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Dean Winchester ("Supernatural"): why his coming out as bisexual would be historical

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Ramianne is a TV show & movie enthusiastic who loves to reflect on characters and stories. She is particularly character-driven. She/her

Dean Winchester (right) and his long-time friend Leo (left), Supernatural, season 15 episode 7 'Last Call'

Dean Winchester (right) and his long-time friend Leo (left), Supernatural, season 15 episode 7 'Last Call'

1. Male bisexuality is still under-represented

In a time of more and more representation of all kinds of sexualities and gender identities on TV, you could think that when speaking of one in particular - bisexuality, if you hadn't understood -, it would be represented in all its forms and colours equally. The reality is far from that.

Bisexuality still is, to this day, a very misunderstood and/or belittled sexuality, usually associated with the getting-old "it's just a phase" or "it is an excuse not to come out as gay/lesbian". And it's true, bisexuality has been a useful getaway for many gay/lesbian people, both on TV and in real life - watch Dan Howell's incredible coming-out video for that. However, as Dan says himself, just because bisexuality has been used by homosexual people to navigate the intricacies of their own sexuality before finally coming-out as gay or lesbian, it does not mean that bisexuality is a fictitious sexuality, as many people still believe.

Bisexual people are mocked to be "sexually confused" or just "undecided", but when it comes to their representation on TV, it seems that it's more the (mostly straight) creators that are confused as to what bisexuality really is rather than bisexual people themselves. When you take a look at the "List of television series with bisexual characters" of Wikipedia, the majority of the characters in it have never clearly been defined as bisexual - as in, the characters have never clearly come out as bisexual. It is more along the lines of "they have only been showed in the series having relationships with one gender although they have mentioned kissing the other gender". The list also includes characters that have come out as pansexual - even though pansexuality and bisexuality are two different things - and homosexual characters having dated people of their opposite gender as part of their internalised homophobia.

But when it comes to bisexual representation on TV, we can also realise that male bisexuality has clearly been underrepresented in the favour of their female counterparts; a trend that is far from being resolved over time, on the contrary. See below a chart showing the proportion of male and female bisexual characters on TV per decade of television, based on the "List of television series with bisexual characters" of Wikipedia.

Chart showing the proportion of female and male bisexual characters on TV over time

Chart showing the proportion of female and male bisexual characters on TV over time

(It has to be noted that I have not counted in this chart characters that have explicitely come out as pansexual, and characters that are clearly homosexual but have dated their opposite gender before: putting iconic lesbian characters such as Santana Lopez from 'Glee' or Cheryl Blossom from 'Riverdale' in this would have been quite disrespectful to them and their community. I have kept all the other characters, including characters that were counted in the list even though they were portrayed as "sexually confused" or "just in a phase", implying problematic representation for the bisexual community.)

As you can see, two trends can be observed in this: the first one is that there are more and more bisexual characters over time, which goes with the exponential number of TV shows being created every year, coupled with the growing representation of all kinds of sexualities and gender identities. The second trend is: there are far more female bisexual characters on TV than male ones.

The reason for this is something that more and more people become aware of: that bisexual men are basically seen as gay when bisexual women are basically seen as straight. A phenomenon that is purely happening because of - sorry to be that girl - straight men's overwhelming view of the world. When a bisexual woman comes out to a straight man, there is a very high chance the first response she is going to get is "so... Threesome?". Because straight men see bisexual women as women that can still be attracted to them but at the same time that can fulfil their twisted lesbian fantasy. But a bisexual man does not present anything attractive to straight men: in the best case, they do not care, and in worse ones, they will discriminate against and/or bully them for their sexuality.

Dean Winchester, Supernatural, season 1 episode 7 'Hook Man'

Dean Winchester, Supernatural, season 1 episode 7 'Hook Man'

"But where is Dean Winchester in all this?" you may ask. Well Dean Winchester is bisexual.
...

...or at least is what fans say. Dean's bisexuality is a very complex topic that has been discussed for years. Is he bisexual? Is he not? What are the arguments for both cases? I will not try to prove he is in this article, for two reasons: first, with fifteen years and 300+ episodes of content and evidence, this article would be way too long if I even started to try to prove it; secondly, many many fans have done it before and I would not bring any new interesting point to their work. So if you are interested in this topic, you will find below a link to a post summarising some evidence over the seasons, but feel free to just go around the different essays made by fans.

