“Ever have a lightbulb moment?”
Is Robin bisexual? Maybe, but it shouldn’t matter
The comics show Tim Drake accepting a date from a male suitor, but that doesn't mean anything concrete just yet.
Tim Drake is going through changes.
The third Robin begins his journey in DC’s new comic anthology series Batman: Urban Legends by asking, “What Would Batman Do?” His entire career as a vigilante has been spent in the overlapping shadows of both Batman and the Robins who came before him.
In Urban Legends #6, he’s struggling through a major identity crisis, having dumped longtime girlfriend Stephanie Brown. Now, he’s on the trail of Bernard Dowd, an old friend Tim realizes may mean much more to him than that. At the end of the issue, Bernard asks Tim out on a date – and Tim says yes.
Despite this huge moment for the character, Tim’s decision doesn’t necessarily make him bisexual. Identities can be tricky, and Tim Drake knows that better than anyone. Here’s why we shouldn’t be so quick to put labels on his Robin.
The Big Reveal
In Urban Legends #6, the realization that Tim may consider Bernard more than a friend comes quickly. At dinner, seeing his old friend for the first time, Tim thinks, “It feels like it’s been years but he still looks... he still looks...” as the pair embrace.
After the two reconnect (for the first time since 2005’s Robin #140), Bernard is kidnapped by the villain Chaos Monster.
As the two make their escape, Tim’s internal monologue follows a thought process very familiar to anyone at the beginning of a revelation about their sexuality: “Bernard needs to get out of here. That’s the next thing Batman would do. But I like having him here. It’s nice. Even though we’re outnumbered I feel... calm.”
As they continue fighting off their opponents, Bernard asks Robin to tell Tim Drake he “helped me realize my true self” and that he wishes “we could have finished our date,” heavily hinting that he knows the Boy Wonder’s secret identity. This sparks something in Tim. Suddenly, it all clicks. While finishing the fight, Tim works through his own mental tangle:
“People keep asking what I want. Oracle. Dick. Steph. Even Conner. But I couldn’t grasp it. Whatever it was, it always felt just out of reach. Until now. Until right now. So... where does that leave me?”
After the fight, Tim debriefs with Detective Williams and admits he broke up with Steph, someone he loves, for no real reason. Williams replies, “You’re holding too tight to a version of yourself you think you have to fit. Let go. You can figure out what you want along the way.”
Tim does exactly that, showing up on Bernard’s doorstep and heavily hinting he’d like to go on a date. When Bernard picks up on Tim’s unasked question and asks him out first, Tim happily says yes. It seemed to some readers like a cut-and-dry coming out story. But coming out, especially to yourself, is never that easy.
Tim Drake and Queer Coding
Fans have long suspected that Tim Drake might not be entirely straight. In the Titans/Young Justice: Graduation Day crossover published in 2003, Tim and Connor Kent (aka Superboy) share a heated moment in a supply closet. Though nothing was officially confirmed by those panels, having two male characters be possibly romantic while literally “in the closet” was almost too precious to deny.
Graduation Day’s writer Judd Winick alluded to this reading of the moment in a later tweet, stating he “saw an opportunity for them both to come out of the closet.” Nothing else regarding either character’s sexuality has been confirmed... until this issue.
Tim Drake and Connor Kent appeared to have an intense friendship that many fans read as romantic, but it’s clear that supposed tension isn’t going to be resolved any time soon. First, after all, Tim has to embrace his identity on his own terms.
Is Tim Drake Bisexual?
Short answer: He’s not sure, and that’s okay. The writer of this specific Robin chapter, Meghan Fitzmartin, says this moment on Bernard’s doorstep is only the start of Tim’s discovery process.
“I wanted to pay tribute to the fact that sexuality is a journey,” Fitzmartin told Polygon. “To be clear, his feelings for Stephanie have been/are 100% real, as are his feelings for Bernard. However, Tim is still figuring himself out. I don’t think he has the language for it all... yet.”
Tim is still young and not easily defined by labels. No matter how he identifies, labels won’t make his feelings for any of his previous, current, or future romantic partners any less real. He could be bisexual, pansexual, or gay — or he might forgo labels completely. What’s important is that Tim will take the time to figure things out for himself.
In both comics and the real world, it’s not fair to insinuate that someone “becomes bisexual” at the very moment they express interest in someone of the same gender. That’s a reductive narrative, and often a harmful one. Experimentation is a huge part of self-discovery, and it’s not always an easy path, as Tim is learning. Identities can grow and evolve, but in order for anyone to remain comfortable in their own truth, a period of exploration is natural and often necessary.
Why are comics such a fruitful avenue for exploring these kinds of journeys? For plenty of LGBTQ+ folks, having to hide your identity from the world (or deny it to yourself) can feel like wearing a mask. And coming out can itself resemble having an alter ego, crafting an identity that was never assigned to you but that is more authentically your own.
Any secret identity must be created and grappled with on an individual level — and any identity at all must be reconciled within someone’s greater understanding of themselves — before being slowly, strategically shared with the world.
As Tim Drake/Red Robin/Robin can attest, identities can shift — but on the inside, he’s the same person he always has been.
Batman: Urban Legends #6 is now available to purchase.