Why Supergirl’s Alex Danvers’ Coming Out Matters: A Look At LGBTQ Representation On TV

Credit: CW
Credit: The CW

This season of Supergirl has featured one of the best coming out stories on TV. Over the span of three episodes, we’ve seen Supergirl’s (Melissa Benoist) sister, Alex (Chyler Leigh) realize she’s gay and come out to herself, Maggie Sawyer (Floriana Lima), and Kara in one emotional scene after another. Alex’s journey so far has been amazingly acted and written in a way that lets the audience feel what she’s feeling and experience how coming out doesn’t just affect you, but the people you’re closest to.

Alex starts to consider that she might be gay after an interaction with Maggie at a crime scene where Maggie takes Alex’s friendly invite to hang out as Alex asking her out. Alex all but runs away from Maggie but after thinking on what she said, ends up going to talk to her. Alex tells Maggie that she was right about her, but doesn’t label herself, not because she doesn’t want to label herself, but because she can’t get the words out. It’s very clear, based on what Alex says about dating men (“I didn’t like being intimate”) that Alex is gay, but that she’s not quite ready to say it out loud. The scene where Alex comes out to Maggie is so important because it all happened on Alex’s terms. Alex initiated the conversation and ended it when she said what she needed to and was comfortable with. Maggie listened without interruptions or trying to force Alex to label herself.

Maggie’s role is so important, she’s been through the coming out process before and seems to feel a sense responsibility to Alex. She made sure to validate Alex’s feelings and tell her that she’s real and deserves to be happy. Maggie also takes care not to take advantage of Alex when she’s vulnerable and everything is “shiny.” She’s the kind of person that every newly out person needs, someone who’s been through it before and wants to make sure that you get the support that you need. Maggie helps give Alex the courage to come out to the most important person in her life, Kara, and makes sure Alex knows that Maggie will be there with a drink no matter what.

When Alex comes out to Kara, there’s no doubt in the audience’s mind that Kara will take it well, but there are still a few missteps. In an effort to understand what Alex is trying to tell her, she almost falls into the “You haven’t found the right man yet” conversation, but Alex cuts her off. One of the best moments in that scene is when Alex is talking about how memories are resurfacing and she’s looking at past events in a completely different way. That is such a real thing that happens when you realize you’re queer. You get these light bulb moments and when you start reflecting on something you go “OHHHHH! THAT’s what that was!”

Kara asks about Maggie and if Alex knows if she likes her, causing Alex to abruptly leave and say she doesn’t want to talk about it. This leads to some weirdness between the two of them, due to Alex being afraid that Kara isn’t okay with what she told her and Kara reevaluating how she and Alex communicate. In a great scene between Alex and Kara, Kara apologizes for not creating an environment where Alex felt safe and comfortable talking to her about her feelings. She also apologizes for most of their conversations growing up being about her and not Alex. Kara asks Alex what Maggie’s like and Alex gushes, and it’s such a sweet moment, and it’s so different from when Kara asked if Maggie likes Alex. Kara is the supportive family member every LGBTQ person needs (and deserves).

Coming out to Kara gives Alex a lot more confidence in herself and when she goes to see Maggie, she ends up kissing her. Unfortunately, Maggie turns Alex down and tells her that she just wants to be friends because Alex is “fresh off the boat” and “those relationships never really work out.” Alex is crushed and leaves immediately, not realizing what Maggie was actually telling her. It’s clear that Maggie has feelings for Alex (especially after this week’s episode) but she doesn’t want to start something with Alex and have her realize she wants to see what’s out there. She doesn’t want to be some fling or something with Alex. Maggie also just got dumped, and from the way she talked about her ex, she really liked her and maybe considered a future.

Kara launches into protective sister mode after Alex tells Kara about what happened with Maggie. Kara lets herself be angry for a few seconds before giving her complete attention to Alex and making sure Alex knows that she’s proud of her. Kara also doesn’t let Alex try to pretend she never said anything. Afterwards, both times Maggie pulled Alex away to talk to her, Kara checked in with Alex to make sure everything was okay. I think Kara’s feeling an additional responsibility to Alex because she wasn’t really there for her like she should have been.

This piece was actually really difficult to write, because I have been that person reevaluating a whole series of memories and seeing them in a whole new way. I have felt that pit in my stomach when trying to find the words to tell someone that I’m gay. I have felt that rush when you realize that you’re gay, and everything makes sense. I have been scared of my family not reacting well. I have been the Maggie Sawyer, helping someone figure stuff out and providing support. Even though everyone has a different coming out experience, those feelings are universal and it is so hard to put into words.

I’m so very glad Supergirl is telling this story. Good representation is so important because there are people watching this going “That’s how I feel” who weren’t quite able to put it into words. There are people finding the strength and courage to come out because of characters like Alex and Maggie. There are kids learning that LGBTQ people are just like everyone else and that makes it so much easier to come out. I wish I had this show with this story when I was figuring myself out.

Good representation can also start important conversations and challenge the way someone sees a certain group. Writing LGBTQ characters (or any characters that belong to a marginalized group) as multidimensional characters and not relying on stereotypes makes the audience view these characters as actual people instead of some caricature or something.

I hope that everyone can take something away from the story Supergirl is telling. I hope Alex Danvers can help give someone the courage to come out, as long as they are safe to. I hope Maggie Sawyer can remind everyone that it’s important to let someone come out on their own terms in their own time, that listening and words of encouragement and validation are the most important thing to offer when someone is struggling with coming out. I hope that Kara Zor-El can show someone how to be there for a loved one who’s just come out and maybe acknowledge that you can do better when it comes to communication.

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