Definitions

chimed in

Sexuality in Star Trek

Sexuality in Star Trek refers to the wide range of sexual practices seen in the Star Trek franchise. Sexual relationships have generally been depicted as heterosexual in nature. Inter-species and inter-ethnic relationships have been commonly depicted.

A comparatively broader range of views has been shown with respect to monogamy, polygamy, and the institution of marriage.

In as much as sexuality can lead to reproduction, some plots have revolved around the possibility of children in a given inter-species relationship, as well as the prejudice that the resulting children have to endure from their parents' societies.

Star Trek: The Original Series

The Original Series did not have any explicitly LGBT characters. This could be attributed to network censorship rules governing American network television as were modeled after the Hollywood Hays Code. Yet, it was not a government ban as in 1967, the television series N.Y.P.D. aired two gay-themed episodes. Aside from the possible sexuality of Captain R. M. Merrik in "Bread and Circuses", the closest thing was the last episode of the series that aired in 1969 as tacit endorsement of feminism. In the episode, Captain James T. Kirk switches minds with a woman, and the possessed Kirk behaves in a more effeminate manner. In the episode "The Trouble With Tribbles", tribbles are described as "bisexual," but this is not a reference to their sexuality; instead it means that they are hermaphroditic: "reproducing at will". In terrestrial biology, "bisexual reproduction" implies a reproductive system requiring two distinct sexes to operate.

The episode "Metamorphosis" has been interpreted to include some support for non-heterosexual relations. In the episode, Zefram Cochrane regularly communes with an alien life form he refers to as the Companion. Despite their close association, however, when Cochrane realizes that the alien is female (Cochrane thought it was sexless) and loves him he is repulsed. The reaction of the Enterprise crew is much more accepting. Spock describes Cochrane's reaction as "Fascinating, a totally parochial attitude." Referring to the Companion, Dr. Leonard McCoy says "There's nothing disgusting about it. It's just another life form, that's all. You get used to those things."

In 2005, George Takei, who portrayed helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu on the show, became the first major actor on any Star Trek series to come out as gay. Perhaps significantly, Sulu was the only major character on the original series who was never depicted pursuing any sort of romantic interest, not even an illusory one such as the form in which the "Salt Vampire" attempts to entice Lt. Nyota Uhura in "The Man Trap".

Star Trek: The Next Generation

None of the Star Trek films or television series have had any characters officially identify as LGBT. Nor have there been any stories which directly address any LGBT themes. This has prompted Star Trek fans to debate the sexual orientation of certain characters, and whether or not particular storylines were intended to offer a critique of homophobia. The first Star Trek story-line which would have addressed an LGBT theme was an unproduced Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that was intended to air in 1988, but never got beyond the script stage.

David Gerrold is a science fiction writer, among whose credits is having written the script for the popular original Star Trek episode titled "The Trouble With Tribbles". In 1987 he was with Roddenberry when he promised that TNG would integrate LGBT characters into the series and thus drafted a script for an episode that would have had two male Enterprise crew-members that were a couple, in the backdrop of an allegory about the mistreatment of people infected with AIDS. The title of this unproduced episode was "Blood and Fire". Gerrold has since said that while many of the TNG cast and crew (including Roddenberry) were supportive of the storyline, it met stiff opposition from the studio and the script never made it into production. The precise reason why the script was never produced remains in some dispute.

In the book Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Continuing Mission, the author puts the blame on the studio: "Much of the change in perception of the script resulted from Paramount's concern that because the series was syndicated, in some markets it might air in the afternoon when younger viewers would be part of the audience." The October 1992 issue of Cinefantastique magazine laid much of the blame for the fate of the script at the door of executive producer Rick Berman. Fans still debate what role Roddenberry had in the fate of this script. Roddenberry publicly supported the idea of having gay characters on the show, and in internal meetings about "Blood and Fire" he is paraphrased by Herbert Wright as having said,

"It's the 24th century. By that time nobody gives a shit! It's an issue of the 20th century and maybe the 19th century, but it has nothing to do with the 24th century. By that time it's your choice of whoever you want."

Yet, other fans accuse Roddenberry of hypocrisy by allowing studio types such as Berman and Leonard Maizlish (Roddenberry's lawyer) to order rewrites of the script that removed the gay characters, and then were still nervous about the public reaction to an episode that offered a social critique of the hysteria that surrounded the AIDS epidemic. Other fans have suggested that petty office-politics, including a labor dispute between Gerrold and Roddenberry, prevented the script from getting produced and not any sort of bigotry or hypocrisy on the part of Roddenberry or the studio. In a 1991 story by The Advocate, Ernest Over (Roddenberry's gay male secretary), erroneously claimed that the script portrayed one of the men in the relationship as feminine and the other as masculine. Gerrold was apparently so annoyed by this remark (and other misstatements about the quality of his work) that he sold copies of the script at conventions so that fans could judge for themselves; he donated most of the proceeds to the AIDS Project Los Angeles. While "Blood and Fire" never made it past the script phase, TNG did air episodes that seemed to have LGBT characters in them, and seemed to be offering a critique of homophobia.

