Most of the time, TV shows or movies make characters’ sexualities crystal clear from the get go. In the case of lead characters, we meet them and almost immediately a love interest is introduced—always the opposite sex, always attractive. And supporting characters are almost always just assumed to be straight, even if we aren’t given much backstory for them.
But sometimes characters slip past this convention and announce, rather late in the game, that they are, in fact, not straight. It comes as a surprise to the audience, because, who saw that one coming? Not us. But it’s awesome. Here are five of our favorite surprising gay character reveals:
1. Paranorman’s Mitch
ParaNorman was a film that was released in late summer 2012, with a band of quirky, genuinely likable characters. Even the “bully,” Alvin, redeemed himself quickly enough, and joined together to help Norman fight the (pretty small, actually) horde of undead that returned from the grave.
Norman and Alvin wrangled up a group to help them out: Norman’s older sister, Courtney, Norman’s best friend, Neil, and Neil’s older brother, Mitch. From his introduction, Mitch seemed like a typical, straight teenager. He drove a truck, he played football, and Courtney had a crush on him right from the start. The whole movie was spent seeing her flirting with him in the background (a zombie apocalypse seemed a good time to her to start a romance, apparently) with Mitch apparently being just a little too dim to really pick up on it, and the assumption was that the two of them would become an item at the end of the film.
Mitch decided to let the truth come out at the end, after Courtney asked him out on a date to the movies, accepting (but calling her Cathy), and telling her, “You’re gonna love my boyfriend.” Wait—what? Huh. Cool.
2. Torchwood’s Ianto Jones
Ianto Jones, possibly the most-loved character from the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood is well-suited for this list. The fourth episode of the first season of Torchwood shows us explicitly that Ianto had a girlfriend, Lisa—who is actually still in contact with him. Well, technically: she’d been transformed into a Cyberwoman. Ianto was keeping her alive in a hidden room in the Torchwood complex, hoping to one day cure her and make her fully human again. If that’s not love, what is?
All well and good, Ianto is straight, right? Not so fast. As the series progresses, it becomes clear that he has fallen in love with the immortal Jack Harkness. Ianto tells his sister that he’s straight, “It’s not men. It’s just him. It’s only him,” referring to Jack. And yet, there is some expanded universe material that states Ianto is bisexual.
Either way, he’s one of the best queer characters around—a prime example that sexuality is not and never has been black and white.
3. Supernatural’s Demian & Barnes
Supernatural is one of those shows where, even though most of its episodes could be classified as drama, it still doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are episodes solely devoted to making the audience laugh while still providing plot or character development. One such episode takes place in season 5, entitled “The Real Ghostbusters.” Brothers Sam and Dean Winchester are tricked into attending a “Supernatural” convention, complete with cosplayers—most of whom are dressed as the sibling hunters themselves.
Two such cosplayers are Demian and Barnes. They’re just regular guys. They don’t hunt—Demian is a copy machine repairman and Barnes sells stereo equipment. But when Sam and Dean need their help stopping a handful of vengeful spirits from killing everyone attending the convention, they immediately step up to the plate. They’re a bit trepidatious at first, and understandably so: they’re charged with digging up a grave, then salting and burning the bones.
But they complete all these tasks and demonstrate their heroism, making the audience think maybe they could be a pair of hunters too. At the end of the episode, Sam and Dean say goodbye and Demian and Barnes… reveal they’re actually a couple. It was a really sweet moment in a series where almost every character pretends not to have emotions, and definitively proved that the couple that slays together stays together.
4. Dexter’s Isaak Sirko
Every season of Dexter seems to have “Big Bad” — another murderer that serial-killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) does battle with and ultimately vanquishes. The seventh season of the series introduced us to Isaak Sirko, the leader of a Ukranian crime syndicate, and it looked very much like Sirko would be that Big Bad. Early on we see him dispatch several innocent (and no so innocent) victims. He seems to have a thing for driving screwdrivers through his victims’ eye sockets. This ruthless killer is in Miami to investigate the disappearance of a mob associate, Viktor. When he finds out that Dexter was the one who did Viktor in, he vows revenge.
Dexter and Sirko circle on another like the dangerous predators they both are, but a later meeting of theirs has Dexter following Isaak into a gay bar. Isaak tells Dexter that he feels “comfortable” there, cluing Dexter in and admitting that he was involved with the Viktor, hence his desire for revenge. They were, as he puts it, “Lovers,” then amending it to “more than that.”
Having gay characters on television is important. Having gay characters– even villains– who are more than their sexuality is even more important.
4. Lost’s Tom Friendly
Love it or hate it, Lost is one of those TV shows that left a real impression on its viewers. It did so by twisty episode timelines, mythology incorporated into plotlines, and excellently developed, intriguing characters. There were many—it was hard to keep track, but a few stuck out in our minds.
One such character was the ironically-named Tom Friendly. We first met him in season 1, known only as one of The Others, a group whom the castaways believed was actively working against them (and for good reason—Mr. Friendly blew up their escape raft and kidnapped a child).
Characters on Lost often popped up after they died in the main storyline, thanks to the use of flashbacks. So when Mr. Friendly kicked it in season 3, fans had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last they saw of him. And it wasn’t: he returned in a flashback in the season 4 episode “Meet Kevin Johnson,” where we got to see his life away from the island. In this flashback, Tom invites another character (Michael) to his hotel room for a little explanation of the island’s mysterious ways. There, we witness Tom with another man, Arturo. Tom, by way of explanation for Arturo’s presence, tells Michael: “Don’t make it to the mainland too often, so when I do, I like to indulge myself.” Just to drive the point home (to Michael and the viewing audience), Tom gives Arturo a kiss on the cheek.
Good to know that the Others will kill for their beliefs, but they don’t discriminate in their hiring process, right?
5. Harry Potter’s Albus Dumbledore
The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling are possibly the best loved (and certainly best-selling) literary series ever. One of the most beloved characters from both the books and the movies is Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of of Hogwarts and Harry’s ally, protector and biggest champion. In a 2007 author Q&A, a fan asked Rowling whether Dumbledore, who throughout the entire series touted the importance of love, had ever fallen in love himself. Her answer revealed that Dumbledore was, in fact, gay, and had fallen in love with a character who played a pivotal role in the seventh book: Gellert Grindelwald. The fandom (and media) exploded at this news.
Any other gay character surprises we should have included on this list? Let us know in the comments.