For the first time in DC Comics' extended universe, we will have two queer women of color on screen. The upcoming series Black Lightning will feature the titular hero’s super-powered daughter Anissa Pierce and the half-Amazonian warrior Grace Choi. In the comics, Anissa Pierce becomes a superhero called Thunder and dated Grace Choi while they were part of the superhero team The Outsiders.
Until now, neither Marvel nor DC has queer women of color on screen. Tessa Thompson stated that a scene confirming Valkyrie's bisexuality was cut out of the recent Thor: Ragnarok film. Meanwhile, DC’s show Supergirl managed to cast a white actress to play the Latinx lesbian character Maggie Sawyer.
It's bad enough that there are so few queer and trans women of color in superhero comics to begin with. You can literally count how many of them are at Marvel and DC on both hands: America Chavez, Xavin, Karma, Ekio Hasigawa, Alysia Yeoh, Porcelain, Anissa Pierce, and Grace Choi. The success of queer women of color onscreen could lead to having more of them existing in the pages.
Once we get queer and trans women of color in superhero media, we can open the doors for queer and trans women of color in other science fiction and fantasy media. There can be more characters like Amanita in Sense8 and Bill Potts in Doctor Who. This would also provide opportunities for queer and trans women of color actors, directors, writers, and more to be involved in telling the stories.
Although it's great that Black Lightning's showrunners are Black and that the cast and characters are people of color, it is vital that the show take an intersectional approach to their storytelling. One Black person's experience and one Asian person's experience shouldn't represent everyone. There are multiple identities and various perspectives within the Black and Asian communities that should be acknowledged and respected.
In order for Grace Choi and Anissa Pierce to be portrayed successfully as characters, there are a few steps that the Black Lightning creators should take. The most important being to hire queer and trans women of color to work behind the scenes, especially as writers. The last thing we need is for either character to become victims of the "Bury Your Gays" trope by being killed off.
Not only do the characters need to not be killed off, but they also need to be written as authentic, complex characters. Grace Choi shouldn't be "The Inscrutable Oriental" or "exotic" and Anissa Pierce shouldn't be "the sassy one" or "The Strong Black Woman." Let them laugh, cry, love, and kick evil villain butt. Let them be equals and help each other grow.
As a Black non-binary queer person that's also femme, I would really enjoy seeing Anissa Pierce and Grace Choi as a cool superhero duo and everyday people in love. I am inspired by complex women and femmes that are real and fictional. Seeing Anissa Pierce and Grace Choi be partners in and out of battle would make me feel powerful and that I can handle any bad thing that comes my way.
Both Grace Choi and Anissa Pierce have the potential to do much for the world of superheroes and beyond. In order to be great, it is important that their stories are told in a rich and engaging manner that resonates with queer and trans women of color. With these characters, Black Lightning has the opportunity to be heroic by showing that queer and trans women of color can be (and are) heroes.