The first episode to show a well-defined "debated" character was titled "The Most Toys" (1990) and is one of the most contentious because fans debate the existence of any homoerotic subtext to the episode. In the episode Commander Data is kidnapped by a criminal art collector that some fans have read as being a gay villain based on the research done by the cultural critic Vito Russo in his book titled The Celluloid Closet. One of Russo's arguments was that popular culture used gender inversion as a coded way of depicting homosexuality by having male or female characters "act like" the opposite sex. In the episode, the art collector has effeminate mannerisms, artistic friends, and he tells Data, "Personally, I'd be delighted to see you go around naked. I assume you have no modesty." Commander Data himself is for all intents and purposes heterosexual, given that he had heterosexual sex with Tasha Yar ("The Naked Now"), and briefly dated a female crew member ("In Theory"). In "Inheritance", an android simulation of his creator's wife, upon hearing Deanna Troi's name, assumes her to be his girlfriend.

In a 1990 episode about Data's attempt to procreate, "The Offspring", Data creates Lal, an android daughter, and the other crew members seek to explain to Lal about humanoid sexuality. In one scene, Whoopi Goldberg was successfully able to change her character Guinan's dialogue from "when a man loves a woman" to "when two people are in love", but when an attempt was made to have a gay couple in the background of the scene, producer David Livingston was contacted and stopped the last minute attempt from occurring. Fans do not dispute that this bit of dialogue has implications for sexual orientation as it asserts that by the twenty-fourth century, society will have evolved to the point where the gender to which a person is romantically attracted is not considered important. Yet, the reports that Livingston pulled the plug on any attempt to having gay crew-members in the background sent a mixed message to fans about how far American society had evolved beyond homophobia. Fans would also note that in future Star Trek television spin-offs, the dialogue would often refer to love as something between a man and a woman.

Also in 1990, in the script for the episode "Captain's Holiday", a throwaway direction in the script details a holiday resort, Risa, in which "couples predominate, with the spectrum of sexual preferences being evident." However, the actual episode only shows heterosexual couples.

In the 1991 episode titled "The Host", Dr. Beverly Crusher (played by Gates McFadden) fell in love with Odan, a male Trill ambassador, only to break off the romance when the ambassador changes bodies or host into a female. Fans debated if Dr. Crusher broke off the affair because she could not handle being romantically involved with a woman, or because she could not handle a relationship with an alien species that would change its gender. The dialogue that Crusher speaks, about a plea for a day when humanity's ability to love would not be so limited, could be interpreted as a statement supporting an end to homophobia (suggesting that it still existed in the utopian future) or an end to a fear about human-Trill relationship. A later episode titled "Liaisons" (1993) explored a similar theme when a male alien has a love affair with Captain Picard, while disguised as a woman, but as was the case in "The Host", there is no sign of love when the alien changes gender (it should be noted that in the plot of the episode the alien was conducting an experiment into the emotion of love, and thus was only simulating being in love with Picard). These episodes only increased a campaign by fans, especially LGBT fans, to integrate LGBT characters onto the series and offer a strong criticism of homophobia. In a 1991 interview with The Humanist, Roddenberry talked about being a heterosexual man who had to overcome 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.

Roddenberry also promised that in the upcoming fifth season of TNG gay crew members would appear on the show (The Advocate). Other stars of the franchise chimed in, with Leonard Nimoy (who played Spock) offering his support in a 1991 letter to the Los Angeles Times:

"It is entirely fitting that gays and lesbians will appear unobtrusively aboard the Enterprise — neither objects of pity nor melodramatic attention.

However, Roddenberry died soon after his interviews, his secretary Ernest Over was fired, and the announced plans to have a gay crew member on TNG (rumors suggested it would be a male crew member who worked as a nurse) never materialized. Control of the Star Trek franchise fell to men such as Rick Berman. While no gay crew members did appear on TNG, one episode was aired that directly addressed the subject of sexual discrimination in the Star Trek universe.

