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Space, the final frontQUEER

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Published on 01 February 2023

Andrew Ingleby, Disability Services Co-ordinator
Andrew Ingleby, Disability Services Co-ordinator

‘Behind the Lens’ is the official theme for LGBT+ History Month 2023. With the aim of celebrating the hard work, passion and dedication of LGBT+ individuals in the media industry, this year's LGBT+ History Month looks to highlight the contributions made to the production of film and cinema from #behindthelens.

From Directors, to Screen Writers, Costume Designers to Make Up Artists, Musicians to Choreographers and beyond, LGBT+ individuals deserve to have their contributions and professional accomplishments celebrated.

Andrew Ingleby, Disability Services Co-ordinator at the University of Sunderland and member of the Pride Network, writes about their love Star Trek and the importance it has in terms of visibility for the LGBT+ Community.


Anyone who knows me, or even just follows my Instagram (@arrowsingleby) will know three things about me; 1. I’m a proud Cat-dad, 2. I’m gay and 3. I’m a massive Trekkie often to be seen sporting a Starfleet insignia/badge.

Many people think this is just because I love the Star Trek shows with all the characters, planets, cool technology, and star ships (which isn’t untrue). But I wear the badges and love the shows because of bigger things too…

On September the eighth 1966 Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, presented this little planet of Earth with a radical view of the future. He showed the world a United Federation of Planets where everyone was accepted, different cultures were celebrated, and all lifestyles were represented. A group of planets who all said, ‘there are bigger goods to be achieved through acceptance and cooperation, than through discrimination’. After all the Vulcans (see Mr Spock to see what they look like) have a central tenant of their culture ‘Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations’. This is why Star Trek lives rent-free in my heart and mind, and why I wear my Trekkie-ness with pride!

Star Trek over the years has pushed boundaries with its story lines and in recent years has strived to give the world more prominent LGBTQ representation, with gay couples, non-binary characters, and even polyamorous relationships. Let’s start with the wise and long-lived characters of Jadzia Dax and Lenara Khan.

One thing to mention right off about these two female characters is…they have worms in their stomachs who have lived lifetimes in others and retain and share their former host’s memories. Nothing too confusing right?! Well, that is until two of these ‘Symbionts’ have a heterosexual relationship in days gone by and now live in new hosts and then bump into each other. This storyline led to what is believed to be the first same-sex kiss in Star Trek and several other shows. This episode (‘Rejoined’) was one in a great line of stories in Star Trek of showing representation and acceptance matters. The only shame being it was a one-episode tip of the hat and took a wacky story line and the sci-fi metaphor to do it.

So years passed by, and Star Trek disappeared from TV screens for several years, but in 2017 Star Trek Discovery hit the Trek world being hailed as the return and saviour of the Star Trek TV format. Exciting times for us all, but none moreso than us gays, as Discovery had a gay couple and characters at the heart of its story! Enter Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber. This adorable and conflicted couple represents a major step forward in representation for the LGBTQ community, not only are they a gay couple, but they also later meet and adopt a non-binary wunderkind (Adira) and their boyfriend (Grey), showing the world a family of the other. The indominable couple help Adira and Grey navigate a complicated history with few role models, a complicated family dynamic and personal changes such as transitioning. It’s fair to say this little family has a lot going on, whilst showing ‘we’re just like you…but in space’.

While these recent storylines and characters, with new ones emerging, bring LGBTQ viability to the fore, it’s worth noting that Star Trek has always had gays at the heart of the show (even if it’s been in futuristically closeted actors). George Takei (Sulu from The Original Series) and Zackary Quinto (Spock for the 2009 onward reboot movies) are openly gay actors now, but for Takei, all his years staring as the Helmsman of the USS Enterprise were done so from the closet. So accepting is Star Trek, that in the movie Star Trek Beyond the character of Sulu was confirmed to be gay, with a husband and daughter.

Star Trek is not completely a world not without conflict or the need to learn and this is echoed in this quote from its Creator Gene Roddenberry:

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."  [Gene Roddenberry, to The Humanist, 1991]

In fact, the opinions of ‘The Great Bird of the Galaxy’ (a nickname for Roddenberry) changed so much that he realised and pushed for gay representation in Star Trek at a time where his power in the franchise was waning, stating at a convention in Boston in 1986:

‘Sooner or later, we’ll have to address the issue. We should probably have a gay character’.

Now that might not seem a much to drive the cause, but at a time where the AIDS pandemic was a real worry to many, and associated with just the gay community, it was huge! Showing that people can change and make the world more accepting and a little bit brighter.

Star Trek is important to me, because in these dark days where there are political questions about if gay family rights and relationships should be taught in schools alongside heterosexual ones, I see a light in the fact that the future could be better. After all, if someone can write about it and think up ways to represent the LGBTQ community, then others can stretch their minds to accept it also.

Live Long and Prosper.