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Thread: Sexual Diversity in Star Trek

  1. #1

    Talking Sexual Diversity in Star Trek

    Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations:
    Sexual Diversity in Star Trek (p. 1/2)

    James Sheldon
    February 2, 2000
    Kresge 42- SDS: Star Trek
    Mr. Doss

    Homosexuality in Star Trek is one of the more hotly debated issues among fans and viewers of the series. The conspicuous lack of gay characters has troubled many viewers who feel that the philosophy of Star Trek, of a positive inclusive vision of the future, should include sexual diversity. And the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC (loosely translated as Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) seems to suggest that homosexuality would be welcomed and accepted in the 23rd century. The whole philosophy of the show is about diversity and acceptance and tolerance for other races and other ways of thinking. Why should this not extend to sexual orientation?

    There have been several episodes that have touched directly or indirectly on homosexual themes. Gender-switching was touched upon in “Turnabout Intruder,” where the vengeful Janice Lester switches minds with Captain Kirk. It raises the question of whether a relationship between the Kirk body with Lester’s mind with a women would be a heterosexual or homosexual one. Fortunately for our brains, the producers didn’t write in any sexual relationships into that episode.

    The first real episode to deal with the issue of homosexuality, however, was the Host. In this episode, the alien Trill Ambassador Odan and Dr. Crusher fall in love. Ambassador Odan is on the Enterprise to mediate a dispute between two moons that have been at war for generations. His own father resolved a similar dispute 40 years ago. He insists on taking a shuttle rather than the transporter and is terminally injured. It is then revealed that he is a symbioant. The symbioant (funny creature that lives inside him) is implanted in Riker in order to complete the peace negotiations and resolve the dispute. The new trill host then arrives.

    She is female. Dr. Crusher is unable to deal with this. She rationalizes her beliefs by stating that: “We are not accustomed to these kind of changes… I can’t live with that kind of uncertainty.” Latent homophobia or just natural resistance to change? Who knows? Roberts states that “The literal transfer into a female body proves too much for her [Beverly’s] homophobic prejudice” (115). But she does redeem herself, at least partially, with her next comment that seems to apply to all homosexual relationships and to our own society at large—“Perhaps someday our ability to love won’t be so limited.” And she reaffirms her love for Odan, even in his? her? present form with her words: “Odan, I do love you. Please remember that.”

    The Outcast is an episode that deals with the androgynous J’Naii, who do not have gender. The episode on the surface deals with gender and gender identity. It starts off by dealing with the differences between genders.
    Soren, a J’Naii who is working with Riker, asks him what the difference between males and females are. He replies that boys are “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” and girls are “sugar and spice and everything nice.” When she seems confused, he adds that men have a stronger upper body, different sexual organs, and can’t bear young. Soren asks Dr. Crusher what it’s like to be a woman and observes that women seem to “have longer hair, arrange it more elaborately, and put color on their bodies.” Crusher states that “Men want to be attractive too… They want to pretend that they aren’t doing anything to attract the woman even when its the most important thing on their mind.” She states that women used to be considered weak and inferior in the past but that this hasn’t been true for hundreds of years.
    Later, at a poker game, Troi deals out a game with 3 wild-cards. Worf remarks that it is “a woman’s game.” When they question him on it, he argues that “All those wild cards… They support a weak hand. A man’s game has no wild cards.” Crusher is disgusted and states that she had told Soren that women were not considered inferior and that perhaps she was wrong. Worf then states that he finds the J’naii unsettling.

    This exploration of gender issues really touches on the ambiguity we have with gender roles and the difference between the genders in this modern era of “equal rights” and “gender equality.”

