John Cho’s ‘Star Trek’ Character Is Openly Gay As A Nod To The Original Sulu
It’s a good week for something at least, and that’s diversity, as openly gay characters, females, and people of color are hitting some big upcoming movies and franchises. On Thursday, John Cho announced that his character, Sulu, in Star Trek Beyond is openly gay. That makes him the first openly gay character in the Star Trek Universe. Cho told Australia’s Herald Sun the character’s sexual orientation is a little nod to George Takei, who played the original Hikaru Sulu in the Star Trek series. Takei came out in 2005 and has been an outspoken LGBTQ advocate and activist ever since.
Cho told The Herald Sun, “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.” I like that approach, too, because sexual orientation shouldn’t be a deal. I think Star Trek fans (if they’re accepting of intergalactic space travel and spaceships) can handle that some people in this world fall in love with people of the same sex. The only shame is that is doesn’t sound like Sulu will have a romantic interest aboard whatever spacecraft they’re on this time around. Oh, well.
It’s a great tribute to Takei for Star Trek fans, because when he came out, it was a very big deal. Takei said in 2005 that he always shied away from openly discussing his sexual orientation, but the political and social climate and the discussion surrounding making gay marriage legal helped him reconsider his role as a public figure, according to The Huffington Post.
According to the Today show, at the time he said, “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay. The issue of gay marriage is now a political issue. That would have been unthinkable when I was young.”
He added that prejudice against homosexuals was “against basic decency and what American values stand for.” Since coming out, Takei has more than made up for having to stay closeted for so long. He describes himself on his Twitter bio as “a believer in, and a fighter for, the equality and dignity of all human beings.”
The struggle for LGBTQ civil rights is far from over, even with great guys like Takei at the helm. But having Sulu be openly gay from the start is a small step in the right direction. Representation matters. People need to see themselves in media — whether it’s a black female Iron Man or a gay Star Trek character. It might be too late for some older prejudiced people to come around, but think about all the new Star Trek fans who will grow up just taking Sulu’s sexuality for granted.
Just like they say in Star Trek, the more our culture puts forward diverse characters, the more we “make it so” everyone knows love and acceptance is just the way to be.