The gays invade Star Trek. Art by Jeff Hayes
Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if we could shed labels like black, white, Latino, Asian, gay, bisexual or lesbian? We like to imagine — assume, even — that humanity will only ever continue to progress socially and technologically and that one day such distinctions will blur into a pleasant haze of meaninglessness.
That is dangerous thinking.
We rejoice at our own peril at the California Supreme Court’s recent decision declaring gay marriage legal under the state’s constitution. While the ruling clearly represents progress in civil rights, some worry it could spark a backlash at the polls in which right-wing voters turn out in large enough numbers to swing California’s treasure trove of electoral votes from blue to red, costing the Democrats the White House yet again.
Those fears may be overblown but there’s no doubt that gay issues continue to press political hot buttons at every level of society. Every new bit of gay news digs beneath our polite surface to reveal deep-seated prejudices and fears. Our own science fiction subculture is no more immune to the phenomenon than any other, despite our high-minded claims to imagining a better future.
Consider the news item several weeks ago in which Bryan Fuller, executive producer of the ABC series Pushing Daisies, disclosed that Star Trek: Voyager was to have featured a gay couple. Fuller, who was a producer on Voyager, confessed to AfterElton.com that he was glad the characters never materialized because they were so two-dimensional. Even so, the news occasioned all manner of discussion on the various Trek-related forums, including an awful lot of homophobic drivel, as well as a reminder that fan film producers beat “real” Star Trek to the punch by introducing gay characters years ago.
I used to write and produce the fan series that did so, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, which introduced several gay characters, including Ro Nevin, a Bajoran who is the first gay starship commander in the succeeding series, Star Trek: Odyssey. I co-wrote with scifi author David Gerrold the script, “Blood and Fire,” which introduces gay characters into Trek’s original series via Star Trek: Phase II (formerly Star Trek: New Voyages). The two fan-produced series made bold moves by tackling the subject, receiving both kudos and condemnation in return.
Among all the discussion I’ve recently noticed a disturbing trend in which homophobes have found common ground with some proponents of portraying gay people in Star Trek — namely, that 200 or 300 years from now being gay doesn’t matter. Here’s how one reader, msspurlock, put it in the comments on TrekWeb’s story about gays on Voyager:
People who are as sad and deluded as to think this will even be a topic of discussion in the 23rd Century are morons. Morons lacking any imagination. Morons seeking external validation in the present day for something that will not be a topic of discussion in the positive future Roddenberry outlined. So anyone making an issue of it now, is either looking to cash in or get press coverage.
Compare this with how Star Trek: Hidden Frontier’s producer, Rob Caves, characterized about his gay Bajoran, Ro Nevin. In announcing the character’s new show, Star Trek: Odyssey, Caves described Ro as bisexual instead of gay, which he later admitted was a lie to make the new Odyssey series more palatable to a general audience.
The only reason that I did that was so we didn’t scare away the homophobes right out of the gate. … I should have stood up and just said he was gay and not cared what people think or if they watch the show or not, but … I wanted people to give this show a chance.
Remarkably, however, Caves reversed course and retracted the gay label again:
I quickly retracted my statement that Ro is gay and that’s that. Because … it shouldn’t be about those labels at all. … Not once did we hear Ro or anyone else refer to him as gay. As far as I’m concerned, that label is more or less extinct by the 24th century.