In this article I will just assume he is bisexual - as it is how I see this character - but it just has not been made clear enough in the show; in other words, he has not come out yet and is still more or less in the closet. So Dean Winchester's bisexuality would first of all be important simply because he is a bisexual man; a type of character that is cruelly missing from our TV sets. We need more bisexual male characters, and we need more diverse stories of bisexual male characters: not the gay man that wonders how female breast feels like, not the pansexual man that is considered as bisexual because pansexuality is still invisible; but a man that shows explicite attraction to both binary genders, even unequally, but that has trouble coming to terms with this particular sexuality. Dean Winchester has all the potential for it and is definitely the type of bisexual male characters that we desperately need in this context in which they are lacking.

A brief summary of evidence of Dean Winchester's bisexuality

Dean Winchester winking at a male bartender, Supernatural, season 10 episode 17 'Inside Man'

Dean Winchester winking at a male bartender, Supernatural, season 10 episode 17 'Inside Man'

2. 15 years of Dean Winchester: a unique opportunity

Fifteen seasons, 325+ episodes of Supernatural means fifteen years and 200+ hours of Dean Winchester, which thus means fifteen years of character development - and with character development comes character complexity, which Dean doesn't lack of. As many fans suggest, Dean shows signs of his bisexuality since the very first episodes of Supernatural - and not just since Castiel appeared in season 4 as some argue - but at the same time he is the king of repressed feelings and not showing who he truly is, how he truly feels, what he truly wants. Dean Winchester is the king of character development, showing growth and growing depth throughout the seasons, and even after fifteen years of it, there are still parts of Dean Winchester that we discover and that add to this already multi-layered highly-complex character. And what could better crown fifteen seasons of character development than a historical explicite coming-out?

But it is just not a matter of character development and storytelling. It is a matter of representing a very real, very specific kind of bisexual male story that is all too rarely told on TV, especially because very few TV shows have aired long enough to tell it. Dean Winchester is a unique opportunity to show how a coming-out can take years before happening, how someone in their forties can come out just now because they have lived decades of repressed feelings because of internalised homophobia and biphobia. It is an experience that too many bisexual people in real life have lived: to understand and accept that your attraction to one gender does not negate your attraction towards the opposite one; and because the outside world is way nicer to straight people than homosexual ones, you just pretend your straight and deny the other part. It can take years, even decades for bisexual people to come to terms with it, and Dean Winchester is a unique opportunity to tell this story.

But that's not where this potential ends. Dean has grown up in what is believed to be a very conservative - therefore very heteronormative - environment. His mother died when he was four, and his dad was an ex-marine that became an alcoholic and raised his sons not to be children then adults, but soldiers against the forces of evil. John Winchester has never been clearly characterised as homophobic or biphobic, and perhaps he would have accepted Dean's bisexuality without any problem; we will never know as we will never see Dean come out to his father, the latter being dead. So all we can do is assume and interpret things based on what has been showed and explained to us. And what we have seen is a very violent and abusive childhood for Dean who, as he himself says, has never been a child; an upbringing filled with toxic masculinity whereas Sam benefited from Dean's tenderness and care and therefore has been less affected by it; something that has also been clearly dealt with in the show.

So Dean Winchester is not just a unique opportunity to show how long coming out can take, he is also a unique opportunity to show how, specifically for bisexual men, the over-presence of toxic masculinity in a queer man's life can impair him and make his coming to terms with his sexuality take even more time than others. A story that is, once again, not enough told on TV because not many shows have the luxury to last long enough to show them. These stories deserve to be told because sometimes we are just too blind to our own situation, and seeing it on a screen can make all the difference, and can help more than one bisexual man to realise what is happening to them.

Dean Winchester and his abusive upbringing, fan edit

3. Dean Winchester, male bisexuality and women

Dean Winchester and Cassie Robinson, Supernatural, season 1 episode 13 'Route 666'

Dean Winchester and Cassie Robinson, Supernatural, season 1 episode 13 'Route 666'

Another fascinating aspect of Dean, and another reason as to why his coming out would be historical, is his relationship with women.

To put it simply, Dean is a ladies' man: that is even how Jensen Ackles himself describes him. It is the main argument of audience members that argue he is straight: Dean loves women, Dean is deeply attracted to women, therefore Dean is straight. This shows a deep misunderstanding of bisexuality: of course bisexuality does not negate a man's attraction to women, and coming to terms with that can be very hard as I have argued earlier. But when people use this argument, they do not just mean that he is attracted to women; they mean he loves women, he almost adores them, loves having sexual and sometimes even romantic relationships with them. And this adoration of women seems to be, in their opinion, an obstacle to his bisexuality.

That is because, as I have stated earlier, Dean Winchester's archetype is the ladies' man; perhaps the most straight male archetype there is. Dean Winchester has embodied this archetype since episode 1 and still embodies it in the newer seasons; it is a character trait that has never left him. He plays and seduces women, has a unique charm and charisma that almost never fails. And far from me is the idea that his bisexuality would lessen in any way this character trait; quite the opposite, I think it is very important to show the two are compatible.

