The Outcast

This week I have watched a lot of Star Trek and for a show that’s supposed to be evolved, there isn’t much mention of LGBTQ issues at all. You can spin it in a way that in the 24th century, those issues don’t matter anymore, but the reality of it was that Star Trek always had to tread carefully with the networks and it’s audience. Even though the show was supposed to be futuristic, it still had to deal with present conceptions. (Star Trek was the first television show to have an inter-racial kiss back in the late sixties. Thankfully they didn’t receive negative mail.)

It wasn’t until The Next Generation in the late eighties and early nineties that the show brushed upon LGBTQ and gender identity issues. In the style of Star Trek, the main cast never dealt with these issues directly, but only with aliens (out side the Federation) who had these issues. In one episode called “The Outcast” Commander Riker falls in love with a member of an androgynous race who secretly and illegally identifies as female. The climax of the episode is when she is put on “trial” for her identity. She gives this impassioned plea:

I am tired of lies. I am female. I was born that way. I have had those feelings, those longings, all of my life. It is not unnatural. I am not sick because I feel this way. I do not need to be helped. I do not need to be cured. What I need, and what all of those who are like me need, is your understanding and your compassion. We have not injured you in any way. And yet, we are scorned and attacked. And all because we are different. What we do is no different from what you do. We talk and laugh. We complain about work and we wonder about growing old. We talk about our families, and we worry about the future. And we cry with each other when things seem hopeless. All of the loving things that you do with each other, that is what we do. And for that we are called misfits and deviants and criminals. What right do you have to punish us? What right do you have to change us? What makes you think you can dictate how people love each other?

When I watched this scene, I realized how easily it would be to switch out female and put in lesbian. The wording and the emphasis are the same. So even though this episode is supposed to be about gender identity, I definitely saw a homosexual subtext.

Later on in the episode, Riker comes to rescue Soren from the treatment she must undergo because of her gender identity. But he is too late, as she refuses to go with him. She tells him that she “was sick and had terrible feelings and urges.” The treatment has already begun because she has accepted she was “sick” even though only a few scenes earlier she gave her impassioned plea.

“The Outcast” isn’t the only episode to deal with gender identity or LGBTQ issues in Star Trek. But it’s only among a few.  The most recent on TV was in 2003 and it dealt with HIV/AIDS (allegorically of course, I mean this is Star Trek)

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2 responses to “The Outcast

  1. Hazel

    Funny how Star Trek was so far ahead of its time with the inter-racial kiss, Russian guy on the Bridge, even Black woman on the bridge, in the 1960s, yet nowadays comes over as a bit scared of breaking new territory..

    • Well it’s something to be said that the show that pushed the envelope more got canceled quicker. (actually, I think it was just low ratings or something else)

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