Queer and Gender Diverse Characters
This entry documents characters of gender and sexual diversity, and its portrayal on Supernatural.
Charlie Bradbury a lesbian geek girl who becomes a hunter, is the only queer character to appear in multiple episodes, along with Crowley whose sexuality is probably best described as "complicated." God aka Chuck Shurley was revealed to be bisexual in 11.20 Don't Call Me Shurley - "I dated. Yeah, I had some girlfriends. Had a few boyfriends."
There have been, to date, no transgender or non-binary characters. Both angels and demons have been seen to switch between vessels of different gendered appearance, although it is often not known by which gender a vessel's owner identified. For example both of Raphael's vessels may have identified as female, or nonbinary. The intent of the writers appears to be to show angels and demons possessing vessels of different genders, although this does involve a rather binary and cis view of gender.
The show has been nominated three times for GLAAD Media Awards, which are awarded by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to "recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the issues that affect their lives." The nominated episodes have been 3.13 Ghostfacers, 5.09 The Real Ghostbusters, and 8.11 LARP and the Real Girl
Queer sexuality has been positively portrayed on the show. Queer characters have storylines in which their sexuality is not the sole focus, and they appear as diverse in their background and roles. The revelation of a character's sexuality is always well-received by the Winchesters. In Castiel's brief stint as a deity he stated that he is "utterly indifferent to sexual orientation" and it is also revealed in 8.23 Sacrifice that Heaven has cupids bring people of the same sex together.
Over the seasons, Sam and Dean have often been mistaken for a gay couple to which they react with equanimity (and some confusion on Dean's part, though Dean has been known to play along, knowing it will annoy Sam). A number of characters have made jokes about both Dean and Sam being Castiel's "boyfriend." The brothers famously discovered that fans write Slash about them, and Dean later learned that fans write about him and Castiel being a couple (for more on that see Wincest and Destiel).
The show has generally not used slurs related to sexuality or trans status (although misogynist slurs are another issue), except for the following examples:
- In 3.05 Bedtime Stories, referring to Sam's knowledge of fairy tales, Dean says "Dude, could you be any more gay?"
- In 8.23 Sacrifice when Castiel and Metatron are trying to track a woman who a man is about to fall in love with so they can steal a cupid's arrow, Castiel reports back to Dean and says, "there was one female, but... I don't think she was female." Castiel could have come across a cross-dresser. Since we do not see the interaction, the line can be considered debatable.
- In 11.15 Beyond the Mat, the crossroads demon Duke says, "Well it's kinda every demon for him/her/zhimself." Zhim is a gender neutral pronoun. On the episode it does sound like "shim", and does appear as such in the closed captions. That word is a slur used against trans and gender diverse people. However this tweet from writer John Bring clarifies that intent was for it to be a gender-neutral pronoun.
In 2010, on the night 6.09 Clap Your Hands If You Believe... aired, #FightTheFairies trended on Twitter. Some people on Twitter thought the hashtag was a homophobic slur. Ben Edlund, who wrote the episode, mentioned the incident at Paleyfest in March 2011. Here is video of Ben talking about "Fight the Fairies."
In 2015, Charlie's death caused widespread controversy in fandom as an example of the tropes of "Bury Your Gays" (where queer characters are killed at a disproportionate rate to their representation) and Women in Refrigerators (where women characters are killed solely to advance a male character's story). See links below for further discussion of these tropes, especially in relation to a number of character deaths on TV in 2016.
Fandom of course loves to queer a text up and play with gender in our own creations, especially through Slash and also more generally through shipping. Some fans see Dean as coded as bisexual in the show's text. Many Destiel fans argue that the show's failure to have a same-sex relationship between Dean and Castiel is indicative of the paucity of representation of non-heterosexual relationships on television, and accuse the show of queer-baiting. This term refers to the concept that a TV show may intentionally imply a homoerotic tension between two characters with no intention of it being realized, purely to attract or satisfy viewers, particularly queer ones.
Trivia: On the site Television Without Pity, which was a major base for early Supernatural fandom, the graphic for the show pages and forum was a dragon called Raoul. He became known as the “Big Gay Dragon” or the “Big Gay Supernatural Dragon.”
|Character||Comment||Actor and Episodes|
|Lily is one of the Special Children. She is from San Diego. Her touch causes a fatal heart attack and resulted in her accidentally killing her girlfriend. She tries to leave Cold Oak, but is killed by an Acheri demon summoned by Ava and left hanging from a water tower.||Jessica Harmon in 2.21 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part One|
|Alan J. Corbett is a member of the Ghostfacers team who has a crush on Ed Zeddmore and his manly beard. Corbett is murdered by the ghost of serial killer Freeman Daggett. He returns as a death echo; death echoes can only be snapped out of their endless pattern by someone with whom they have an emotional connection. At the urging of Harry to “Go be gay for that poor dead intern,” Ed overcomes his fear to tell Corbett how much he meant to the team, and that Ed loved him. It works, and Corbett is released and then becomes our dead gay hero as he saves Dean and Sam by attacking and destroying Daggett. Ed sums up Corbett by saying, "And here we were thinking that we were teaching you and all this time you were teaching us, about heart, about dedication, and about how gay love can pierce through the veil of death and save the day. Thank you, Alan J. Corbett."
