Roddenberry Considered Gay CharactersBy Michelle
May 13, 2006 - 7:12 PM
Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry told George Takei (Sulu) that he wanted to represent human sexual diversity as well as different ethnicities and cultures on the series, but felt that dealing with such issues on the show might lead to its cancellation.
"He felt that it was important to keep the show on. Because it was precarious," Takei told The Progressive. "In a private conversation with him, this was after the show was cancelled, we were generally talking about diversity, and he suggested that, yes, he was aware of sexual diversity...all three seasons that we were on our ratings were very low. But he implied that this was something he wanted to incorporate."
Takei has been on a speaking tour on behalf of the Human Rights Campaign to speak out in support of gay marriage and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, which he feels are under assault by opportunistic conservative political factions. He said that he has received surprisingly little negative reaction, and most of what he has heard has come not from Star Trek fans but "Bible-thumpers" and people who are "practically illiterate", a majority of whom have not signed their names to their letters.
The actor pointed out that "the large majority of faith-based people are decent, fair-minded people" who should not be characterized as adversaries of equal rights for gays and lesbians. "What we needed to do was reach out and share the lives of GLBT people with that decent, fair-minded group." This is one of the goals of his Equality Trek, as well as stressing what he believes are the parallels between the prejudice he encountered in his youth as a Japanese-American and the prejudice GBLT individuals face. "What I do is I draw that parallel of a nation swept up in wartime hysteria, acting irrationally, with no due process, there were no charges, no trial, we simply looked the people who bombed Pearl Harbor, and that’s why we were incarcerated. And here today my partner and I feel the same kind of imprisonment."
Takei described Roddenberry as "an extraordinary man" and "a real visionary", citing his desire to use television to engage an audience with the idea of diversity as strength. Roddenberry did not know that Takei was gay at the time they discussed whether sexual diversity should be incorporated onto the series, but he said that he wanted a character who was representative of all of Asia, "the brightest guy out of Starfleet academy, a very good helmsman." The name Sulu was chosen from the name of a sea west of the Philippines, the Sulu Sea, because "the waters of the sea touch all shores." Takei felt that the character would help erase some of the stereotypical roles he had previously been offered.