Today is a historic moment in US history, as the Supreme Court has voted in favor of marriage equality. As a gay man who has been happily married to my loving husband for 3 years, I am thrilled that our union will now be legally recognized in all 50 states. And as a Trekkie I feel that this is a step in the right direction towards making the utopian vision of Earth that Gene Roddenberry gave us a reality. But I also need to take a minute to acknowledge that in the 549 hours & 17 minutes of official Trek canon, there is no mention of any homosexual unions or even gay people. I have to ask: why is that? Surely we (meaning the LGBT community) still exists in the 23rd and 24th centuries and are able to serve in Starfleet, get married, have children, etc. Right? Why do we never see this on screen? Well, the answer is of course that Star Trek is a franchise made in the 20th century by 20th century people with 20th century thinking. It is “of its time” as they say.
George Takei asked Gene Roddenberry about this particular issue back in the 1960’s. George recalls Gene’s response as:
“This is an important issue and we want to deal with it.” However, this was while [TOS was] 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.” Source: Blastr.com
Later when Gene was producing Star Trek: The Next Generation, fans asked him if we’d see any gay characters. He assured them that yes, we would. There was a plan make a member of the medical staff gay in season 3. Also, David Gerrold wrote an episode entitled “Blood and Fire” that featured a gay couple. But soon Gene fell ill and had to step back from the daily work on the show and the gay rights issue was simply not a priority for the new powers that be like Rick Berman.
There is a really great article all about this over on Ex Artis Scientia that I highly recommend reading. It really lays out the whole timeline and every attempt that the writers and producers made at addressing gay people in the show.
In the end, it wasn’t handled well. We didn’t get to see any gay characters in canon. The story doesn’t end there, however. As I’ve said before, the true spirit of Star Trek lives on best in the fan films! A couple years ago David Gerrold dug up his old “Blood and Fire” script and adapted it for Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. In this version of the script we learn that Kirk’s nephew Ensign Peter Kirk is assigned to the Enterprise along with his fiancé medical technician Alex Freeman. Peter asks Captain Kirk to perform their wedding ceremony. There is no homophobia in the episode. There is no mention of “gay marriage”- but just marriage. This is how gay people should be represented in Star Trek. As perfectly normal.
Over on trek.fm the podcast hosts often talk about their “head canon”- meaning what they consider to be canon even though it’s never shown on screen. In my head canon there is complete equality of genders and sexual orientations. Gay marriage is a non-issue in the United Federation of Planets because they recognize everyone’s rights to commit to their partners however they want. It’s just that simple!
Here’s hoping that in future canon productions such as the Paramount produced films or CBS produced television series, my “head canon” can just be “canon”– in the same way that today my “gay marriage” became just “marriage”. 🙂