In 1992, the episode titled "The Outcast" aired with a story of Commander William Riker (played by Jonathan Frakes) where he falls in love with Soren, a member of an androgynous humanoid alien race called the J'naii, who viewed the expression of any sort of male or female gender, especially sexual liaisons, as a sexual perversion. When the affair between Riker and Soren is discovered, the J'naii diplomats force Soren to undergo "psychotectic" therapy (read brainwashing). To its credit, Soren does get the chance to defend her right to love another adult life-form irrespective of sex or gender, but the episode left many fans feeling as if the series should have offered a better social message than one with androgynous aliens (who are never seen again).

Soren was played by actress Melinda Culea, and all of the main J'naii characters were played by females, a creative decision criticized by Frakes, who felt that Soren should have been played by a male, so that when their characters kissed, it would have had the social commentary akin to the original Star Trek series that aired the first interracial kiss between fictional characters on U.S. network television. Frakes and fans felt that having all the J'naii played by female actors undermined the social commentary of the episode and created a sense that homosexuality was something brought onto the Enterprise by fascist lesbians. Despite the criticism, Berman felt that this episode would end all criticism among fans about the gay issue. Yet, Roddenberry's public statements had raised the expectations among fans who felt that the studio was forgetting about the Roddenberry promise in favor of a cop-out with plausible deniability.

Situations featuring potential same-sex pairings were also used as jokes in the series. In the 1992 episode titled "A Fistful of Datas" the holodeck program of the Wild West can only end when Data, as the female saloon owner, throws himself into Worf's arms. In "Tapestry", the character known as Q implied that in an alternative universe he might have been Picard's lover, a comment on the two character's relationship. There are other bits of dialogue where Q would mention that he could have appeared as a woman.

When the 1996 film Star Trek: First Contact was in the production stages, a rumor circulated that one crew-member named Lieutenant Hawk (played by Neal McDonough) would be identified as gay in some subtle way. The Daily Mail and the Gay and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation reported on the rumor, but Berman quickly released a press statement that there were no LGBT characters in the film. However a few years later in Andy Mangels' and Michael Martin's novel Section 31: Rogue, Lieutenant Hawk was established as a gay character.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

When Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) debuted in 1993, some fans were wondering if LGBT characters or a social commentary about homophobia would be present in this new series.

In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999) all the major characters were heterosexual. However, In the book A Stitch In Time and in an Amazon.com interview, the actor Andrew Robinson stated that he played Garak as being bisexual, while at other times he stated that he felt that Garak was omnisexual, meaning that he loved people regardless of their gender.

After Garak, the debate often centered around the shape shifter and head of security on the space station named Odo (played by Rene Auberjonois). While he was never effeminate and on several occasions expressed romantic interest in members of the opposite sex, episodes that focused on his life and other shape shifters (or "changelings") were often seen as an applicable allegory to being gay. The 1999 episode titled "Chimera" had Odo meeting "Laas" (Garman Hertzler, a.k.a. J. G. Hertzler), a more avowed shape shifter visiting the station. This episode was peppered with dialogue about the need of shape shifters to be discreet and not to parade around the station displaying "changeling pride", with Laas acting as the "militant" shapeshifter who views Odo as an Uncle Tom. Odo does link with this Laas, who encourages them to link in public. In other episodes (notably "A Simple Investigation") Odo describes linking as partly being a sensual experience comparable to sex. Laas is never seen again after the episode. However, one of the series-running story arcs was Odo's unspoken love for the female Kira Nerys, which was openly stated at the beginning of season three.

However, it would be the Trill female named Jadzia Dax (played by Terry Farrell) who gave fans the first romantic same-sex kiss in Star Trek television history. Dax has been described as a "bisexual woman in the most far-reaching sense", and as a joined Trill, a "serial hermaphrodite". In the 1995 episode titled "Rejoined", Jadzia considers reuniting with another female Trill, Dr. Lenara Kahn. Originally the script called for Dr. Kahn to be played by a male actor, but it was changed because the producers felt that the audience would understand the Trill taboo being violated if it involved two women. The Dax and Kahn symbionts had been married, while the Dax symbiont was joined to a male host and the Kahn symbiont was joined with a different female host. However, by reuniting the two Trill would be violating a Trill taboo against re-establishing relationships of past hosts. Hence, the two women agree to part ways at the end of the episode and Jadzia Dax would return to dating men. Significantly, none of the crewmembers express any disgust or loathing of the brief lesbian affair, and Captain Benjamin Sisko's conversation with Jadzia makes it clear that the gender of Dr. Kahn is a non-issue. It was also notable that with the video featuring "Rejoined" on its debut VHS release, various countries gave the video a rating of that above a standard Parental Guidance rating. As a result, this tape was the first Trek release to be rated above any standard PG rating in almost every country that it was released (though a later video in the Deep Space Nine series was given an even higher rating by most boards, due to extreme violence in one episode).

