Over the years I've been pleased to be able to meet most of the main cast of the original Star Trek series, many of whom have been very accessible to fans at conventions. The two I've most enjoyed were Nichelle Nichols, with whom Maryelizabeth and I shared a delightful dinner once, and George Takei. George did a magnificent signing at Mysterious Galaxy, where he proved himself to be charming, patient, funny, and completely approachable by his many fans. When asked the inevitable "how do you pronounce your name?" question, he said, "Takei. Rhymes with decay."
Now we know it also rhymes with gay, since George came out this week in a Los Angeles paper.
Star Trek's cultural influence has extended far beyond what it should have, given its relatively short original run. For its time, it was very progressive. At the height of Vietnam it proposed that peace, not war, was the ideal goal of humanity. It showed many races working and living together in harmony. It demonstrated that cooperation was more valuable than conflict. Its characters were never motivated by greed or the desire for material objects, but by scientific and cultural curiosity and a quest for greater understanding.
Given its influence, it is unfortunate that George didn't feel comfortable coming out then. By itself that would have been a brave, probably foolhardy thing to do. But it also could have led to a much greater acceptance of homosexuality by now--a kind of Rosa Parks moment for homosexuals.
It's easy to see why he didn't, though. It would likely have ended his career, if not his life. At any rate, I'm glad he now feels comfortable to discuss his sexuality and his long-term committed relationship, and I suspect that the experience is liberating for him in a very real way.
So congratulations, George. Thanks for your honesty.