    What the “Outcast” though is clearly making an analogy and comparison to, however, is sexuality and specifically homosexuality and gay rights. Even the producer and writer of the episode, Jeri Taylor, states that “’The Outcast,’ though, is a gay rights story. It absolutely, specifically and outspokenly dealt with gay issues.” (Tulloch and Jenkins 255, cited in Roberts 117)
    Worf’s reaction to the J’naii shows his prejudice towards those who are different. Soren reveals her secret—that she is a female—to Riker, whom she has fallen in love with. This is sort of like the homosexual “coming out” process. She says, “I’d like to tell you something… Something that’s not easy to say… I’m taking a terrible risk telling you that. It means revealing something to you—something that if it was known on my planet would be very dangerous for me.” Putting oneself at risk by revealing their true identity and not knowing how they will react is something many self-identified gay and lesbian people face when “coming out.”

    Soren goes on to say to Riker that “Occasionally, among my people, there are a few who are born different… But in front of Krite and the others, I must be careful not to reveal myself… Those of us who have these urges lead secret and guarded lives—we seek each other out, always hiding, always terrified of being discovered.” This is clearly intended to be similar to the genetic concept of gays, the concept of a closeted gay, and the separate gay community.

    The concept of the “psychotectic therapy” is an analogy to the reparative therapy advocated by conservative religious organizations in the United States. Also, the “I’ve known I was different all my life, but I did not know how or why until I was older” echoes many gay people’s feelings about how they always felt different all their life. And the harassment by the children of the child with gender is quite similar to the discrimination and harassment that gay people face daily.

    Soren’s speech to the court also mirrors the thoughts and words of many gays. “It is not unnatural. I am not sick because I feel this way. I do not need to be helped. I do not need to be cured. What I need and what all those who are like me need—is your understanding and your compassion.” If only people would apply this to their lives and treat those who are different with understanding and compassion. “We talk and laugh… we complain about work and we wonder about growing old. We talk about our families and we worry about the future. And we cry with each other when things seem hopeless. All of the loving things that you do with each other.—THAT IS WHAT WE DO.” People who are different because of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, etc… are still all human beings with feelings, hopes, and dreams. Despite our differences, we are all quite similar. How can we say that some are inferior to others and should be suppressed?

    “And for that—we are called misfits and deviants and criminals? … What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?” What makes us think so indeed. Star Trek again addresses the issue, while using alien races to create a parallel and to project our social situations and dilemmas upon alien races. To again quote Doctor Crusher, “Perhaps some day our ability to love won’t be so limited.”

    According to Roberts, “By defamiliarizing the site… the viewer can attain some distance and perspective on our culture’s homophobia. When alien characters are presented sympathetically, as they are in both ‘The Host’ and ‘The Outcast,’ even a homophobe may find him or herself rooting for a metaphorically homosexual character. (109).

    There have also been deep-space nine episodes that deal with homosexuality. The mirror universe Kira and possibly Garak are bisexual. There is an episode (DS9: Rejoined) where a former lover of Dax, a Trill (strange how homosexuality and Trills seem to go together…) comes back and now they are both women and they share a kiss and reminisce about the past. Once again, an alien race is used to challenge our human prejudices and stereotypes.
    It is clear that Gene Roddenberry had intended to at some point introduce homosexual characters into Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Roddenberry:
    The Last Conversation, the following is written:
    "’I’m sorry I [Gene Roddenberry] never had a homosexual relationship,’ he remarks pensively, out of the blue, one afternoon, ‘because I know that there must be many joys and pleasures and degrees of closeness in those relationships. I think that I have in a way been cursed by having picked my particular time period and background and so on, because I have no doubt that I am capable of homosexualism… as a matter of fact, remind me, I’m in the midst of making a decision about homosexuality—male and female—and how we are going to treat it on Star Trek, the lovely ways in which we will treat it—without defying present average conditions" (Fern 168-169).
    An article from the Los Angeles Times, October 30, 1991, states that "This season it [Star Trek], will again challenge viewers to boldly go where they’ve never gone before. This season gays and lesbians will appear unobtrusively aboard the Enterprise in the 24th century." Apparently after Gene Roddenberry’s death, the studio and producers backpedaled on this promise and refused to include regular gay characters.