While "Rejoined" was a continuation of the gender identity themes explored in "The Host", the DS9 series did allow otherwise heterosexual characters to become gay or bisexual in an alternative universe or mirror universe. The first DS9 mirror universe episode was "Crossover" (1994) and would be followed up by "Through the Looking Glass", "Shattered Mirror", "Resurrection" and finally "The Emperor's New Cloak".

In the mirror universe, the evil Major/Colonel Kira Nerys (played by Nana Visitor) existed in an alternative universe where she was bisexual. Alternate Kira was shown flirting with her (unwilling) double and the double of Jadzia Dax, but was especially known to have a sexual relationship with Ezri Tigan. Ezri was also depicted as in a relationship with Leeta and several other background and supernumary personnel were lesbian.

Deep Space Nine also used cross-dressing to introduce situational homosexuality for comic relief. In the episode "Rules of Acquisition", Pel is a Ferengi who is in love with Quark. Pel is really a female pretending to be a male, in order to have a career in the sexist Ferengi society. She eventually confesses to Dax that she is in love with Quark. Dax then indicates she had guessed as much, though Dax is unaware of Pel's true sex at this point. She then asks Pel if Quark was aware of the infatuation, to which Pel responds "he doesn't even know that I'm a female".

Quark refuses to acknowledge an impetuous kiss from Pel. Later, when Quark learns that Pel is really a female, he rejects her offer of a romantic and business partnership because he does not want to be an outcast in Ferengi society, for having a female wife who was also his business partner.

In the episode "Profit and Lace", Quark himself would briefly be surgically altered to become a woman in an attempt to persuade a powerful Ferengi businessman that there would be profit in overturning the traditional Ferengi social code that Ferengi women should be naked. Later in the episode, Quark and the Ferengi businessman would share a kiss while Quark was still in the guise of a female, becoming Star Trek's first male same-sex kiss, although this depends upon a subjective definition of the sex of a transgender person.

The last season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1999) had an episode titled "Field of Fire" in which Dax, now in the body of a new female host, has to track down a Vulcan murderer on the space station. One of the victims was a Bolian, played by a male actor, who was described as having a co-husband in addition to a wife.

In a 2000 Fandom interview, Ronald D. Moore suggested that the reason why no gay characters existed in television franchise was because someone wanted it that way, and no amount of support from fans, cast or crew was going to make any difference.

Tell me why there are no gay characters in Star Trek. This is one of those uncomfortable questions I hate getting when I was working on the show, because there is no good answer for it. There is no answer for it other than people in charge don’t want gay characters in Star Trek, period... That’s one of the great things about Paramount. Paramount left us alone. They always left us alone. They let Next Gen do whatever it wanted. God knows it let Deep Space Nine do whatever we wanted. It lets Voyager do whatever it wants. The studio is not the problem here. The studio is going to let you go wherever you want to go, as long as they believe that this is quality, as long as they believe it’s good work. You’ve just got to come up with something good.

Comments like this have sent a message to fans that while the cast, crew, and even the Paramount studio is open to the idea of having gay characters on the television franchise, someone that controls the franchise, but not the studio itself, has made his prohibition position on this issue very clear.

Star Trek: Voyager

When Voyager came to air, fans created the "Voyager Visibility Project" in an effort to persuade the series to have one of its crew-members established as having a gay or bisexual orientation. The club was able to get the endorsement of Roddenberry's grandson, Richard Compton Jr. In a letter to the fan club he wrote:

I wholeheartedly support the Voyager Visibility Project's efforts to add an on-going gay or lesbian character to Star Trek: Voyager. I feel that the producers of Voyager fail to exhibit the social foresight that my grandfather has shown. Only through 20th Century activism can the 23rd Century goal of a hateless society be met. (April 29, 1996)

The club created enough of a letter writing campaign that in 1997, Voyager Executive Producer Jeri Taylor made the suggestion that Seven of Nine should be established as being a lesbian or bisexual. The internal suggestion was leaked to the press and the fan club and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation issued a press release praising the decision to make the character the first gay character on the show. However, Paramount quickly issued a statement that Seven of Nine was going to be heterosexual, and afterwards Taylor explained that her suggestion was rejected by an unnamed superior. Yet, as seen with DS9, Voyager was able to drop hints about a hero's or villain's sexuality as long as it was never developed.

In the episode "Warlord", Kes's body is possessed by a male warlord named Tieran, who while in Kes's body engages in romantic relationships with both men and women, and even announces his engagement to another man. In one scene while possessed, Kes almost kisses another female, but is called away at the last moment. Later in the episode, she does kiss Tuvok, which some may view as a same-sex kiss. The situation also could illustrate an internal struggle between the experience of Tieran and the female biology of Kes.

