How duo you know Daryl is gay and not bisexual or asexual
hullo dear anon that is an excellent question! strap yourselves in, this is a long thing but I don’t feel like putting it under a cut.
there are two ways that I’m approaching my meta about Daryl’s sexuality and delightfully, I think both support my personal theory, but both do not necessarily support the alternatives you outlined, though one or the other might. We’ll hurdle these one at a time.
Because it’s shorter, I’ll first go over really quick the secondary way I interpret Daryl’s sexuality, which is incorporating the show’s nature AS a television production with multiple parties involved and Norman Reedus’ own approach to the character. We know that Norman has a huge part in how Daryl is written, though he doesn’t have all the power, and has several times had a direct impact on how Daryl’s storyline has progressed. Norman has consciously and directly stepped in to prevent Daryl from developing a sexual relationship with any character (significantly including females) so far in the show. He’s also made comments to the effect- my favorite, personally- that Daryl is not going to love who you’d expect (in his Nylon Mens’ issue); as well as his favorite fall-back when the sex stuff gets brought up in interviews being references to Daryl having sex with Glenn (I think that is both a distractor from the issue because he’s sick of the question, and because he doesn’t want to give anything away). I take all of this commentary to imply heavily that Norman is a) aware of the potential reading of Daryl as a gay character, and b) playing him intentionally AS queer and sitting on it, with maybe only a select few cast or crew members aware that he is doing so. With this outside awareness of Norman’s involvement in the show and his commentary on the issue, I think it’s safe to say that Norman does not think Daryl is straight and does not play him as straight. I give later on my reasoning as to why he’s not bisexual. I think however, and feel free to consider this completely shitty and tragic— that Norman, given his commentary, might not have considered asexuality as an option. He’s referenced Daryl in a sexual light often enough, but he’s redirected him away from female sexual interaction, which makes me think that he is not playing an asexual character but a gay one. This could be a product of Norman Reedus’ own sexuality, which I don’t know if is heterosexual or bi or whatever because that’s his own business so I won’t make a statement on it- but he seems to talk about sex A LOT- or it could also be a product of his own ignorance, in that he may not be aware of asexuality particularly as more than a loose and distant concept. It’s for this reason that I don’t read Daryl as asexual in the show, but it depends heavily on my own presumptions about Norman Reedus’ knowledge of sexual orientations and his verbalized thoughts on the matter. He could very well be playing him as ace, but I haven’t really interpreted his commentary that way. So for my personal opinion, I think Norman Reedus is intentionally playing Daryl as gay, or at least some subvariety of queer that excludes a sexual attraction towards female-bodied characters.
The primary way I’m approaching it, though, is from a death-of-the-author standpoint, which is my favorite way to interpret media, which takes the actions and events of the show as their only evidence and completely separates it from the reality of its offscreen production. This means that my death-of-the-author reading completely disregards any and all comments made by cast and crew, any realities of television production and merchandising and poll numbers, and anything to do with any discussions or information that is given outside of the show itself in the hour it is on-air.
Let’s start off by making clear that I hundred percent don’t think Daryl is bisexual (and I’m saying that as a bisexual myself who is usually incredibly eager for bi representation). He’s been interacting with sexually available females in an appropriate age range since season one, and has never expressed any kind of interest in them that is a verbal OR nonverbal recognizable cue for attraction. Now, that could be nothing- but thinking of other single male characters in the show, there are only two others that come to mind as never having expressed any kind of romantic or sexual interest in a woman either through show actions or provided backstory, and those are T-Dog and Milton (I could easily be misremembering on either or forgetting someone, so excuse me!). We didn’t have nearly as much time with either as we’ve had with Daryl. More significant than Daryl’s lack of sexual interest in female characters is that he has had available female characters of an appropriate age make direct sexual overtures towards him (Carol, when they were first settling at the prison, and yes I think she was mostly joking but the overtures remain) and Daryl directly rejected them. He retracts from the suggestion of sexual contact with anyone but we’ve only seen it suggested with females, so I think it’s safe to say that he is not bisexual in my death-of-the-author interpretation of his character.
