George Takei revealed he still feels guilty for not coming out sooner and standing up for his sexual identity.
The actor famed for his performance of Sulu on the ground-breaking television series Star Trek told The Guardian he wished he had followed the brave example of his parents but was fearful of the impact coming out would have on his burgeoning career in Hollywood.
Takei told The Guardian he still had "an immense sense of guilt in not standing up" sooner for himself and the community, but he recalled the tenor of the times when even the rumor of homosexuality was enough to end a star's career. He specifically recalled Tab Hunter, the 1950s and '60s heartthrob who was outed by a gossip magazine.
"Warner Brothers dropped his contract, vilified him, called him box-office poison," Takei said. "I was stunned."
Takei said the lesson he took away from the experience at the time was "you can't be an actor and be gay at the same time."
Unfortunately for Takei, he "passionately wanted to be an actor" so he remained in the closet.
The entire experience was especially difficult for Takei because of the example set by his parents when they refused to sign a loyalty oath disavowing any allegiance to Japan since they only had loyalty to the U.S.
"It was torture being closeted because my instinct was to speak out," he said. "My parents had stood their ground on the loyalty questionnaire. They were principled."
As a result, they spent much of World War II in an internment camp in central California.
Takei rose to fame as the loyal helmsperson on the USS Enterprise to William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk on the original Star Trek TV series. The popular show has seen many spinoffs and film iterations. The franchise has also provided affirmation for the community with its LGBTQ+ characters and storylines. The most recent print edition of Out features the impact of Star Trek on the LGBTQ+ community and many of its current stars including Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz as the space dads we need, a wise and proud Mary Wiseman as Ensign Sylvia Tilly, Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander as transgalactic heroes, and Emily Coutts explaining how the series helped her come out.
Takei came out later in life but has been a vocal activist for the LGBTQ+ community since. He said he sees Hollywood as a more welcoming place for the community than in the past, but work remains.
"There's no denying we have made amazing progress in terms of telling the LGBTQ+ story and having LGBTQ+ performers now acting and maintaining a career," Takei said. "But...there's always that 'but' in Hollywood and in America. Issues still remain."
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