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Diversity and Inclusion in Star Trek

Sovereign’s Sam Lewis (right) and their wife, Claire.

Diversity and Inclusion in Star Trek

June marks Pride month, celebrating diversity and inclusivity in the LGBT+ community. Star Trek has had mixed success with representation of LGBT+ individuals despite being otherwise representative of other minorities such as people of colour and those with a disability. Despite these hiccups the enduring message in Star Trek has always been one of inclusion and nothing demonstrates this more than Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

IDIC was first heard during the season 3 TOS episode “Is There In Truth No Beauty” where the symbol is first seen and talked about by Spock and Dr Jones, the actress whom went on to play the polarising TNG character Dr Polaski.

In it’s 50+ years, Star Trek barely touched on LGBT issues with two rare examples being Deep Space Nine’s ‘Rejoined’ and The Next Generations ‘Outcast’ – an episode Jonathan Frakes has said never went far enough in it’s exploration.

The Original Series did not have any openly LGBT+ characters and whilst Roddenbery promised gay characters in The Next Generation, he died shortly after and these plans never materialised. That said, TNG has attempted to address the subject of gender and sexuality with The Outcast, The Offspring and The Host being episodes that immediately come to mind. Enterprise went on to address the stigma surrounding AIDS in a marginalised group of people in the season 2 episode Stigma.

All of these episodes brought with them their own issues, perhaps indicative of the time in which they were produced? Maybe, although other TV shows and movies released prior to the mid 90s managed to successfuly integrate LGBT+ individuals into their casts in leading roles. Desperate Living was a 70s film featuring a self-hating trans man, and Heartbeat in the late 80s featured a lesbian main character.

Discovery introduced the franchise’s first same sex couple Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber – both portrayed by openly gay actors and equality advocates Anthony Rapp & Wilson Cruz.

Certainly LGBT+ representation has improved greatly over the years and in the last decade we have slowly but surely started seeing more LGBT+ characters in Star Trek. Discovery’s Paul Stammets and Hugh Culber are the first main cast gay couple that CBS has given us and I try to ignore the tendency to slip into the Bury Your Gays trope (whereby LGBT+ characters can never seem to catch a break, with one bad thing after another happening to them), instead choosing to live in hope for a happier season 3 for our estranged duo. We shall see what future Trek brings to the table!

Sadly despite our fandom containing, for the most part, some of the most inclusive and accepting fans, our society is still some way from achieving a norm where our differences are not just tolerated but embraced. LGBT+ individuals are far more likely to have experienced a hate crime or abuse than those not a member of the community.

One in five LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation in the last 12 months. This rises to two in five for trans people because of their gender identity over the same period. Is it any wonder then that members of the LGBT+ community find themselves more likely to experience a range of mental health problems such as depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and alcohol and substance misuse.

What can you do? Be an ally. Speak up against hate crimes against LGBT+ people and if you yourself are LGBT+ then report all incidents of homophobic, biphobic or transphobic behaviour that you experience so that the company or service can take action.

I hope that we can continue to strive for a fairer society for all. Stand proud in who you are my friends, and Live Long and Prosper.

Ensign Sam Lewis
Acting Chief of Security
USS Sovereign

A freelance sample maker and mixed media artist, Sam Lewis is one of the fleet’s talented crafters as well as an advocate for equality and for spreating awareness of Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease. You can see some of their work and learn more about them by following The Crippled Crafter on Facebook, or learn more about life with CMT at Chronicles of a Crafty Cripple.

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