  2. #2
    Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations:
    Sexual Diversity in Star Trek (p. 2/2)

    Stein states that: “The powers-that-be who control the Star Trek universe are extremely protective of their product and despite some very tentative occasional explorations of issues involving sexual orientation, they clearly wish to avoid anything that could be construed as male homosexuality in their major characters. ‘How to Submit Creative Material’, a rule sheet for potential authors of Star Trek novels, explicitly states ‘We are not interested in books that suggest anything other than friendship between Kirk and Spock or any other crewmembers’”. Joyrich in “Feminist” 68states that “the absence of a major gay or lesbian character disturbingly suggests that even in the twenty-fourth century, infinite diversity in infinite combinations does not include sexual diversity” (cited in Roberts, 109).

    The actor who plays Captain Picard, Patrick Steward, feels that gay characters should be included in the Next Generation movies: "’It would be very appropriate, ‘ Stewart says, if the upcoming Next Generation movies made it their business to have gay characters… It would be very appropriate right now if the issue of an alternative sexuality could find a place in it" (Advocate, 68-72).

    Many fans, though, have taken the matter into their own hands. Tired of waiting, they have created erotic fiction involving homosexual relationships. The most common form of this is slash fiction, named as such because of the slash between the characters’ names (Kirk/Spock), (Picard/Q), (Data/Geordi), (Troi/Crusher), (Bashir/Garak), and (Paris/Kim). Slash fiction is erotic fiction written involving two same-sex characters in a sexual relationship of some sort. The fans pick up on clues and erotic tension between characters and incorporate it into their fan fiction. Jenkins states in Textual Poaching that “For these fans, the text’s silences about characters’ sexuality or motives can be filled with homosexual desire, since, after all, in our society, such desire must often go unspoken (Tulloch and Jenkins 259). He goes on to state that “In refusing to demarcate a certain denotative space for homosexuality within the text, they left Star Trek open to wholesale reclamation…. Soon, all of the characters are potentially queer—at least on the level of connotation” (261, rpt in Roberts 124)

    One frequently explored relationship is the potential one between Kirk and Spock. Given the closeness of their friendship, it is only “logical” than fans extrapolate from this a homosexual relationship. Even Edith Keller, in the City on the Edge of Forever episode, notes the closeness of their friendship to each other. In Star Trek V, “Captain Kirk, having been rescued by Spock on a Klingon ship, ‘moves towards Spock and reaches for him with both hands. Spock interrupts the embrace with ‘Please, Captain, not in front of the Klingons.’” (Penley 135, cited in Stein)

    Ironically enough, the Spock character is modeled after a role that was originally to be played by a woman—Number One. NBC, the studio that aired the original series, felt that a woman would be too controversial. And Kirk shows his friendship to Spock numerous times. He was willing to sacrifice his life in “Amok Time.” in Star Trek III by putting his career and life on the line to rescue him from the Genesis planet, stating that “The needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many” (Journal of Popular Culture, Summer 1986, 100).

    Numerous resources point to the fact that the “K/S stories constitute an extension of the American literary tradition… and develop to its log ical conclusion the male-male bonding theme…” (Palumbo, 237.) Strangely enough, most of the male-male fiction is written by heterosexual women. A number of explanations have been offered for this, but basically its an enigma.
    Lamb and Veith list the various masculine and feminine qualities of Kirk and Spock, which are much more explicit in K/S fiction. These qualities tend to complement one another: (Lamb, Veith 243)

    Kirk Spock
    “Feminine qualities”
    Femininely beautiful
    Shorter, physically weaker
    Sensuous, engages in much physical touching
    Evokes powerful emotional responses from others “Masculine” qualities:
    Masculinely rugged
    Taller, more powerful
    Controlled, physically distant

    Keeps others at a distance
    “Masculine qualities”

    Is undisputed leader, initiator of action
    Is the “real” or “norm,” always at home
    Is fulfilled prior to Spock, only with acceptance of the bond is he firmly united with Spock
    Spock complements his “athomeness”
    Is sexually promiscuous (bond assures is fidelity)

    Is usually the seducer “Feminine: qualities:

    Sexually controlled (except during his Vulcan mating cycle)
    Needs to be led, follows Kirk into action
    Is the “alien” or “other,” always the “outsider”
    Is fulfilled only with Kirk; felt one-sided fidelity to Kirk even before the bond
    Needs Kirk for full identity

