Progressive politics have always been at the forefront of Star Trek’s core messaging, even when the show has had to fight tooth and nail against the more conservative mindset of present-day television executives to get that message across. Everyone knows, for example, about how reluctant NBC was to film the now-famous scene in “Plato’s Stepchildren” where Kirk and Uhura kiss (not the very first interracial kiss on American television, but certainly one of the first scripted kisses between a black and white actor), because they feared the scene would offend Southern affiliates.
It’s because of this type of studio meddling that Star Trek has never quite been able to jump over the hurdle of LGBT representation, despite the best efforts of cast and crew. According to noted activist and Star Trek alum George Takei, Gene Roddenberry didn’t dare risk an episode about gay rights in the ’60s while the show was in danger of being canceled; in 1986 he promised he would do better with Star Trek: The Next Generation, but David Gerrold, who once wrote a script about the AIDS crisis for TNG that was never aired, argued that any outright attempts to portray gay characters were botched due to “the homophobia of one or two people in a position to throw monkey wrenches into the works.”
(Of course, there is some very subtle queer subtext here and there in the Star Trek canon if you know where to look. Yes, Kirk and Spock have been a favorite pairing for decades, but in my opinion Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which technically featured the franchise’s first on-screen same gender kiss, is a much better place to go for that sort of thing. Trust me. Give it a few seasons and you’ll love it.)
Anyway, this is all to say that Star Trek Discovery will now finally have the first openly gay character in a Star Trek TV series (not the first in the franchise thanks to Star Trek Beyond) as played by openly gay actor Anthony Rapp. This is great for two reasons: 1) it is a positive step towards righting a wrong that’s taken decades to overcome, and 2) it will make it much easier for us to weed out the people who should not be allowed to watch Star Trek anymore, because they clearly didn’t get it the first time.
You know who I’m talking about. People like this:
Now, despite my rhetoric I can’t actually police what people are allowed to enjoy in their own free time and in the privacy of their own home — nor should I, or anyone, because that’s a slippery slope that leads to book burnings. But if you find yourself saying things like this on a regular basis, about how the gays and liberals are ruining Star Trek, then consider that you should never have been wasting your time with the show in the first place.
Star Trek always was, in the words of Gene Roddenberry himself, “an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.” And yes, that includes gay people. Just like it included Black people and Asian people and women (even if these shows weren’t always great with women) and Russians and Scots and Native Americans (although they should probably take another pass at that one, too, because Chakotay… well, Chakotay, huh) and aliens and various kinds of robot people, and Irish dudes who are best, best friends with British dudes of Middle Eastern descent. Like maybe the Irish dude’s Japanese wife is a little jealous, those kinda best friends. They might not be perfect and they might mess up a lot too, but all have a place in the future, and they’re willing to share it with you! You just have to learn to enjoy being around people who don’t share your exact experiences!
I understand that overcoming prejudices is often difficult, and not always the fault of an individual who experiences them — maybe you grew up in an environment where bigotry was encouraged, or you feel threatened by the idea that your own place in the world might be shrinking. That’s okay. That’s normal! But if you’re not actively working to overcome those feelings and learn how to “delight in differences,” then I’m sorry, but Star Trek is not for you. It never was. Go find another final frontier to explore, and leave the rest of us alone.