As a big trekkie, it always baffled me why, in the 24th century, there were no gay characters in Star Trek! I mean it was perfectly acceptable for a Klingon to mate with a Romulan or a fluffy ball of fluff to mate with itself; but seriously, why was there was no alien species in the entire Galaxy that allowed same sex space inter relations?
Thankfully though, LGBTI characters are now about to ‘beam down’ on our TV screens. Set phasers to stun!
It’s only taken Star Trek 50 Years, but at least it got there and now ‘Trek’ is going boldly where no gay has gone before (well maybe some gays have been there, but it’s the first time they’ve appeared in a popular sci fi franchise), not even Star Wars has featured any LGBTI characters yet and it’s 2016!
Despite the original classic Star Trek TV series being wildly progressive and in my opinion, well before its time when it aired in the 1960’s, I mean after all it featured Japanese and Russian characters when America was still harbouring prejudice over Japan’s role in World War II and they were embroiled in the Cold War; the original 60’s series also saw the first interracial kiss on television between Captain Kirk and Uhura! In 2016 we wouldn’t bat an eyelid but in the 60s this was pretty groundbreaking stuff! So why has a TV show so ground breaking never had over its 50 Year history a gay, lesbian or bisexual character, like ever? In the 90’s, Star Trek spin off Deep Space Nine, very loosely dabbled with transgender issues, but I stress very loosely, with the character of Lieutenant Dax who was a benign symbiont which had had male and female hosts throughout its past lives but nothing as concrete as deliberately paving the way forward for LGBTI characters of the future.
Fast forward 50 light years and now actor John Cho is adding some rainbow sparkles to his contemporary take on Mr Sulu (from an alternative timeline), and this is the first glimpse we have had of an LGBTI character in the entire galaxy. Yep, in the newly released ‘Star Trek Beyond’ the thirteenth film in the Star Trek Movie franchise, Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu is revealed as an openly gay man and the actor John Cho who plays him says it’s not a big deal. “I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out of it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicise one’s personal orientations.” Sulu and his partner have a daughter in the movie, a possible reference to Demora Sulu, Hikaru’s adult daughter who appeared in 1994’s Star Trek Generations.
For me personally, hoooorah, we finally have that LGBTI character I have been longing for. However, I find myself in such a conflict in my head between the gay man in me and the trekkie in me because ultimately, I do not see the point in making this particular character gay. I know that a lot of people might disagree with me, but I am not a fan of suddenly turning a heterosexual male into a homosexual family man just to ‘tick the LGBTI box’ that hadn’t yet been ticked. This particular character of Sulu has always had a long back-story to which he was married to his wife and lived a heterosexual family life with his daughter. I mean, yes I can see that we now have our long awaited gay character and I am more than certain that director, JJ Abrahms, most probably based his decision on making Sulu gay on the sexual orientation of Sulu’s original actor, George Takei as a homage to him and his well know LGBTI activism, but even Takei himself is not a fan of turning Sulu gay.
On speaking to producers prior to their decision of making a gay Sulu, Takei said, “Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, then suddenly being revealed as being closeted.”
I must say that I have to agree with Takei on this one, we should see in the future a character who we know we can invest in as an out-and-proud gay man, and feel the need to follow him on his journey of what it is like to be LGBTI in a utopian future.
That being said however, Star Trek is indeed willing to create a brand new LGBTI character which will be featured on their new TV incarnation, Star Trek Discovery. Trekkies have been informed that there will be some LGBTI representation on the new show and I for one could not be happier. Showrunner Bryan Fuller has implied the impending new Star Trek TV series will likely have LGBT characters , saying “I think the progressive audience that loves Star Trek will be happy that we’re continuing that tradition.”
So I say, Lets watch this space… and let’s boldly go where no LGBTI person has gone before.