    A virgin until marriage, he exhibits absolute monogamy after marriage
    Is usually seduced, but once unleashed his sexuality is powerful

    Another favorite with fans is the Picard/Q slash fiction and plotlines. Even Patrick Stewart, the actor who plays Picard, admits the sexual tension between him and Q on the show. "Some people have thought Q was gay. I did. Again, I would say this way an impression given you entirely by the quality of the performances rather than by anything that was deliberately placed in the script. [Laughs.] John [de Lance], whose work as brilliant on the show, had a kind of boldness about him, a way of looking at Picard that was provocative. And yes, there was the scene in the bed—although we didn’t make that up. That was written, so we’ve got to commend the writers for that" (Advocate, 72-73).

    There are also a number of incidents where Q seems to be making sexually charged remarks to Picard. In “Qpid,” he shows up in Picard’s bedroom, lifts up the covers, and says, “Sleeping alone?” He says that if he had known Picard was so vulnerable to love, he would have appeared as a female. In “Tapestry,” Q shows up after Picard had made love the night before and greets him with “Morning, darling.”

    Stein quotes Constance Penley as stating that “there was an erotic homosexual subtext there, or at least one that could easily be made to be there.” Q uses vocal inflections and speech mannerisms that are seen by most people to be gay in nature. Q as an intelligent superbeing presumably is genderless, or beyond our limited understanding of gender, yet he has chosen to appear as male. There is also a subtle S+M subtext that some have read into the Q episodes. (Stein)

    Star Trek has successfully used the science fiction medium to challenge our stereotypes, confront our prejudices, and open our minds to a positive and uplifting vision of the future. Why have they not implemented Gene Roddenberry’s vision of openly gay characters in Starfleet—show in the show on a regular basis? Ultimately, Star Trek must realize this and take a leadership role in this arena. Yet it is to be commended for its inclusion of subtly gay-like characters such as Q, and episodes dealing with gender and prejudice and homosexuality. Star Trek, through Soren, puts it best: “What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?” Only by being inclusive of sexuality diversity can Star Trek help us explore what Q refers to as “the unknown possibilities of existence” that so seem to elude Picard.

  3. #3
    Mired in the red dust.
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    majQa, Ziggy! And as always, Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam.

  4. #4
    Thanks, BTW nuq Daq yuch Dapol?

  5. #5
    Mired in the red dust.
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by Ziggy Montana
    Thanks, BTW nuq Daq yuch Dapol?
    It's in the fridge so it won't melt.

    But let's get back to the subject of homosexuality in Star Trek. I've heard that if you ever find your Klingon cellmate trying to turn you into his bitch, the following advice is useful: choSuvchugh 'oy'lIj Daghur neH

    Until that unlucky day however, jachchoHmeH 'Iwraj penaghtaH
    Last edited by Fat Happy Buddha; 06-18-2007 at 06:03 PM.

  6. #6
    I don't know the name of the episode but you forgot to mention a Deep Space 9 episode where Dax meets a former symbiote where the 2 symbiotes were married. At that time Jadzia Dax was male and the other symbiote was inhabiting a female. Now both symbiotes were in females (Jadzia and a scientist). Jadzia tries to convince the scientist to be an outcast and remain with her (because they still share very strong feelings for one another).

  7. #7
    Oddly enough, researchers have found that geeks who spend an inordinate amount of time overanalyzing stuff like Star Trek and Star Wars invariably have no sex life whatsoever.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by JustBob
    Oddly enough, researchers have found that geeks who spend an inordinate amount of time overanalyzing stuff like Star Trek and Star Wars invariably have no sex life whatsoever.
    What about the connection with paedophilia?
    Amantes sunt amentes.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by jimace
    I don't know the name of the episode but you forgot to mention a Deep Space 9 episode
    I didn't write this. The author is James Sheldon. I have just about no interest in Star Trek, having watched maybe half of dozen episodes of the original series and the pilot episode of what was to become a new Star Trek series. The pilot featured an older, overweight, not too clever, Captain Kirk being gang banged by little blue elves on planet Clarion. The producers regretfully decided to can the show.
    Last edited by z/m(Ret); 06-20-2007 at 12:00 PM.

