In the past few days, my social media feeds have been full of anguished cries over the new Star Trek movie and the fact that Sulu is a aay man. Now if you know me, you know I’m a Trekker. I live for Sci-Fi, I breathe Sci-Fi, and I dream in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Science Fiction and Fantasy are my mainstay. They are what helped me through a difficult youth, they are what come to mind when I write my books and short stories. They are the subjects of many pieces of Queer fanfic I have written. It’s my dream, my desire, to see people like me in more Sci-Fi. I want to see well developed Lesbian characters. I want to see humans who aren’t on the gender binary. I want to see Trans people, I want to see those with Asperger’s and other disabilities and not have them automatically be alien.
Do I think that the outcry is a bit much? Possibly. Do I understand and respect the rights of people to have opinions other than mine? Absolutely. I embrace (as does Star Trek), diversity and inclusion. Yes I have a problem with those that think homosexuality in Star Trek is excluding the bigots (yes I actually saw someone complain their cisgender, heterosexual, white male arse was being excluded). My main issue, however, is not limited to Star Trek, but to Science Fiction as a genre. Where is the increased representation of women, and in particular, Queer women, and Queer disabled women?
When I look at a screen, be it cinema, television, laptop, iPad, or whatever, and want to watch a television show/webseries/film, I want that media to have someone who represents me. Particularly if it’s in a genre I relate to. I want to have someone who represents at least part of my identity. And particularly when it comes to my sexuality, gender orientation, and disabilities. They don’t all have to be in the same show/film but they do have to have some representation somewhere. It’s 2016! We should have moved beyond the tokenism of a gay male in media. We should have moved beyond only a handful of gender representations. We shouldn’t have to watch, for the most part, able-bodied actors playing disabled roles.
Where are the role models for future generations? I remember being a kid and watching Babylon 5 and realising for the first time in life (thanks to Susan Ivanova and Talia Winters) that there was an option other than heterosexuality. I have fond memories of watching the British drama, Bad Girls and seeing women of varying sexualities. But those two shows were seven years apart. I don’t want future generations of Queer women struggling to find a representation to fit them. Not all of us see ourselves in the same people. Whilst shows like The Fosters are great for shining a light on lesbian couples having relationships like heterosexual couples, and Lost Girl gives us a spectrum of sexuality, where are the gender non-binary female bodied women (yes I know Ruby Rose is one of them, but Ruby is only one representation). Where are the kick-ass Sci-Fi lesbians (other than Cosima in Orphan Black) who don’t conform to stereotypes and don’t get killed off in one of the biggest TV tropes that is currently out there.
I adore shows like Inhuman Condition, staring a Sci-Fi favourite of mine, Torri Higginson. In this webseries, Torri plays a Queer woman and she does it well. I am in love with Tello Films who bring us good, real, believable Lesbian (and Queer) content. But we as Queer women deserve to have representation in every genre. We deserve to see that our lives are valued. I don’t want the women who supposedly represent us to be killed off (hello Kenya in Defiance), I don’t want our sexuality to be seen as nothing more than a dalliance which changes when a man appears. I don’t want to watch entire films believing I see a Queer woman in front of me who is played by an actor I love, to find out that that character has been faking it all along. It’s not believable and it’s certainly not representative of my experience, or the experience of the Queer women that I know. Bisexuality exists. If you want your character to fall in love with someone of each binary sex then they are bisexual. If you want your character to fall in love with someone regardless of sexuality or gender, then they are Pansexual. How about giving us some Asexual women characters whilst you’re at it? Ones who aren’t cybernetic in some way or another.
I want to see Queer women who have mobility issues in lead roles. I want to see Queer women with learning disabilities and neurological issues. I clung to Seven of Nine in Star Trek Voyager, because she had difficulty in processing emotion. But that was in part due to her cybernetics and being raised by the Borg. I want to see Queer women with mental health issues. These are the things that are often lacking in the way the media represents people. And yes, by all means, tell me as a writer, if I want to see them I should write them. I am and I do. But as an indie author, the handful of people who read my work are just that, a handful of people. We need to come together and join other voices by putting out real representations of our lives and representations of us in roles traditionally reserved for able-bodied heterosexual cisgender males.
One of the most refreshing tales I’ve read when it comes to sexuality and being a Queer woman recently, is Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan. The main character, Accala, is bisexual, and it isn’t a big deal. It’s just a part of who she is, and on reading it, I was pleasantly surprised to see how naturally and easily it flowed into the storyline. This is the sort of thing I want to be seeing on my screen as well as reading in Sci-Fi books. There are other characters in the book that also hold a fluid sexuality (particularly women) and I have to admit that after reading the full book, I found myself choking back tears at how genuinely that representation had come across. As well as being an epic Sci-Fi saga, it’s believable and I can’t wait for the next installation.
All I, and others like me, are asking for, is the chance to be seen in the media we so actively devour.