The latest installment of one of America’s oldest television franchises will have nonbinary and transgender characters when its new season starts this fall.
“Star Trek: Discovery,” which first premiered on CBS All Access in 2017, has already featured multiple LGBT characters. As the series kicks off its third season this October, two new actors have been added to the cast that will increase representation for the LGBT community.
“Welcome Blu del Barrio and Ian Alexander to the Star Trek Family!” an announcement on the show’s Facebook page states. “They will be playing Adira, Star Trek’s first non-binary character, and Gray, Star Trek’s first transgender character in Star Trek: Discovery Season 3.”
Both del Barrio and Alexander’s characters in “Star Trek: Discovery” reflect their gender identities in real life. Del Barrio is nonbinary while Alexander is transgender.
In 2016, Heather Kadin, an executive producer for “Star Trek: Discovery,” promised that the show would include “female, minority, and LGBTQ characters” because “modern television did not accurately represent those groups in television shows featuring predominantly-Caucasian casts.” Throughout its first two seasons, the show has followed through on this promise.
“Star Trek: Discovery” is the most recent addition to the “Star Trek” franchise, which kicked off in 1966 with the premiere of the science fiction TV series simply named “Star Trek.” The original series featured William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock. ”Star Trek” and all of its offshoots, which include feature films and spinoff television programs such as “Discovery,” have developed a cult following over the years.
The new additions to the cast of “Star Trek: Discovery” represent just the latest example of efforts to introduce LGBT characters into decades-old franchises. Earlier this year, a report surfaced claiming that Sony was planning to make Spider-Man “bisexual and give him a boyfriend” in an upcoming movie.
Last year, the long-running animated Series “Arthur,” based on the children’s book character created by Marc Brown, aired an episode featuring the main character’s third-grade teacher, Mr. Ratburn, marrying his same-sex partner. The decision to promote same-sex marriage on a children’s show that airs on a taxpayer funded network, PBS, was met with outcry from social conservatives.
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The group One Million Moms, an arm of the socially conservative American Family Association, put together a petition asking PBS Kids to pull the episode immediately and refuse to air it in the future. The petition gathered more than 20,000 signatures.
Despite the pushback from social conservatives, TV networks and movie studios continued to incorporate LGBT characters into their programming. In June 2019, the animated children’s series “My Little Pony” featured a lesbian pony couple as part of an effort to recognize the LGBT “pride month.”
The Disney enterprise, also known for producing family-friendly programming, has also worked to include LGBT characters. Last summer, the Disney channel series “Andi Mack” became the first show on the network to feature a gay teen romance. Earlier this year, Disney-Pixar debuted its first LGBT character in the animated movie “Onward,” which featured a lesbian heroine.
The expansion of LGBT characters on “Star Trek: Discovery” and other Hollywood productions comes as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has pushed for 20% of all characters to belong to the LGBT community by 2025.