  10. #10

    Smile An Old Story With A Futuristic Spin

    ZM has started an interesting thread, one that straddles the fine line between academic work and pseudo science.

    Most long running TV shows included controversy about how sexuality was portrayed. The relationship between Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke, what really went on between Hoss and Hop Sing on Bonanza, The Andy Griffith show raised questions about Opie's parentage and the love interests of Sheriff Taylor, etc.

    Comics also featured similar debates. The relationship between Batman and Robin, Superman, the origins of the nieces and nephews of Donald Duck, etc.

    Such works often are entertaining but hardly taken seriously.

  11. #11
    Almost forgot that episode in which a bored, imaginativeless and, again, not too clever Captain Kirk transformed himself into a libelous, blue-tongued lizard called Over&Out.
    Last edited by z/m(Ret); 06-25-2007 at 02:46 AM.

  12. #12
    Je suis un artiste incompris.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Happy Buddha
    majQa, Ziggy! And as always, Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam.
    Is that real Klingon? Is it true that people can actually form the basis of the Klingon language by watching Star Trek?

    I watch Voyager... Seven of Nine is HOT... Mama Mia !

  14. #14
    Granby Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon oozes blue fecal material
    Last Updated: Friday, June 25, 2007 | 8:17 AM ET
    The Canadian Press

    Veterinarians at Granby Zoo's Hospital came across something bizarre when they tried to put an anal probe into a Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon about to undergo lobotomy: its fecies were dark blue.

    The blue fecies — reminiscent of the Vulcan pineapple-flavored sperm found in Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame — came as a bit of a shock to Dr. Anthony Gobblinheimer and his colleagues, who report on the unusual case in this week's issue of the journal The Boeotian Digest.

    The 36-year-old primate was already a bit of a medical departure. It had fallen asleep while being taught basic arithmetics, and developed compartment syndrome between its ears.

    The potentially dangerous condition involves a buildup of pressure in grey matter and unless the pressure was relieved, permanent brain damage could have been sustained.

    As surgical staff prepared the primate for the middle-of-the-night emergency operation at Clarion Hospital, Gobblinheimer and a colleague attempted to insert a probe into the rectum.

    Anal probes are used to release intestinal pressure during a lobotomy; any fecal matter that flows when the probe is inserted should be brown, the sign it is normal..

    But in this case it was not.

    "During insertion, we normally see fecal matter come out. That's how we know we're in the right place. And normally that fecal matter is brown, as you would," Gobblinheimer said in an interview Thursday.

    "But in his case, the shit kept coming back as dark blue instead of brown.

    The reaction in the room? "We were very concerned, obviously," said Dr. Klossowitz, who is training in anesthesia at the hospital. Steroids and repeated sodomy may be the cause.

    Samples were rushed off to the lab, which quickly ruled out a dangerous condition called blumogoblin, in which the hemogoblin in the fecal matter can't bind to oxygen.

    While the lab worked, so did the operating team. The primate came through the surgery well.

    The next day, the lab reported it had detected mechemogoblin, a condition thought to be triggered by neuroleptics.

    "It's so rare that we don't have a perfect understanding how it happens, but some drug donates a sulphur group that binds to the crap molecule and prevents it from binding to oxygen," Gobblinheimer explains. "And that gives it the blue colour."

    He and his colleagues believe the condition may have been brought on by the primate's antipsychotic medication, Risperdal, which it was taking in higher-than-advised doses, though they can't prove it.

    Blue fecal matter can be found in some forms of life such as some marine worms. But it is a condition normally associated with science fiction and not medical texts.
    Last edited by z/m(Ret); 06-25-2007 at 10:02 AM.

  15. #15
    Quand publies-tu ton dictionnaire Ziggy?
    Last edited by Agrippa; 06-27-2007 at 07:49 PM.
    Amantes sunt amentes.

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