Op/Ed: In the Wake of PROP 8, LGBT Long Overdue in STAR TREK

Op/Ed: LGBT Long Overdue in STAR TREK

"To boldly go where no man has gone before." That was the mission the Enterprise set out on all those years ago, yet the show itself never went to one particular place - depicting gay characters on any of their television shows or films. With Proposition 8 having been overturned in California this week, one has to stop and think; if this is where we are in 2010, will Gene Roddenberry's near-Utopian future ever follow suit?

George Takei, who played Sulu on the original series, married his longtime partner Brad Altman in 2008 when California first granted marriage licenses to same sex couples. Following the recent news about Proposition 8, he told Salon, "We're obviously overjoyed and relieved. My sense always told me that the ruling would be this way."

In Las Vegas this very weekend, Trekkies from around the world celebrate the show's 45th anniversary and while anything goes in that town, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered (LGBT) community is still waiting for representation onscreen. Considering the Star Trek franchise takes place in the future, you'd assume these issues would have been overcome long ago, especially when you consider the countless species and races discovered by those on Earth who traveled to other planets. When Salon asked Takei how he thought creator Gene Roddenberry would have dealt with the issue of marriage equality he had this to say:

"You know, we'd dealt with the Vietnam War. We'd dealt with the civil rights movement. We'd dealt with a lot of issues of our times. And I asked him, 'How do you feel about that [gay rights]?' He said, 'This is an important issue and we want to deal with it.' However, this was while we were on TV. He said, 'Our ratings are low and I need to keep the show on the air. All I need is another firestorm and this show will be canceled, and I won't be able to make those statements that I've been making with the show.' He said, 'The times will change as we move along, but at this point, I can't do that.'"

Since then, there has been a lot of discussion on the issue from actors, creators and fans alike. Some have tried to work plots into the series but never succeeded. "Blood and Fire," written by "The Trouble With Tribbles" scribe David Gerrold, featured gay characters but was turned down by Paramount. In 2008 he went on to film the episode with the help of a Star Trek web series crew.

Others have tiptoed around the issue as best they could. In Star Trek: The Next Generation's "The Outcast," Commander Riker falls in love with someone from an androgynous humanoid race. However the entire race was cast with female actors, much to the disappointment of Jonathan Frakes, who played Riker and saw it as a missed opportunity. There have also been species with more than two genders, a kiss between two women and even jokes about same-sex pairings but still no openly gay characters.

This is another strong argument some have for depicting LGBT in Star Trek. Not only did Roddenberry break the barrier with the first interracial kiss on TV, they constantly show interspecies relationships (some of which probably shouldn't be possible considering anatomical differences). So in a reality where characters can truly be omnisexual, futuristic science fiction has no real reason to avoid including LGBT characters. That leaves many to think it has to be the studios, the shows creators or whoever controls the franchises that choose not to utilize them. In fact, in a 2000 interview Ronald D. Moore, who worked on TNG, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, apparently suggested just that about Star Trek.

J.J. Abrams had every opportunity to change the trend in 2009's Star Trek film, but no such inclusions were made and fans are still left wondering why. For now, anyone looking to see LGBT characters in anything Star Trek related will have to resort to works of fan fiction.

"To boldly go where no man has gone before," was changed to, "To boldly go where no one has gone before," for equality purposes. LGBT characters have been on television and in films for a while now, looks like it's about time Star Trek goes where everyone else has gone already.

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