Queer Comic Characters: Aruna Shende (Oct 30th)

Aruna Shende’s an intersexed woman from DC’s Bat-verse. She’s also another shapeshifter, which makes most qualify her as transgendered, though since she has no biological sex, I think intersexed is a better classification for her. Aruna was introduced in Scott Peterson and Mike Deodato’s Batgirl Annual # 1 (August 2000).

Aruna Shende

Aruna Shende

Sometimes Batman and Batgirl III need to take a vacation. Of course, their vacations are working ones where they fight crime and solve the kidnapping of Indian actor Ashok, who’d recently moved to Gotham City. This takes them to Mumbai, India, home of Bollywood.

Aruna and Batgirl III
Aruna and Batgirl III

They come into conflict with Aruna, a local stunt woman, who’s also investigating Ashok’s kidnapping. She’s a shapeshifter and her history’s told in a backup tale.

When Aruna was born, her parents were confused over her gender and because of this they were treated as Dalit (untouchables), the lowest rung in the Indian caste system. Aruna became an orphan when both her parents were kidnapped. She adopted the name Aruna, which is a male gendered name meaning “Charioteer of the Sun” in Hindu mythology. Aruna quickly became one of the top stunt people in Bollywood and is a martial artists as well.

Aruna discusses her gender identity
Aruna discusses her gender identity.

Eventually, Batman, Batgirl, and Aruna figure out they’re all on the same side and work together. They discover Ashok was killed by his agent because he was a Dalit. Coupled with her own story and Ashok’s, Batman and Batgirl’s visit further inspires Aruna to use her powers to fight against evil and for justice.

Aruna is a very interesting character. Unfortunately, this annual was her first and last issue. I hope current writers resurrect her into the text.

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