie and Alex do eventually get together, Maggie gives my all time favourite getting together speech: “Life is too short. And we should be who we are. And we should kiss the girls that we want to kiss, and I just, I really want to kiss you.” Those are words to live by. That moment is perfect, the chemistry palatable, and the grin on my face wider than ever. As their relationship grows it becomes healthier, happier and more stable than any other in Supergirl. I am watching eagerly, ever hoping they get more screen time, and excited for the future of the series, in which the writers will hopefully realise they aren’t only limited to one queer couple (but I’m not holding my breath).