The Ladies' Man Trope Explained

As the video above shows, the ladies' man is a man with a big sexual appetite for women - Dean Winchester would, by the way, fall into the second category of ladies' man aka the "player seducer" in this video. The ladies' man is not, however, a man that just wants sex; he wants to seduce women, to win them with their charm.

Most bisexual male characters on TV, when they are not either pansexual or "the gay guy that wonders what it feels like with women", are usually portrayed as men with just a big sexual appetite. This is not, as I've said, the ladies' man trope. Take for example Magnus Bane from 'Shadowhunters': he has never clearly said he was bisexual but we know for a fact he has had many relationships with both men and women. At the beginning of the show, he is characterised as this luxuriant creature that enjoys sex a lot - understand orgies - and is ready to sleep with anyone just to satisfy his libido.

This very phrase of "ready to sleep with anyone" is a phrase used a lot to describe bisexual male characters. It is not, however, a phrase used to describe a ladies' man. The latter does not want to sleep with anyone, he wants to seduce any woman he has his eyes set on, which is completely different. It is almost of a game for the ladies' man, a collection to complete - which is why this archetype has been so criticised in recent years in relation to the sexism that comes from it. Magnus Bane does not see his conquests as trophies, and he doesn't seduce them as part of a game of seduction; he just wants to have fun. Magnus Bane is not a ladies' man; Dean Winchester is.

But being ladies' man does not necessarily mean you are not attracted to men either. Proof of that: a lot of ladies' man from past decades like Rock Hudson, Rudolph Valentino, Marlon Brando or James Dean are rumoured to have been bisexual and/or have had relationships with men. But it is still a concept that is very misunderstood and/or not accepted, because in a lot of people's mind, their bisexuality would at least attenuate, if not negate their ladies' man and women's seducer status. This idea is due to, once again, the conception of bisexual men as basically gay, as I have argued in the first part of this article. This idea has to be demented and proven wrong, because it causes a lot of prejudice to bisexual men - both to recognise themselves and come to terms with their bisexuality, but also because it generates biphobia especially in straight women's view. Dean Winchester is a unique opportunity to have a bisexual male character that also embodies the ladies' man archetype.

Dean Winchester facing Castiel, Supernatural, season 10 episode 22 'The Prisoner'

Dean Winchester facing Castiel, Supernatural, season 10 episode 22 'The Prisoner'

Conclusion

Dean Winchester is a unique opportunity to have one of the best and most well-rounded male bisexual storylines in the history of television: he has fifteen years of character development with a heavy role of an upbringing filled with toxic masculinity as the major cause of his repressed feelings - a very real story definitely not told enough on TV -, but he also embodies the ladies' man trope and therefore can show how bisexuality and being a women seducer are not exclusive. Male bisexuality is still too under-represented and way too often, bisexual male characters are way too similar with one another. We need diverse stories and bisexual male characters, and Dean Winchester would be a historical add to the bunch.

Some cynical Supernatural fans will say that I and many others want bisexual Dean Winchester for shipping reasons only, and while it is true I ship Dean and Castiel and would be overjoyed with seeing them explicitely together, this does not play any role in my reasons for wanting Dean Winchester to come out. I have not once mentioned Castiel in this article - except in this conclusion - because I do not want bisexual Dean Winchester for shipping reasons; I want bisexual Dean Winchester because of the unique potential of bisexual representation he represents, and because he has played a huge part in my own coming to terms with my own bisexuality.

I will end with also stating this: while it is true that asking every bisexual characters, both male and female, to have an explicite coming-out, an explicite saying "I am bi(sexual)" would not be beneficial - some stories do not need that to be valid, just like in real life -, I do want an explicite coming-out in the case of Dean Winchester. The reason for this is that the show has played way too much for way too long on double entendres and innuendos while never actually confirming Dean's bisexuality, dismissing fans' interpretation as "you see what you want to see", and this is not okay. Too much of the Supernatural audience still have problematic views on bisexuality, and how Dean can never be bisexual because of his strong attraction towards women; we need an explicite coming-out of his because we need an explicite statement of "this is who I am, and my sexuality does not change anything about my personality". The bisexual community needs it.

Sources

-List of television series with bisexual characters, Wikipedia

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_television_series_with_bisexual_characters

-Dean's bisexuality's evidence throughout the seasons

https://bibibideanbaby.tumblr.com/post/189574014853/dean-is-bi-a-succinct-look-over-the-seasons

-The Ladies' Man Trope Explained

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gh582AF0IM

-Supernatural needs to admit Dean's bisexuality

https://www.mic.com/articles/69757/supernatural-needs-to-admit-dean-is-bisexual

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© 2020 Ramianne

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