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Why Star Trek Matters to LGBTQ+ People

Ed Letter

Out's editor in chief discusses why a show about space is so important to queer Earthlings.

When I was a kid, my dad and I never missed an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was fascinated by the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise's diverse, weird, and wondrous crew of future beings seeking, as Captain Jean-Luc Picard explained in the opening credits, "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before." Cue the horns.

I was inspired by Star Trek's noble mission. (And I may have had a baby crush on actor Wil Wheaton.) More than that, however, Star Trek was a show that both I, in my budding queerness, and my father could enjoy together. No matter our differences, we bonded for one hour each weekend over our shared love of space adventures.

This ability to swoop in viewers from different generations and persuasions is no accident. For over 55 years, Star Trek -- thanks to the vision of creator Gene Roddenberry -- advocated for big-tent inclusion. In doing so, it took historically marginalized people and made them heroes of their own stories. Star Trek: The Original Series not only broke ground when it aired the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), it also signaled to viewers that in the future -- and in the present -- love is limitless.

It took a few decades, but LGBTQ+ love has finally landed with Star Trek: Discovery. In 2017, the Paramount+ series introduced the TV franchise's first gay couple, Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz) and Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp). It later beamed in the first nonbinary and transgender characters, Adira (Blu del Barrio) and Gray (Ian Alexander), also a couple. Discovery's queer credentials don't end there: Mary Wiseman and Emily Coutts came out while acting on the show, iconic out comedian Tig Notaro plays an engineer, and Discovery is helmed by lesbian co-showrunner Michelle Paradise.

Out just released itsHollywood issue. In discussing the advancements (and shortcomings) of the entertainment industry, our editors could think of no better subjects to interview than the folks of Discovery, a show warping not just Star Trek but Tinseltown itself into the 32nd century of LGBTQ+ representation. All the folks mentioned above are profiled in its pages.

This issue was also an opportunity to focus on the importance of geek culture to queer people. We spoke with Lego artist and Trekkie Samuel Hatmaker about how camp culture connected them to community. Our music columnist Taylor Henderson unpacks how his standom of Katy Perry sparked his queer awakening. And Cameron Bess recounts becoming the first furry in space, with their father by their side.

As for my own dad, I recently saw him for the first time since the pandemic hit. When I mentioned Wiseman, he advocated for the return of her character, Tilly, to U.S.S. Discovery; the fan favorite took a leave of absence in season 4's first half to teach at Starfleet Academy. (I agreed!) This conversation reminded me of Star Trek's reach. Usually, I'd have to explain an Out cover's significance to my parents. But there we were, back on the couch, bonding over a shared love of a TV show.

In reviewing this season, which streams Thursday on Paramount+, I was also struck by how resonant the show's themes of found family are right now. As LGBTQ+ people, particularly in this pandemic, it is easy to feel lost in space and time. By finding our crew, we can once again find ourselves -- and maybe, together, make the universe a better place.

You've found your crew here with us, dear reader. Enjoy the voyage ahead.

Daniel Reynolds
Editor in Chief

P.S. A reminder that beginning this year, Out issues will be redesigned to be strictly bimonthly: January/February, March/ April, etc. This will not impact the number of annual issues, but the expiration date for orders will be moved to this format.

This article is featured in Out's January/February 2022 issue, a special LGBTQ+ Star Trek edition appearing on newsstands February 22. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.