The episode was nominated for a GLAAD award for an outstanding individual episode in a series without a regular LGBT character in 2009.
|Dustin Mulligan in 3.13 Ghostfacers|
|The demon known as Meg possesses Sam as she tries to exact revenge on the Winchesters. While wearing Sam as a meatsuit, she takes Jo Harvelle prisoner, threatening her in a sexually violent manner.||Jared Padalecki in 2.14 Born Under a Bad Sign as well as Nicki Aycox and Rachel Miner|
|When Becky entices Sam and Dean to a Supernatural Convention, they meet fanboys Demian and Barnes. They are roleplaying as Sam and Dean, and it's the guys' fannishness that leads them to be heroes in the episode. In a subverting of the “fanboys aren’t successful with girls” trope, we find out they are, in fact, lovers who met in Supernatural chat room. Demian's insights into what make Sam and Dean’s lives meaningful make an impression on Dean.
The episode was nominated for a GLAAD award for an outstanding individual episode in a series without a regular LGBT character in 2010.
|Devin Ratray (Demian)|
Ernie Grunwald (Barnes) in 5.09 The Real Ghostbusters
|Charlie Bradbury is a lesbian with a taste for electro pop and left politics who is a keen gamer and fangirl. She has a tattoo, which she got at Comic-Con while drunk, of Princess Leia in a slave girl bikini astride a 20-sided dice. When she first meets Sam and Dean she is working in IT at Dick Roman's corporation. Whether at a reproductive right's fundraiser or a LARPing weekend (where she hooks up with Gilda the fairy), Charlie is very popular with women. She spends time in Oz fighting the war there alongside Dorothy Baum. Over time she becomes an adept hunter and is responsible for finding the Book of the Damned. This leads to her being killed by the Styne Family. She is killed in a bathtub, although it might as well have been a refrigerator.
8.11 LARP and the Real Girl was nominated for a GLAAD AWARD in 2014.
|Felicia Day in 7.20, 8.11, 8.20, 9.04, 10.11, 10.18, & 10.21|
|Chief is a leather-clad dominant that Dean meets when magicians Jay, Charlie, and Vernon send him on a wild goose chase looking for a rival of the dead magician Patrick Vance. He says to Dean "You are really gonna get it tonight, big boy... You ain't been had till you been had by the Chief... Oh, and before we get started, what's your safeword?" His sexuality is unspecified, but he's definitely queer.||Chris Burns in 4.12 Criss Angel Is a Douchebag|
|We first meet Crowley sealing a deal with a male banker with a kiss and teasing him about his homophobia. He also seals his deal with Bobby with a kiss, and later shows off a picture of the moment that he took on his iPhone. During his addiction to human blood, he has a demon lover called Lola, who betrays him to Abaddon. Crowley appears to enjoy sexual sadism and we see him relishing the "erotic value" of inflicting pain.
In order to set Brady up as a traitor with the other demons, Crowley uses the line that he and Brady are "lovers in league against Satan" which the other demons readily believe. In 6.07 Family Matters, he makes a joke about knowing Samuel, "but not in the biblical sense" and later refers to Cas as the bottom in their relationship. He also often makes sexual remarks to Sam and Dean.
In 11.01 Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire, Crowley engages in an orgy while possessing the woman Marnie, waiting till after it was done to kill everyone in the house and call his demon minions to pick him up. In addition to Marnie, Crowley has also possessed Linda Tran briefly.
Actor Mark Sheppard has said that he believes Crowley is "more pansexual than anything else". At Salute to Supernatural Dallas 2012 when asked if Crowley was gay he said "I don’t think he cares. He just likes making people uncomfortable."
