Takei Discusses Hope and Backlash After Coming OutBy Michelle
April 12, 2006 - 8:24 PM
George Takei spoke to the official Star Trek site about his sexuality, the politics of equality and his full schedule over the next few months, reiterating his desire to spread human rights to all Americans.
In a new video interview at StarTrek.com, the first of several planned by the site from CBS studios, Sandy Stone asked Takei about his experiences since coming out last October. "It almost overshadowed the indictment of Scooter Libby," laughed Takei, and then led to inevitable jokes on late night television. But as for the phrase "coming out", noted Takei, "We've been out, my partner [Brad Altman] and I, for a long, long time. We've been together for two decades...our names have been together carved in granite on building walls."
What changed was that Takei discussed his sexual orientation and private life with the press, saying that because of the nature of his career and civic work, he had never made that a public issue. He reiterated that the California legislature had passed a same-sex marriage bill, and "I really thought California and Massachusetts were going to become the bookends of the United States" in supporting gay rights and gay marriage. All the bill needed was the signature of one other actor to become law - Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Takei said that because Schwarzenegger was from the motion picture industry and had worked with gays and lesbians, he expected him to sign the bill, but the governor "played to the narrowest, most reactionary segment of his constituency and vetoed that bill." As a result, noted Takei, he felt that he had to speak out, and in order for his voice to be authentic, he needed to go public to the press about his sexual orientation.
Asked why people are so intrigued by the fact that "Mr. Sulu, so to speak, is gay", in Stone's words, Takei pointed out that Sulu is not gay and that might be part of the reason for the interest. "They thought, because I played Sulu as a heterosexual guy, the fact that the actor is playing him is gay...that is news." Sex, he added, is a primal instinct and a point of interest among celebrities in general. This year, he noted, several straight actors earned Oscar nominations for playing gay characters, including Heath Ledger's "heartbreaking" performance in Brokeback Mountain, Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote who "was very out and very fey" and Felicity Huffman playing a transsexual in transition.
When he was teenager, added the actor, "it was an anguishing time" to realize that his hormones reacted in a way not considered normal. He looked at muscle magazines when no one was around, then grabbed girly magazines when anyone came by. Nowadays, he cited Time magazine's issue on gay teenagers last year and said the gist of the article is that "We are making forward movement. However, he added, "whenever forward movement is made, there is always the backlash." Takei believes that if heterosexual marriage has to be protected, the marriage itself is very fragile...a concept borne out by high divorce rates, infidelity, abuse and other problems. "It may be man and woman, but that is not marriage."
Takei is in the midst of a speaking tour of university campuses on the issue of equality for the Human Rights Commisson and has narrated a documentary, Crossing East, about Asian immigrants - another issue near to his heart, as his family experienced persecution and incarceration during World War II. In terms of the experiences he and his partner have had among Trek fans and others since their public declaration, "Our loins were girded for that backlash," he said, and "it was really a pleasant surprise" how positive the mail, e-mail and comments were.
The hate mail, he added, was almost all anonymous, while he received moving letters from gays and lesbians who identified with his experiences and also "mail from straight male married suburban Republicans" who said they were willing to support gay marriage in states like Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania, where the legislature is now considering a bill to amend the state constitution to ban same sex marriages.
For the full interview, see StarTrek.com, where the video can be streamed live.