THEORY: ‘Star Trek’s’ First Gay Character From the Franchise

Screenshot from the "Star Trek: Lower Decks" season two trailer that shows release date

YouTube Screenshot from the "Star Trek: Lower Decks" season two trailer that shows release date

Though the older “Star Trek” shows did a few episodes touching on LGBTQ+ issues and rights, none of the series from the 80s, 90s, or 2000s featured any openly LGBTQ+ characters. There were multiple discussions about including queer characters in these “Star Trek” series, but the characters were never added.

Decades later, “Star Trek: Discovery” introduced two LGBTQ+ characters as members of the core cast of the show. Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber were the first openly queer characters to ever be featured on a “Star Trek” show.

However, they were not the first queer characters in the “Star Trek” franchise.


The First Queer Trek Characters

Neal McDonough as Lieutenant Hawk in "Star Trek: First Contact"

YouTubeNeal McDonough as Lieutenant Hawk in “Star Trek: First Contact”

The first significant recurring queer character in the franchise was introduced in the officially licensed “Star Trek” novel, “Rogue: Section 31,” co-written by Andy Mangels. The book followed Lieutenant Sean Hawk, who was introduced in the TNG movie, “Star Trek: First Contact.”

According to StarTrek.com, before the release of the movie, there were rumors that Hawk was going to be the first canonically gay “Star Trek” character. However, Rick Berman, the head of the franchise at the time, denied these rumors.

Mangels, who recently spoke to Heavy about his career writing “Star Trek” novels and comic books, said that he decided to run with the rumor and make Hawk gay in his book. He gave Hawk a husband named Ranul Keru, and they became the first gay couple in the “Star Trek” franchise.

In “Rogue,” which is a prequel to “First Contact,” both Hawk and Keru served on the Enterprise-E under Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Hawk was also a member of Section 31. He was very conflicted about his role in the covert organization. He eventually revealed his involvement to Keru, who convinced him to talk with a higher-up in the organization. Ultimately, Hawk decided that Section 31 was too morally ambiguous for him, so he quit.

Keru was the main character in several follow-up books co-written by Mangels. In those books, Keru left the Enterprise after Hawk’s death because it was too painful for him to serve aboard the ship where his husband died. Eventually, he ended up on the USS Titan, the ship commanded by William T. Riker and his wife Deanna Troi-Riker.

Mangels co-wrote multiple books set on the Titan, which significantly included Keru.


Could Keru Appear in ‘Lower Decks’?


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Fans of the new “Star Trek” shows recognize the Titan from the references made in “Star Trek: Picard” and the ship’s multiple appearances in “Star Trek: Lower Decks.” The new teaser trailer for “Lower Decks,” released in April 2021, revealed that the Titan will definitely play a part in the second season.

Mangels told Heavy that, so far, “Lower Decks” has not used any of the characters he established in his book series about the Titan. However, the show did use the ship design that was created for the books. So, there is a minor precedent for honoring the content from the books.

Mangels said that if the creators of “Lower Decks” choose to reference any of the established “Star Trek” content about the Titan, they could easily include Keru as an officer on the ship. At the time “Lower Decks” takes place in the “Star Trek” timeline, Keru was serving as the chief of security aboard the Titan, according to Mangels’ books.

Mangels acknowledged that he wouldn’t be surprised if the creators of the show ignored the details he established in his books. Licensed “Star Trek” properties, like the books and comic books, are generally considered outside of the official “Star Trek” canon.

Den of Geek did an extensive breakdown of the argument over whether “Star Trek” book canon is real “Star Trek” canon. Generally, the answer is no. The rule is that the books must adhere to screen canon, but screen canon doesn’t have to adhere to book canon.

However, the team behind each show can choose whether or not to honor the book canon. As Den of Geek pointed out, several names from the books have become official canon. So, the “Lower Decks” team could make the decision to reference the Titan books in their show, or they could ignore them altogether.

Mangels said that he would love to see Keru given new life in “Lower Decks.” He also emphasized that his stance is the more LGBTQ+ representation in “Star Trek,” the better.

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