|Mark Sheppard from 5.10 Abandon All Hope... - 12.23 All Along the Watchtower|
|Raphael is an archangel who appears in both a male and a female vessel.||Demore Barnes (5.03, 6.03 & 6.20)|
Lanette Ware (6.15 & 6.22)
|Castiel briefly possesses Claire Novak as a vessel. In 1901, Castiel also had a female vessel.||Sydney Imbeau and Misha Collins in 4.20 The Rapture; Jessa Danielson in 12.10 Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets|
|Siobhan plays Dean and her girlfriend Kristin plays Castiel in [[Supernatural: The Musical!. According to the writer/director Marie the musical explores the nature of Destiel in Act Two.||Alyssa Lynch as Siobhan and Nina Winkler as Kristen in 10.05 Fan Fiction|
|Naoki Himura's wife is traveling for work when their daughter, and then Naoki, are attacked by a soul eater.||Jane McLean in 11.16 Safe House|
|Hannah the angel possesses a vessel called Caroline Johnson after she falls to Earth along with the other angels expelled from Heaven by Metatron. After she decides to allow Caroline to return to her life, Hannah subsequently manifests in a male vessel.||Erica Carroll|
Lee Majdoub (10.17 & 11.02)
|Nicknamed #HunterHusbands by fandom, Jesse Cuevas and Cesar Cuevas are married hunters that Sam and Dean meet while hunting bisaan. After the hunt, they retire to New Mexico. When Dean asks what it's like to settle down with a hunter, Cesar says it's, "Smelly, dirty. Twice the worrying about getting ganked."||Lee Rumohr (Jesse) and Hugo Ateo (Cesar) in 11.19 The Chitters|
|God reveals to Metatron that he has dated both men and women.||Rob Benedict in 4.18 The Monster at the End of This Book - present|
|Max Banes is a gay witch and a hunter, who works with his twin sister Alicia Banes hunting bad witches. Like his mother Tasha Banes, Max is a "natural" witch and is quite skilled at it. He says his mother also taught him "how to seduce men."||Kendrick Sampson in 12.06 Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox and 12.20 Twigs & Twine & Tasha Banes|
|After a meet-cute over a monster attack, there seems to be an immediate attraction between Kaia Nieves and Claire Novak. They compare scars, and flirt, and Kaia seems to be a person the ever-stoic Claire feels comfortable being vulnerable around. Kaia finds her courage when she knows she can help Claire save Sam and Dean. With the ambiguous end to 13.10 Wayward Sisters, the future of this romance in canon remains to be seen. In fandom, the pairing has been dubbed Dreamhunter and has already inspired fanart and stories.||Kathryn Newton and Yadira Guevara-Prip|
|Wendy Hanscum is the niece of Donna Hanscum who is kidnapped by The Carver in 13.11 Breakdown. Her bloodied "Love is Love" lesbian pride t-shirt is planted by Clegg in the van of Pastor Don Hankey in order to incriminate him.||Sarah Dugdale in 13.11 Breakdown|
|Charlie Bradbury (Apocalypse World) is, like her prime universe counterpart, a lesbian. Questioning Dean on his relationship with her counterpart, she is happy to learn that his Charlie was also "into chicks", remarking to Dean that she "likes her."||Felicia Day in 13.18 Bring 'em Back Alive|
|Narfi is a Norse demigod who is shown enjoying a shoulder massage from a young shirtless man as Gabriel is recounting his time in Monte Carlo with the sons of Loki and various porn stars.||Michael Adamthwaite in 13.20 Unfinished Business|
|Following are a few of the minor queer characters who have also appeared:
||Woody Jeffreys in 1.12 Faith|
Meredith McGeachie in 7.05 Shut Up, Dr. Phil
Leslie Odom Jr. in 7.08 Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!
Laci J. Mailey in 11.02 Form and Void
- ‘Supernatural’s’ Robbie Thompson on Felicia Day and the Return of Charlie by ComicBookResources
- Charlie Bradbury: Can We Keep Her? by The Geekiary
- Where We Are on TV by GLAAD (This report analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and looks at the number of LGBT characters on cable networks for the 2015-2016 TV season. Previous reports available at the link.)
- Interview with Hugo Ateo (Cesar Cuevas in 11.19 The Chitters)
- "Well, You Are Kind of Butch": The Bisexuality of Dean Winchester by waterofthemoon
- Pink and Satiny: An Exploration of Dean Winchester’s Bisexuality by sobrans
- Supernatural Fans Take Show to Task for 'Queer Baiting' on The Advocate
- Supernatural Needs to Admit Dean Is Bisexual on Policy Mic
- "The Epic Love Story of Sam and Dean": Supernatural, Queer Readings, and the Romance of Incestuous Fan Fiction, from "Journal of Transformative Works and Cultures", Volume I, 2008 by Catherine Tosenberger
- Supernatural Is the Best Gay Romance on TV That Isn't Actually Gay on io9
- HOYAY! "Supernatural": Coded Gays, Slashfic Bait and Wincest, Oh My! on After Elton
- Deminsexual and Queer Sam by bottomsteves
- A Look at the History of the Media Burying Its Gays by The MarySue
- Bury Your Gays Why Deaths on The 100 and Walking Dead Matter by THR
- All Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters on TV by AutoStraddle
- Can Anyone Die? TV's Recent Death Toll Says Otherwise by Variety
- Supernatural and BiSexual Erasure by BiTch Flicks
- Did ‘Supernatural’ just give fans the queer romance they’ve been hoping for? by the Daily Dot