Maggie Sawyer first appeared in the Superman comics, volume 2, issue 4, in 1987. Thirteen issues later, she would officially come out as a lesbian.
She later appeared in her own four-part series, Metropolis S.C.U., which won the Outstanding Comic Strip GLAAD Award in 1996. It was the first comic by a major publisher to feature a lesbian heroine as the protagonist.
Maggie Sawyer’s most recent iteration isn’t any less impressive. On the CW’s Supergirl, she’s a detective for the National City Police Department.
We first meet Maggie Sawyer through the eyes of Alex Danvers — Supergirl’s sister and agent of the Department of Extranormal Operations. The two meet at a crime scene and proceed to argue over who has jurisdiction over it. Alex wins out, but both she and the audience are left with a lasting impression of the detective as she leaves.
Our interest was piqued. The resulting buzz from her introduction was palpable, with fans taking to social media to express their excitement over Maggie’s character — and her potential relationship with Alex.
In the following episodes, the audience learned more about Maggie, and we fell in love with her right along with Alex. In scene after scene, Maggie proved herself an intelligent, capable detective with a strong moral code. She was an advocate for the protection of aliens due to feeling like an outcast in her youth. She was caring and kind, as exemplified by her gentle support of Alex when she later came out to Maggie as a lesbian.
We watched with bated breath as Maggie and Alex’s relationship, known as Sanvers, developed from begrudging partners to friends and finally to lovers in the season 2 winter finale.
Their story drew praise from media and fans alike due to how well the writers, Supergirl executive producers, and actresses handled the story. It even garnered the show a GLAAD Award nomination. Alex’s story was one rarely seen on television, that of a woman in her mid-20s coming into her own as an out, proud lesbian.
But even more relevant to the LGBT experience was Maggie Sawyer’s story.
While Alex Danvers was quickly embraced and accepted by her sister and mother, Maggie Sawyer did not receive the same treatment from her family.
In the Valentine’s Day episode of the show, Maggie revealed how she came out, or rather, was outed. At age 14, she invited her crush to the school dance, and the girl told her parents. That singular moment started a chain reaction that would ultimately culminate in Maggie’s parents disowning her and throwing her out of her home.
Maggie Sawyer’s story of rejection is, sadly, the lived reality of far too many in the LGBT community.
In the United States alone, it is estimated that of the 1.6 million homeless youth, 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. LGBT youth are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness than their straight, cisgender peers. Many of these children — and it is important to remember that these are children with dreams and aspirations, not just a faceless statistic — are forced into homelessness by their own families who refuse to support them because of their identity.
Maggie matters because she is a beacon of hope to the real LGBT youth who suffer the same fate she did.
Through Maggie Sawyer’s character, those who experienced her situation could see their story represented in the media. Not only that, we were able to see that despite Maggie’s tragic past, she grew up into a successful, strong individual.
Countless people in the LGBT community grow up isolated from others who love and exist as they do. The only way many of these young individuals can find anybody else like them is through fictional characters. Furthermore, due to the growing prevalence of social media, not only can these kids see their experiences played out before their eyes, they can also make friends with others who identify with the same character as they do. A community of fans grows around a particular show or character, and that community often becomes a sort of chosen family to each other, supporting and embracing all those in it. It is impossible to quantify the value this has.
Oftentimes, people will wonder why we place such importance on fictional characters. Why we fight so hard for good representation. These are the reasons why.
But a fan’s passion doesn’t have to remain contained by tweets. We chose to raise money for the True Colors Fund — a nonprofit organization — because of its specific connection to Maggie’s story. The True Colors Fund works to end and prevent homelessness among LGBT youth through advocacy programs, youth collaboration, and training and education, striving to create a world where “all young people can be their true selves.”
As soon as we created the Maggie Sawyer Matters Fundraiser, donations from Sanvers and Maggie Sawyer fans started flooding in, as did their comments about why they donated — along with proof of the worldwide reach Maggie has.
Maeva, from France, wrote, “Nobody should experience the heartbreak of being without a roof over their head. I chose to donate because every Maggie Sawyer should be able to unapologetically feel loved and protected.”
Mikaela, from Panama, says, “Living where I do, there are no organizations that help LGBT youth. If I can’t help myself or my peers, then at least I can help others even from a distance. It’s what Maggie would do.”
“I decided to donate because the True Colors Fund helps those who need that glimmer of hope; and for me, that glimmer of hope was Maggie Sawyer,” wrote Lauren, from Scotland. “By donating in her honor, we can help those just like us.”
I chose to donate because Maggie’s story taught me how to find my own light through the darkness. As a 30-year-old Latina, I am proud to say that I’ve found myself in Maggie Sawyer.
Since the campaign’s inception April 12, we’ve raised over $8,000, which will go toward helping the True Colors Fund continue raising awareness, advocating for homeless LGBT youth, and developing solutions to end this alarming trend.
Maggie herself hasn't — as of now — gotten a happy ending on-screen. But we continue to be hopeful for it and inspired by her story.
In the words of Cyndi Lauper, founder of the True Colors Fund, “Everyone — whether straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — should be allowed to show their true colors, and be accepted and loved for who they are.”
And in the words of Maggie Sawyer, “You are real, and you deserve to live a real, full, happy life.”
DEBORA MORERA was born and lives in Puerto Rico. She is an avid reader, watcher of television, and lover of animals. Her passions include helping others, especially through her favorite medium, art. In her free time, she enjoys gourmet food and art.