Star Trek is yet another show that faces a difficult challenge. You might even say that the Powers That Be of Star Trek are up against a potential no-win scenario. This challenge the PTB (particularly the writers) have is that Star Trek has been often up held as this utopian society. In the midst of many dystopian futuristic sci-fi shows, Star Trek, though filled with many alien conflicts, presents us with a universe where the problems of earth have been resolved. In the Star Trek universe there is no more racism, classism, ableism, or sexism.
The reason this can be viewed as a no-win scenario is that it’s hard to create a utopian society when the writer exists in an imperfect world and is influenced by all those -isms that Star Trek claims to have gotten rid of. However, Star Trek has done surprisingly well—yes, there have been some problems, but, for the most part, Star Trek does a pretty good job.
Oh, wait—there is still one problem. There have never been any queer characters in any Star Trek TV show or movie—not one. And no, Kirk and Spock don’t count.
When it comes to marriage and gender, Star Trek has addressed tons of different views on marriage and many different interpretations of gender. Hell, there was even a canon male pregnancy in one episode. There have been polygamous relationships, interracial relationships, and interspecies relationships. There have been tri-gendered species and androgynous races, but gay characters? None at all.
The closest that we have gotten is the Trill from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine being described as pansexual. But that can’t really be considered real representation, because, well, they’re worms sharing their body with someone else. The pansexuality of a Trill can then be explained away as having less to do with sexuality and more to do with their circumstances: they switch hosts who have different genders and sexual orientations. The only other mention of homosexuality is when Dr. McCoy describes Tribbles as being bisexual and hermaphroditic.
Gene Roddenberry kept claiming that he was going to put homosexual characters in The Next Generation, but it never happened. He later spoke of his own homophobia:
My attitude toward homosexuality has changed. I came to the conclusion that I was wrong. I was never someone who hunted down “fags” as we used to call them on the street. I would, sometimes, say something anti-homosexual off the top of my head because it was thought, in those days, to be funny. I never really deeply believed those comments, but I gave the impression of being thoughtless in these areas. I have, over many years, changed my attitude about gay men and women. (source)
After this interview Robbenberry promised once again that he would include gay characters in Star Trek, but he tragically died before he would be able to do so.
In a franchise that has at least two openly gay actors (George Takei and Zachary Quinto), as well as actors that openly support homosexuality and their inclusion in Star Trek (Leonard Nimoy, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kate Mulgrew to name a few), it seems like it is long overdue for Star Trek to have at least one (if not a few) non-heterosexual characters.
After the first Star Trek reboot, J.J. Abrams did an interview with AfterElton were he seemed to repeatedly dodge the issue of gay characters in Star Trek. He claimed that while it is something he would like to do that it was “difficult”. Why? He said:
There are many people who say there have been gay characters in the show all throughout. [laughs] I would say that it is, you know, something that I would love to do, but just the way I would be careful doing a story that would involve any of the characters and their personal lives. The balance is always, what how does that story relate to sort of the bad guy, which by the way is always going to be that critical thing, what are they up against? The question how do you get into literally these are personal sexual lives of these characters? Like what is that going to be about. I don’t know who’s assuming characters aren’t gay or are gay. You know what I’m saying? (source)
Ah, yes, J.J., I see! Since statistically speaking there has to be at least one homosexual character on the Enterprise, gay people everywhere should just be happy with knowing that. Because oh god, it’s just so hard to stop the action and delve into the characters’ personal lives. Tell me then, when the first Star Trek reboot took the time to have Kirk oogle everyone with a vagina or had him sleep with a green woman then creepily watch Uhura undress, or have Spock and Uhura hook up and make out, was that impossibly hard to fit into the movie? And don’t give me some bullshit about this being essential to the characters or storylines, because I could argue the same thing about any gay characters that could be included.
In the same interview, however, Abrams went on to say:
I’m frankly shocked that in the history of Star Trek there have never been gay characters in all the series. In Deep Space Nine and all the Enterprises that that’s never come up…. Yeah, but I do feel like there’s … if that was something I was aware of, it would surprise me, and if it mattered to me in that way, I would feel unrepresented in something that’s supposed to be representing the world and the community. That was very much what Roddenberry was doing. So I do believe that it’s something that, you know, should happen and I would love to be able to be a part of that. (source)
Guess how many gay characters are in the newest Star Trek movie? Zero.
The Star Trek universe: what a lovely homophobic utopia, am I right?