Now, if we get into the death-of-the-author validity of Daryl as asexual, I think that’s a whole different thing. I think Daryl as asexual is a completely legitimate possibility from that perspective, though I do still think that he is homoromantic if he’s going to have an ace sexuality. The above evidence about his withdrawal from sexual overtures could be applied to everyone, not just females, although only females have made the advances in the show. So an ace reading is totally valid and I hope there are some well-written fics out there to celebrate it, but it would have to be homo-romantic for me to take it seriously.
Daryl, within the context of the show, is presented as having developed a rapport, sentiment, and sense of responsibility for most of the group, but especially Rick, Carl, Michonne, Merle, Judith, Beth, and Carol. However, the only ones of these that I would go so far as to call a bond responsible for his evolution of character would be Rick and Carol, as they both have been being nurtured since the beginning of the ZA and how they individually treat Daryl has been directly responsible for the shift in how he presents and accepts himself, Rick moreso than anyone- as I think is evidenced by Carol’s trying to encourage Daryl to split from Rick at the end of S2 and Daryl’s refusal, because throughout S2 Daryl realizes both the depth of Rick’s character and loyalty and learns that Rick has recognized and valued Daryl’s too. We’re shown that Daryl’s relationships are best in this slow-burn kind of way- he struggles through the years of isolationism, following his brother’s lead on literally everything, with no close connections to other people except for his family, and it takes a lot of work to undo that on a case-by-case basis.
Then we get to something that might be easy to dismiss, but I think I have to address because it figures heavily into my reading of Daryl’s sexuality: Daryl’s interactions with Martinez in 3x13, and Daryl’s interactions with Bob in 4x04. (I went back to watch the scene from 3x13, so this should all be up to date, but I don’t have a DL of 4x04 so I’ll have to go off memory on that one). His scenes with Martinez are much more superficial- there’s much less of an emotional development- but to the viewer initial antagonism is transformed VERY quickly into a sense of bonding and comradery. Their initial encounter involves Daryl’s usual methods with males- getting extremely close to them, silent and breathing in each others’ space, eye contact and potentially violent- which Martinez is significantly the one to break, his eyes dropping from Daryl’s eyes to his mouth, and resting there for several seconds before going back up, and Daryl steps away. Later, after we see them have a silent, testosterone-fueled pissing competition over who kills more walkers and has the best kills, Daryl makes eye contact with Martinez again, and significantly is not doing it antagonistically in comparison to earlier- significant in that Daryl both has progressed from only a few minutes earlier, and also in that Daryl avoids eye contact frequently even with his good friends, only seeking it out for important moments. He offers him a cigarette (which is extremely post-coital from a symbolic perspective, suggesting that the fight for dominance has left him feeling sexually satisfied). Daryl- Daryl! who withdraws from everyone and rarely seeks out human connections quickly as opposed to the slow burn he has had with Rick and Carol- then proceeds to ask Martinez about his history. Daryl significantly initiates both the smoking together and the inquiry as to Martinez’ past. This is massively important if we’re reading this into Daryl’s sexuality, because Daryl almost never seeks out this immediate a connection with someone. In a matter of minutes he and Martinez have started to foster a personal connection between them. Daryl doesn’t bond that fast- our own evidence has shown us that- but we’re left to wonder if maybe Rick hadn’t come in on the tails of abandoning Merle on the rooftop, if Daryl might have been drawn to him as instantaneously. This is echeod again in S4 in the scenes with Bob, where a character who Daryl knows only peripherally and has no significant connection with and is still relatively new to the group- connects with him on an emotional level. Daryl doesn’t open up as much in return about himself, but he does place an extremely high level of trust in Bob almost immediately, which is then betrayed incredibly quickly. Daryl only bonded with Bob at the beginning of the same episode before— but there is something personal about how Daryl gets into his face. It’s not just that Bob is putting the lives of Daryl’s prison family at risk, it’s that Bob opened up to Daryl and let Daryl put his trust in him and then let him down. Why did Daryl open up that quickly, when again, it has taken him SO long to open up that much with any of the main cast? Again, I think this is all cumulative evidence that Daryl bonds most immediately and most effectively with male characters. He is drawn to them, responds to them with emotion and physicality, putting himself forward almost immediately. He never does this with female characters- he is brusque to them, shies away from them, expresses complete disinterest in them until they have had some time to crack through to him and then his interactions are kept by him as explicitly platonic. I think of these two interactions as testaments to Daryl’s potential homosexuality- or in my mind, his all-but-guaranteed homosexuality.