In the episode "Ashes To Ashes", a female crew member returns from the dead and subsequently wants to leave the starship. The episode contained a joke where she goes on a date one evening with Captain Kathryn Janeway who tries unsuccessfully to convince her to stay. It is never explained if this was a romantic evening or a platonic expression of bonding and friendship between two women. In the episodes "The Killing Game, Part I" and "Dark Frontier, Part II", sections of dialogue seemed to suggest that Seven of Nine might at least be bisexual even as her official story-line required that she be heterosexual.

In 2002, Kate Mulgrew (who played Captain Janeway) gave an interview to Metrosource where she spoke candidly about the issue of LGBT characters in the Star Trek television universe.

[...] because of its both political and potentially incendiary substance. I'm in a minority as well, as a woman. It took a lot of courage on their part to hire a woman. I think that right up until the end they were very dubious about it. It's one thing to cast a subordinate Black, Asian or woman, but to put them in leading role means the solid endorsement of one of the largest studios in the world. And that goes for a gay character as well. It requires a terrific social conscience on their part and the pledge of some solidarity and unanimity, which I think is probably at the source of most of this problem to get every one of those executives on board regarding this decision.

That same year Mulgrew was even more blunt about the topic in an August 2002 interview for Out in America:

Well, one would think that Hollywood would be more open-minded at this point, since essentially the whole town is run by the gay community. It makes very little sense if you think about it. No, Star Trek is very strangely by the book in this regard. Rick Berman, who is a very sagacious man, has been very firm about certain things. I've approached him many, many times over the years about getting a gay character on the show — one whom we could really love, not just a guest star. Y'know, we had blacks, Asians, we even had a handicapped character — and so I thought, this is now beginning to look a bit absurd. And he said, "In due time." And so, I'm suspecting that on Enterprise they will do something to this effect. I couldn't get it done on mine. And I am sorry for that.

Star Trek: Enterprise

The longtime debate over whether Star Trek should include a gay character reached a head with Enterprise. In a 2002 interview with Metrosource, actor Scott Bakula (who played Captain Jonathan Archer) expressed his support for the idea as had the TNG actors Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes in the 1990s. In the interview Bakula said:

I'm not really familiar with the history of this particular issue with regards to Star Trek; in fact, the first I ever heard of it was at our first junket when somebody asked if there was going to be an opportunity for a gay or lesbian character on the show. I was surprised at the question, because I had just assumed that over the course of the years that it had been addressed. I was surprised it was even an issue. Since then I haven't sat down with Rick and Brannon to discuss it. It does seem awkward [that nothing has ever happened]. I haven't heard anything coming down the pipeline, but I would be in favor of it. I would hope it would be handled in a great way. It would be wonderful, in my opinion, if it was not such a huge issue, but was just there.

When the series began in 2001 there were some rumors that the character Malcolm Reed (played by Dominic Keating) would be gay. The writer Andy Mangels asked Dominic Keating at the Creation Star Trek Convention in Portland, January, 2002, whether his character would be gay. Keating said that it had been discussed and rejected. Dialogue between Riker and Reed in the final episode was edited to acknowledge this issue (Riker is talking to Reed about a male crewmate, and asks "Do you think he's attractive?", after which the camera pulls off of Riker and it is revealed that the scene had jumped forwards in time and he is now asking the question of a female crewman).

During the early half of Enterprise's 3rd season an episode aired entitled "Rajiin" which seemed to feature a lesbian or bisexual undertone. The character of Rajiin used a method of seduction to perform a biological analysis of Archer, Hoshi and T'Pol. During her attack on Archer, she is clearly shown kissing and otherwise engaging in foreplay, although this explicitness is not repeated with Hoshi and T'Pol. While Hoshi's encounter is left entirely to the viewer's imagination (the turbolift door closes before what is implied as a kiss), T'Pol's is slightly more defined. Rajiin caresses her and runs her hands over her body—although this is shown to be the method of gaining biological data. Still, there is no indication that Rajiin genuinely has an attraction to any one of the three of them, so her sexual orientation is not explicitly stated.

