I assume that anyone with a passing interest in comics has by now heard that Tim Drake, the current Robin, has come out as bi. Some people are probably wondering why that is a big deal or why you should care. Here are the facts: there is a lot of misinformation and bias against people who identify as bi. Bi erasure is a thing. It is important, in the ongoing quest for equal representation, that every person be represented in media.
DC is a mainstream comic company. According to the wiki for a DC fan page, there are 120-ish bi characters. Upon closer inspection I realized they had characters listed multiple times across multiple TV shows and comic runs. And let’s not get started on how many of those characters were/are considered villains. After counting unique character names, I had about 95 individual DC characters. That is 95 out of (more than) 10,000 characters. That is just under 1% of the characters. Keeping in mind that getting actual statistics on the amount of people who identify as LGBTQ+ is going to be low (not everyone is comfortable exposing their true selves, even on anonymous surveys), let’s say that the number I found of 1.8% (individuals in the US who identify as bi) is low but accurate-ish (upon further research, it’s believed that 83% of people in the LGBTQ+ community are still not out). I’ll break it down a bit further: .95% =/= 1.8%.
Gabriel Valentin wrote an article a little while back about how people in the LGBTQ+ community have had a struggle to be seen/represented. Look at these numbers. They clearly show an underrepresented group of people. This is why Tim Drake’s announcement matters. (Let’s also keep in mind that more women than men admit to being bisexual, so a male character embodying this is even better, imo).
There have been many indie comics through the years with LGBTQ+ characters. But, indie comics are, as the name suggests, available to a smaller group of people than say a DC or Marvel comic. This means that, on average, more people will be exposed to Robin’s announcement than to a small self-published author’s story of something similar.
What does this mean for comics? Well, I hope it means that comic creators are becoming comfortable showing their characters in a more open light. Maybe instead of beating around the bush with someone’s orientation they can be drawn in a relationship with their partner. Hopefully this will help dispel some of the toxic masculinity surrounding comic books. You don’t have to be a cis-het male superhero to save the day. You can be a gay superhero, or a lesbian superhero, or a bi superhero. Just like in real life.
It’s nice to have superheroes who reflect real people. I hope Tim is the first of AT LEAST 2% of characters that come out as bi. And I hope this trend continues with superheroes who are gay or lesbian, gender-non-conforming, and trans. With over 10,000 DC characters, I’d like to think that equal representation for all people would be an achievable goal.
And then maybe we can tackle unrealistic body images (for men and women), the disparity of BIPOC characters and creators, and the blatant misogyny that still has a handhold in some stories.
Tim Drake will hopefully become a role model for equal representation. I know it’s a lot of weight to place on his shoulders, but as the sidekick to Batman, I am sure he can handle it.