sulu gay

The Star Trek franchise has been progressive since its earliest days, when it was bold enough to feature a starship crew composed of various ethnicities and backgrounds working together to explore the galaxy and better humanity. The portrait of a universe where people embrace each other’s differences and just work together to get the job done has always been as much of a draw for Trek fans as all of the weird science fiction and planet-hopping adventuring.

However, fans have spent years wondering when Star Trek would boldly go where it has never gone before and finally introduce a major gay character. Now, we’ve learned that Star Trek Beyond has broken through this barrier by revealing that Hikaru Sulu, the Enterprise helmsman played by John Cho, has a husband (and a young daughter) waiting for him back on Earth.

The decision to make Sulu gay is an obvious tribute to actor George Takei, who famously played Sulu in the original television series from 1966 through 1969 before reprising the character in the first six Star Trek films. Takei came out in 2005 and has since become a prominent and vocal activist for LGBTQ rights. He married his partner, Brad Altman, in 2008 and has been with him for 29 years.

While Sulu being gay is new to the Trek canon, it doesn’t clash with anything that has come before. After all, the character never had a romantic partner in any of his previous onscreen outings. However, we did learn that he had a daughter, Demora Sulu, in 1994’s Star Trek: Generations. In other words, Star Trek Beyond has managed to deepen the Trek canon and make a social statement without contradicting anything in the franchise’s fifty-year history. That’s impressive stuff.

This entire revelation came out when Cho spoke with the Herald Sun, where he emphasized that Justin Lin‘s new film doesn’t even make a big deal out of Sulu’s orientation:

I liked the approach, which was not to make a big thing out it, which is where I hope we are going as a species, to not politicize one’s personal orientations.

And honestly, that’s the way to approach it. In the utopian future of Star Trek, no one is going to care if you love a man or a woman – that’s just the way things are and no one bats an eye. I may be the only fan of Independence Day: Resurgence on the face of the planet, but I think many of us can all agree that the film’s casual reveal that two major characters are gay is a refreshing chance of pace. Too often, the entertainment industry forces its LGBTQ characters to be defined entirely by their sexuality…and that’s when they’re even acknowledging sexuality that isn’t heteronormative. I don’t know about you guys, but I love that Star Trek is still living up to its progressive mission statement in the year 2016, even if it took a little too long.

Star Trek Beyond opens on July 22, 2016.

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