TELEVISION & RADIO
add his political voice
Takei's public acknowledgment that he is gay is connected to a belief in
speaking out about initiatives that would limit gay
By Lynn Smith
November 4, 2005
A few "Star Trek" fans were shocked by the
official revelation that actor George Takei — aka Mr. Sulu — is gay. But most
accepted the news with the respect for diversity that devotees say is the
hallmark of the sci-fi series.
Takei, 68, revealed his homosexuality in
the current issue of Frontiers, a biweekly Los Angeles magazine covering the gay
and lesbian community. Takei said he and his partner of 18 years, Brad Altman,
have been open about their relationship to friends and family for many
What prompted his recent disclosure to the media, he said, was
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a same-sex marriage bill in
"The world has really changed," Takei said. "We now have Time
magazine doing a cover story on gay teens. Now that the movement is reaching
this point, something unimaginable when I was a teenager, I think I have a
responsibility to add my voice. I thought that it was time."
likened his experience of coming out publicly to a walk down a long corridor:
"At first, it's narrow and dark, then it starts to widen a bit, there are
windows that let in some light, then doors that open that give you the prospect
of a path to take."
It's an image that also reflects on Takei's early
years. When he was a child and young teen, Takei's family was interned during
World War II, with his relatives split between two U.S. camps.
after the war, he said he carried a public shame about being Japanese American
and a private shame that came from knowing he was gay.
"When I was in the
internment camp, I pledged allegiance to the flag," he recalled. "The words were
'liberty and justice for all.' I was too young to appreciate the irony of the
sight of the barbed wire fence and the guard towers. But the irony of the words
for me and for other gay people is penetrating."
Reaction on the Internet
included shock and tasteless jokes, as well as praise and good wishes that Takei
live long and prosper.
"He must have chosen that magazine called
Frontiers as I guess it must have been the final frontier for him to come out,"
wrote one blogger on starwars .com.
Adam Malin, co-chief executive of
Creation Entertainment, which produces the official "Star Trek" convention in
Las Vegas every year, predicted that the overall fan reaction would be one of
"People in the 'Star Trek' fan universe are extremely
accepting…. We all love George." He added that the show's creator-producer, Gene
Roddenberry, "certainly believed in accepting all kinds of gender orientation.
He stated that clearly."
Takei said his role on the cult sci-fi hit "Star
Trek" (NBC 1966-69) was one of the windows that let light in.
character, Mr. Sulu, was part of an ethnically, racially and culturally diverse
leadership team — an idea somewhat ahead of its time. "The idea of diversity as
espoused by Gene Roddenberry was part of my broadening horizon," Takei said.
Currently, Takei is starring as Dr. Martin Dysart in the East West
Players' revival of "Equus," at Los Angeles' David Henry Hwang Theater through
In addition to acting, Takei has been active in politics. In
1973, the actor ran for the Los Angeles City Council and lost by a small margin.
He was appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley to the board of directors of the Southern
California Rapid Transit District the same year and was President Clinton's
appointment to the board of the Japan-United States Friendship Commission. In
1986, Takei became the first Japanese American actor to have a star on
Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
Takei, who lives in Los Angeles, said he plans
to continue speaking out against the various initiatives being proposed for the
June ballot that would limit gay rights.
"This is a different kind of
barbed wire fence," he said. "It would incarcerate a whole group of people in a
different kind of internment camp."
In the Frontiers article, he called
Schwarzenegger "a dangerous politician, in the same way that Strom Thurmond or
other politicians who say one thing in order to try to curry a broad base of
support, and then when push comes to shove, they act in a segregationist way."
The governor's office declined to comment.