The series did air an episode with some social commentary about AIDS. The episode "Stigma" (2003) revealed that the Vulcan named T'Pol (played by Jolene Blalock) had become infected with a disease similar to AIDS from a forced mind meld. The Vulcans infected with this disease are outcasts in the society (until a cure is found in the last season) and thus the social message of the episode was that people infected with AIDS deserve human dignity and compassion while researchers work toward a cure. The series only made the "AIDS episode" when UPN (the network Enterprise on which the show was broadcast) instructed the producers of all its programs to make AIDS-related episodes for an awareness month; a plaque actually ran on screen immediately after the final scene giving HIV internet contact information. Several critics disparaged the executive producers for only making an episode addressing HIV when they were directly "ordered" to by the network. In an April 2003 interview with Trekweb, Berman stated, "'Stigma' was supposed to be our gay episode, but we sort of copped out."

Fan fiction

In 1972, Grup, the first sexually themed Star Trek zine was published, to controversy in the fandom. In 1974 the first "publicly published" Star Trek slash fiction was presented in Grup #3. Kirk/Spock fan fiction was the first prominent slash pairing. As with most imaginable fictional pairings, much gay-themed slash has been written about Star Trek characters.

In 2000, a group of Star Trek fans created their own low budget Star Trek series, Star Trek: Hidden Frontier, and aired the episodes online. The series has included some gay crew members.

In 2008, Star Trek: Phase II will release a 2-part episode adapted from David Gerrold's "Blood and Fire". It will introduce two gay crew members into the cast.

Computer and video games

In 1995, Spectrum Holobyte, Inc. released the graphic adventure MS-DOS computer game Star Trek: The Next Generation, A Final Unity, featuring voice talents from the television series of the same name. One of the levels involved going to a tropical world where aliens of the male gender were second class citizens, and Commander Data at one point made a reference to his kidnapping by the art collector in "The Most Toys".

In 2000, Activision released Star Trek: Voyager Elite Force for Windows and the PlayStation 2. The game, a first-person shooter built around id Tech 3, allowed the player to choose between male and female avatars; irrespective of the gender chosen, a female character would flirt with the protagonist later on in the game.

Novels and comic books

Star Trek novels and comic books appear to be under a much less strict standard when it comes to addressing LGBT issues in the franchise.

References to bisexuality occurred in Gene Roddenberry's 1979 novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in a foreword allegedly written by James Kirk that wryly dismisses claims that he had had a sexual relationship with Spock. Similarly, early Star Trek novels written by Vonda N. McIntyre, such as The Entropy Effect, had subplots referencing alternative lifestyles and family arrangements. McIntyre's novelizations of The Wrath of Khan (1982) and The Search for Spock (1984) also made reference, in passing, to such themes. The thrust of these references is that sexual orientation was simply not an issue and that the characters felt free to engage in whatever relationships they desired, irrespective of their gender. Della van Hise's Star Trek novel Killing Time is infamous for its Kirk/Spock content (which was considerably more blatant in an early draft that was published by mistake).

In the 1990s official Star Trek novels and comic books began to introduce minor Star Trek crewmembers, cadets and officers that were established as being LGBT. In each case, their sexual orientation was treated as a normal, personal trait, akin to religion, and the only homophobia that arose was from a particular alien race, who often ended up learning a lesson in tolerance. For example, Jeri Taylor (of Voyager) wrote Pathways, a novel concerning the early lives of the Voyager crew. In the book, the character of Harry Kim was revealed to have had, at one time, a gay roommate who harbored romantic feeling toward him, however this was never reciprocated as Harry was in the early stages of a heterosexual relationship. Also, in sections set in the present, two of Voyager's crewmembers (who never appeared or were referenced in the television series) were revealed to be in a gay couple, and this is simply mentioned and not treated as character flaw or a concern for any of the other crewmembers. Likewise Andy Mangels' and Michael A. Martin's novel Section 31: Rogue (2001) established Lieutenant Hawk as being gay and having a boyfriend named Ranul Keru. Keru further appeared in the Deep Space Nine novel Worlds of Deep Space Nine: Unjoined and the Titan series. The Starfleet Corps of Engineers e-book series includes a gay main character in Bart Faulwell.

Etana Kol and Kristen Richter are a lesbian couple and supporting characters in the DS9 Relaunch. In the novel Imzadi by Peter David, Lwaxana Troi tells that she had been part of an arranged marriage when younger but she called it off when she realized he was in love with someone else: "Another man." She further states that the same-sex pair "made a cuter couple than we did." The implication is clearly that either same-sex pairings are accepted in Betazed society or that Lwaxana is that accepting, or both.

The DS9 Relaunch novels also give a more complete view of Andorian biology and sexuality than was ever revealed in the series proper. They apparently have four genders, none of which are strictly "male" or "female," but two of which are often referred to as male and the other two as female for the ease of the usual bi-gendered species. Their reproductive process requires all four genders (that is, two "males" and two "females") to be together at once. While this is not a true analogue to any human sexuality, it is an interesting "alternative" sexuality whose depiction includes clear expressions of love between characters who would be seen by others as being the same gender. Emotional and physical problems resulting from this four way bond play a proiment role throughout many of the Relaunch novels.

