Why letting one of the sci-fi favourites join the ranks of the LGBTQ+ community matters
By Rebecca Peterson, Staff Writer
I read the article three times, my jaw somewhere in the vicinity of the floor. An iconic sci-fi character was getting an LGBTQ+ makeover in the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. Sulu, a non-white, established character in the Star Trek universe, was going to have a husband. It felt like I was being given a gift.
Unfortunately, the next article to crop up was one regarding the original actor for Sulu, George Takei, a sci-fi icon and outspoken member of the LGBTQ+ community. In the article, Takei heavily criticized the move, saying it was “twisting Gene Roddenberry’s creation,” though he did say he was glad there was an LGBTQ+ character at all. I was honestly confused and heartbroken to hear this, as I’ve always admired George Takei and deeply valued his opinions. This is not an article criticizing his response, however. Words can be taken out of context, after all, and I’d rather not cast a negative light over what is phenomenal news for the LGBTQ+ community.
Instead, I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge why this matters.
For one thing, of all the big blockbusters hitting the theatres this year, Star Trek Beyond is the only one I can think of to have an explicitly established LGBTQ+ character as part of the main cast. Ghostbusters almost went there with the character Holtzman, portrayed by Kate McKinnon, but the studio decided against explicitly stating her sexuality. Instead, it was heavily implied in winks and one-liners, which is what many queer characters are reduced to once the script reaches the screen. A big movie like Star Trek Beyond sets a precedent for other big movies when making a decision like this. In fact, breaking ground like this is entirely in the tradition of Star Trek, which featured one of the first multicultural casts and the first interracial kiss on television.
Even more important, however, is how they did this. Instead of creating a character to join the cast specifically for the purpose of being gay, they took a character that already existed and gave him a story that many who are largely underrepresented in media can relate to. Showing that you can be an established character, well-known and loved by many, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community is such a gift. It breaks down many barriers and expectations of what a badass character can be.
I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’m far more excited for it now than I was before. In a world where LGBTQ+ people are still actively discriminated against and left out of big stories, it’s incredibly gratifying to see someone like me on the deck of the Enterprise. It’s important, and a good sign of things to come.