For many a superhero fan, there are a plethora of choices for your own personal favourite, be it The Flash, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, or anyone else from the DC/Marvel universe (not to mention other companies). As a woman, it was always going to be an easy thing to find yourself identifying on a level with the likes of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, or even Hawk-girl. However, if you chose to identify with a secondary (no less important), female character, there were few people you could pick without bumping into a character mainly shown as a male hero's romantic interest.
Enter Batwoman! By rights, Batman is the dark and brooding hero in the DC Universe (Superman and many others being the lighter and more public side), but even he needs a little help in the vast city of Gotham and beyond, with many a "minor" hero and member of the Bat Family, stepping up to the plate in the forms of, to name a couple, Batgirl, Batwing, etc.
For many a gay female, there was no way of identifying with a strong female who wasn't hanging off of the arm of a male hero, here's where we meet Kate Kane—not only a member of the Bat Family, (Bruce Wayne's cousin, no less!), but our first true, openly lesbian main character in the DCU. With cropped (hidden underneath a long red wig when wearing her cowl) bright red hair and a ballsy attitude, Kate first burst onto the scene as the second incarnation of Batwoman in 2006, after Batwoman's first incarnation (Kathy Kane) was intended as a love interest for Batman (to curb any insinuations of HIS homosexuality).
Though barely referenced in any Batman comics or other DCU comics for that matter (aside from collaboration comic issues with Batgirl and the likes), she was sneakily referenced in Batman: Arkham Knight as a voicemail to Bruce Wayne, inferring that she is still a relevant, if somewhat forgotten, member of the family.
Okay, I've gotten off topic, my apologies.
Thanks to DC comics, Batwoman was never a last minute thought or a rash decision of a character. She has her own back story and romantic interests to boot (Maggie Sawyer, recently of the TV series Supergirl fame, to name one). Rather than briefly glance at how Kate Kane came to be in the DCU, we get a look into her past, mostly via flashbacks. Starting out as the daughter of Colonel Jake Kane and his wife Gabi Kane, Kate has a twin sister, Beth, who tragically dies along with their mother as a result of a kidnapping (Spoilers!... Beth later comes back as villain, Alice). Kate has been harboring hatred as a result and attended West Point Military Academy in an effort to use her anger for the good. Some time in her time at West Point, she became involved with another female cadet and was subsequently called forth on a charge of homosexual conduct (please excuse my lack of knowledge on military terms). Given the "only option" of denying the allegations and laying low whilst she carried out the rest of her time at the academy, Kate wasn't happy and decided to be true to herself, being kicked out of the academy and sent home before she could complete her training. Still angry and resentful towards the people who killed her family, Kate tried to drown her sorrows with drink and other debauchery, until Batman saved her from imminent danger on one such occasion and she decided to fight for justice and the greater good (insert The Incredibles reference here) and the rest is history.
So what makes Kate Kane, and by extension, Batwoman, a key figure and hero for lesbian comic fans worldwide? Is it that she's a strong woman who kicks ass and earns her place by Batman's side? Is it that she's an out lesbian who doesn't use a man to cover up public appearances and bow to the hypocrisy of an "accepting" society? No. In my opinion, (though everyone is free to disagree) it is that she isn't an out-and-out, in-your-face lesbian, who has to tell people every issue that she is attracted to women. It's that the writers have done their very best to portray her in the same way that many a male counterpart is portrayed, just saving the city, living her life on her own terms, and loving whoever she loves, in a normal way without being over the top and annoying about it.
For that, as a gay woman, in her late 20s, who once struggled to find such an identifiable hero, I am forever grateful the DC Universe and Batwoman for remembering that we exist.