In Peter David's Star Trek: New Frontier series the character of Burgoyne 172 is hermaphrodidic and bisexual, s/he has a brief relationship with helmsman Mark McHenry before entering into a relationship and fathering a child with Dr Selar. In the same series Selar's brother briefly features as a gay Vulcan, his father disapproves of this, though seemingly not through prejudice, but because he does not see the logic in sex without procreation.

In addition many other recent books contain smaller references to homosexual or bisexual characters. For example, the recent Vanguard series features a female Vulcan officer engaged in a relationship with a female Klingon spy disguised as a human- an action that, according to Klingon tradition, brings great dishonour to the Klingon in question. Also, the Next Generation novel 'The Best and the Brightest,' by Susan Wright, features two female classmates from Starfleet Academy who eventually become involved in a romantic relationship by the end of the book.

Monogamy and polyamory

Most relationships into which Starfleet officers enter are brief, nonmarital, serially monagamous ones. Because of the nature of life aboard exploratory vessels, officers are frequently seen to have sexual relationships lasting no more than an episode. James T. Kirk and William Riker are models of this kind of sexual practice, each with long lists of temporary partners.

In sharp contrast, the character of Worf has been portrayed as a fiercely loyal partner who tends to avoid brief sexual encounters. For him, as with most Klingons, sex is a "deeply sacred act", which generally carries with it the obligation of marriage. However, he has shown tolerance for the traditions of other cultures, and has been shown to wait for his mate to see the virtue of accompanying sex with marriage.

While marriage in Star Trek is most frequently shown to be a pairing of two individuals, the doctor aboard Enterprise (NX-01), Phlox, was a prominent exception. A Denobulan, his species practiced polyamory. He had three wives, who in turn each had two other husbands besides him.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and transgendered characters

Controversy has accompanied this lack of LGBT prominence in Star Trek storylines. While there are several examples of alternative sexualities, the absence of LGBT examples amongst clearly dual-sexed species has been a subject of debate. In 1987, series creator Gene Roddenberry stated that there would be gay characters in The Next Generation. What has followed since then has been a controversy, among fans, as to how much of this promise has been fulfilled within the television spinoffs of the Star Trek world. However, LGBT characters and relationships have featured in non-canonical Star Trek spin-off media, including the Paramount licensed Star Trek novel line published by Pocket Books, as well as in a number of unlicensed Star Trek fan productions. The first Star Trek fan film to feature LGBT characters and themes was Star Trek: Hidden Frontier.

Inter-species mating

As evidenced by the existence of Spock, inter-species mating has been a part of Star Trek since its first episode. The original series, its animated follow-up, and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier all contained instances in which Spock had to deal with the consequences of his Human-Vulcan biology. Each series that followed, in narrative time, had at least one recurring character who was the result of an interspecies coupling: Deanna Troi on The Next Generation, Ziyal on Deep Space Nine, and B'Elanna Torres on Voyager.

Only Enterprise did not have a recurring "mixed-species" child, though the series' penultimate story arc dealt with the first Vulcan-Human offspring. In "Terra Prime", a cloned child of Charles Tucker and T'Pol was used by a xenophobic political group as an example of the "dangers" of inter-species breeding.

Outside of questions of reproduction, many inter-species relationships were seen, including those between a Human and a Trill, a Human and an Elaysian, a Human and a Betazoid, a Human and a Deltan, a Human and an Orion, a Klingon and a Trill, a Klingon and a Ferengi, a Ferengi and a Cardassian, a Ferengi and a Bajoran, a Bajoran and a Changeling, and several others.

The species most often involved in inter-species reproduction seems to be Human; Spock, Deanna Troi, K'Ehleyr, Sela of Romulus, Lt. Daniel Kwan (a half-Napean in "Eye of the Beholder"), B'Elanna Torres, and Naomi Wildman are only a few Trek characters who have one human parent and one non-human parent, whereas comparatively few hybrids with no Human heritage on either side are seen.

Celibacy

Deltans, a race introduced in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, are so profoundly sexual that they must swear an oath of celibacy upon entering Starfleet to avoid harming non-Deltans they may serve with.

Religious figures, while sometimes celibate in real life, are not necessarily so bound in the Star Trek universe. On the deeply religious world of Bajor, for instance, even the spiritual leaders may enter non-marital sexual relationships without religious disapproval, suggesting sex is simply a non-issue in Bajoran religion, at least in the dominant one seen on Deep Space Nine.