Add that to the information we have about Daryl’s upbringing- abusive, violent, with SEVERE physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father AND brother- because Merle’s behavior towards Daryl is emotionally abusive even if he never laid a hand on him and it cannot be sugar-coated as being a healthy relationship no matter how valuable it is to him. This wouldn’t make him gay by any means, but it would affect how he presented and interpreted his own sexuality. Think back to 2x05 “Chupacabra” and Daryl’s hallucinations of Merle. I think it’s a safe assumption that Merle’s dialogue is directly reminiscent of what he’s said in the past, and it’s significant that a lot of it hinges on deriding Daryl’s sexuality and gender presentation. He calls him “Darylena”, asks him where his balls are, asks if he is Rick’s bitch; he’s extremely derogatory and it’s made clear that attacking Daryl on the basis of a) his effeminacy and b) his sexuality are both par for the course in their household. We can imagine the same things probably took place over his entire development. A Daryl who grew up feeling a strong attraction towards males in that kind of household would only become further withdrawn (as he did!) and further isolated (as he did!) and extremely defensive (as he is!!) because any perceived homosexuality would probably be an excuse for his father to beat him and his brother to deride him. If you’re looking for why, if Daryl’s gay, we don’t know it yet?— that’s it, right there- not that he’s in denial because I think he’s aware of his attraction to men, but that he’s been made to think of it as repugnant for too long to undo it all right away. He’s only just started to accept that he is even a worthwhile human being, I think accepting that he’s gay is going to be a much longer process.
Ultimately, this million-paragraph essay leads me to my inevitable conclusions: that if Rick had not come back half-responsible for Merle’s absence, Daryl would have begun to connect with him much earlier than he did. As it is, Daryl’s connection with Rick as it developed through S2 was proven (by his rejection of Carol’s suggestion to turn against him) to be the strongest one he had with the group. Through S3, we’re shown that Daryl values Rick as much or more than Rick values Daryl- that Rick has given him a sense of worth, and Daryl chooses Rick over Merle ultimately; and we learn that Daryl’s connections with men are much more charged and immediate than they are with women. Through S4a, we see a repetition of Daryl’s immediate bond with males, and Daryl’s connection with Rick is underlined and punctuated as pivotal to his character. S4b, we see Daryl run down completely destroyed and completely raw, specifically about his perceived loss of Rick, and we see that once again Rick is the person who ultimately is able to assauge his guilt and make him feel most safe and valuable as a person again. That is all where my Rickyl feelings come in- but ultimately, yeah. Yeah. I think Daryl Dixon is gay. There’s no doubt in my mind that Daryl Dixon is gay, actually. That’s the reading of the character that makes the most sense to me. And while a death-of-the-author interpretation of him as asexual is completely valid, I’m not as confident that it is when you take into account the nature of the show and Norm himself; and imho there is no way in hell that he is remotely bisexual or straight.
Nossir, Daryl Dixon is 900% gay, and that’s why I’m fairly certain of it. I hope this incredibly long essay helped clarify any questions and that people enjoyed the ride and didn’t just hate how very far they had to scroll.