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The Queer History of Star Trek

“When Star Trek Discovery first aired 2017, it also brought with it’s first ever explicitly gay main characters, says trans writer and YouTuber Jessie Gender (nee Earl), “It was a huge deal for the 50 year-old franchise, especially considering that the Trek has always been about celebrating diversity.”

But, Gender continues, “Did you know that this wasn’t the first time Trek tried to tackle queer issues? And no, I’m not talking about the blink and you’ll miss it nod to Sulu being gay in Star Trek Beyond. Even though it was adorable. No, a lot of Trek’s history with queer issues began decades earlier, both from fans and the creators.”

Towleroad spoke to Gender.

TLRD: Why do you think so many queer folks love Star Trek?

I think there’s so many reasons why Star Trek has resonated with queer fans, especially today. 

Star Trek has always had a long, proud history of using science fiction allegory to speak to pressing social issues of the day, even all the way back in the 1960s. And while Trek has largely not focused on queer issues directly outside of a few episodes here and there, it’s become a hallmark of the LGBTQ community to find versions of ourselves in stories of other minority groups onscreen. And on top of that, the small of amount of direct LGBTQ representation that Trek did give in episodes like “The Outcast” in The Next Generation were leaps and bounds ahead of anything else that made it to the small (or big) screen at that time in the early 1990s. Certainly, they weren’t without their faults, especially by today’s standards, but hearing what essentially amounts to a trans woman give a speech about her right to exist on a nationally aired television show in 1993 still feels revolutionary.

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