Sexuality in species with alternative genders

Star Trek has occasionally centered plots around species who have more than two, or less than two, distinct genders. Sometimes, dual-gendered species have been portrayed as having distinctly non-human assignment of reproductive responsibilities.

A notable example is that of an Enterprise episode titled "Cogenitor". In the episode, the Enterprise crews meets a new tri-gendered alien race, and finds out that, according to T'Pol, "tri-gendered reproduction is not uncommon" in the Star Trek galaxy. The "neutral" gender of which the cogenitor is a part produces an enzyme necessary for males and females to reproduce. Despite the crucial function the cogenitor performs, it lives in conditions Tucker believes are akin to slavery. His struggles to get the cogenitor to understand that it can have a more independent life meet with some success, but ultimately the imposition of human, dual-gendered attitudes on the situation merely serve to throw the cogentior into mental chaos. It ends up committing suicide at the end of the episode.

Androgynous species have been seen in Star Trek as well, as evidenced by "The Outcast ". The people featured in the episode are a single-sex species who find distinctions of gender inappropriate. There are also a number of instances in which a species' androgyny has a less central role to the plot, as with the Axanar of the Enterprise episode, "Fight or Flight".

Another Enterprise episode, "Unexpected", introduced the Xyrillian. They were a species who separated the functions of reproduction differently than most dual-gendered species. Males had no role in conception but were responsible for pregnancy and childbirth. The fertilized egg was transferred to their bodies in a way that did not appear sexual to humans. Commander Tucker thus became involved in the first inter-species pregnancy in the Star Trek narrative chronology. He was, according to T'Pol, also the first human male to become pregnant.

Trill sexuality is complicated. Although Trill hosts clearly are a part of a dual-gendered species, the gender of the symbionts, and indeed their method of reproduction, has never been made explicit. Joined Trill that have bonded with male and female hosts have some commonality with transgendered humans, but are in fact the precise opposite of the species in "The Outcast". They are pansexual, with clear memories of what it is like to have been the opposite gender, or to have had a different sexual preference. Any single sexual act between two hosts involves four individuals all coming to an agreement that the sexual episode should proceed. The potential for the symbiont to overrule the desires of the host (or the converse) is so great, in fact, that taboos on sexuality have nothing to do with gender or sexual preference. Sanctions are shown to be in place against "reassociation" of a symbiont with lovers of a previous host. Symbionts in a new host are encouraged to cut off any contact with an old familiar life, be it lovers, families or friends. Trill society emphasizes variety of lovers, and not gender, as the matter of highest sexual relevancy.

References

Further reading

  • Shaw, Debra Bonita (2006). "Sex and the Single Starship Captain: Compulsory Heterosexuality and Star Trek: Voyager". FEMSPEC: an Interdisciplinary Feminist Journal Dedicated to Critical and Creative Work in the Realms of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Surrealism, Myth, Folklore, and Other Supernatural Genres 7 (1): 66–85.
  • Aul, Billie "Prisoners of Dogma and Prejudice: Why There Are no G/L/B/T Characters in Star Trek: Deep Space 9". Foundation: the International Review of Science Fiction 31 (86): 51–64.
  • Good Sex and Star Trek: Where Few Women Have Gone before By: Putnam, Amanda. pp. 171-86 IN: Malcolm, Cheryl Alexander (ed. and introd.); Nyman, Jopi (ed. and introd.); Ickstadt, Heinz (foreword); eros.usa: Essays on the Culture and Literature of Desire. Gdansk, Poland: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Gdanskiego; 2005.
  • GenerAsians: Transgressive Sexuality and Transformations of Identity By: Dariotis, Wei Ming; Dissertation Abstracts International, Section A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, 2001 May; 61 (11): 4384. U of California, Santa Barbara, 2000.
  • Bick, Ilsa J. "Boys in Space: Star Trek, Latency, and the Neverending Story". 35 (2): 43–60.
  • Joyrich, Lynne "Feminist Enterprise? Star Trek: The Next Generation and the Occupation of Femininity". Cinema Journal 35 (2): 61–84.
  • Golumbia, David "Black and White World: Race, Ideology, and Utopia in Triton and Star Trek". Cultural Critique 32 (0): 75–95.
  • Romantic Myth, Transcendence, and Star Trek Zines By: Lamb, Patricia Frazer. pp. 235-255 IN: Palumbo, Donald (ed.); Erotic Universe: Sexuality and Fantastic Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood; 1986.
  • Cranny-Francis, Anne "Sexuality and Sex-Role Stereotyping in Star Trek". Science-Fiction Studies 12 (3 [37]): 274–284.

External links

Search another word or see chimed inon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature