Star Trek’s First Official Gay Character Is John Cho’s Sulu

john cho as sulu

When Star Trek: Beyond, the third installment in the original series reboot, opens on July 22nd, fans will learn more about fan favorite Hikaru Sulu (John Cho). Namely, the fact that he has a husband and a daughter waiting for him back on Earth.

Star Trek has long been a pioneer in terms of diversity, but Sulu will be the series’ first openly gay main character. In an interview with the Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, Cho said that making Sulu gay was a nod to George Takei, who originated the character back in the 1960s. Takei is openly gay and has long been an activist for LGBTQ+ rights.

Director Justin Lin and writer Simon Pegg, who also plays Scotty, wanted the reveal to be nonchalant, a hopeful sign of changing times.

“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 politicise one’s personal orientations,” said Cho.

Interestingly, Takei was less than thrilled with the idea of revealing Sulu’s sexuality in the new film. In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Takei admits that he had approached series creator Gene Roddenberry in the ’60s hoping that the socially minded science fiction show could work in a storyline about the gay rights movement. Unfortunately, the famous kiss between Kirk and Uhura (the first interracial kiss on television) had recently aired and given the show its lowest ratings ever, and Roddenberry was worried that any further risks would get the show cancelled.

Takei also expressed concern that revealing Sulu’s sexuality now, three films into the franchise, would make it seem as though he had been closeted before. When Cho told him about having Sulu come out, Takei thought it would be better to introduce a new character altogether. “I told him, ‘Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted,'” Takei told THR.

I can respect Takei’s concerns. After all, if it’s no big deal that Sulu is gay, this is something that could have been mentioned earlier in the franchise, making it seem like less of a last-minute change. Of course, the Sulu to whom Takei is referring is one from an alternate timeline and doesn’t necessarily apply to the current franchise. John Cho’s Sulu has given no indication as to his sexuality; it isn’t as though they’ve been heavily hinting that he is straight only to go “plot twist! he’s gay!”. It’s no secret that the assumed default sexuality is heterosexual, and making Sulu gay flies in the fact of that convention.

After the year that LGBTQ+ characters have had, honestly, I think this is a great decision. Not only will one of the leads in a big-budget blockbuster be openly gay, but they announced it before the film came out, basically daring bigots to boycott. He’s also John Cho, who is a) awesome and b) a person of color. In addition, Sulu is happily married. He has a family. His sexuality is not his only story; it is simply part of his character.

What do you guys think of this news? Let us know!

Author: Jamie Sugah

Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.

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