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George Takei has recently renewed his celebrity via social media and especially his support for gay rights. Did Hikaru Sulu (Takei's character in Star Trek) ever have a lover or love interest in the TV show, films or books? If not, is it possible that Sulu is, like his portrayer, homosexual?

Now, I know that an actor's sexuality and the sexuality of a character they play don't need to have anything to do with each other. For instance, we know that while Captain Kirk was a promiscuous ball of interspecies lust, Shatner in real life was/is practically celibate. OK, I made that up, but my point is it could be true.

Update I think I wasn't clear in my question -- what I meant was not whether Sulu was revealed as gay, but rather did Sulu's sexual orientation of any kind (gay or straight) ever get revealed? Did he ever have a love or love interest that was male or female?

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    OOooooooh my... – OghmaOsiris Jul 30 '12 at 16:44
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    Come on! You have to link to the épée picture... – dmckee Jul 30 '12 at 16:53
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    bonus question is whether any of the actors have ever discussed if Takei was out of the closet when the original show was being shot, and what everyone thought about it if he was. I know they were an open minded group for the time, but it was still quite a while ago... – zipquincy Jul 30 '12 at 16:57
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    +1 for "Shatner in real life was/is practically celibate". – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 30 '12 at 17:03
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    @zipquincy If challenged on that you claim that the whole point is that the Asian Sulu is a secret devote of a European sword system. Then give them your best stupid look and wait to see if they will claim it makes him look light in the loafers... Obviously if it had been a katana they'd have had a point. – dmckee Jul 30 '12 at 17:08
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Oddly enough, Star Trek and homosexuality is like fire and water. It's always been something they danced around, perpetuating heterosexual relationships as the only existing and valid form. There's even a whole Wikipedia page, discussing this.

Kate Mulgrew once said in an interview:

Well, one would think that Hollywood would be more open-minded at this point, since essentially the whole town is run by the gay community. It makes very little sense if you think about it. No, Star Trek is very strangely by the book in this regard. Rick Berman, who is a very sagacious man, has been very firm about certain things. I've approached him many, many times over the years about getting a gay character on the show--one whom we could really love, not just a guest star. Y'know, we had blacks, Asians, we even had a handicapped character--and so I thought, this is now beginning to look a bit absurd. And he said, "In due time." And so, I'm suspecting that on Enterprise they will do something to this effect. I couldn't get it done on mine. And I am sorry for that.

(emphasis added)

So, as you can see, the actual (i.e. the pre-Abrams era) Star Trek doesn't touch that topic. Yes, there are a few exceptions in TNG, DS9 and even very slightly in VOY, but nothing concrete.

Since Abrams has a habit of changing Star Trek (so far for the worse, if you ask me), maybe he'll get lucky and change something for the better. But I wouldn't bet on it.


Edit: You bring up the question whether changing the Sulu in the new timline-skewed films would have an impact on the "old" Sulu we knew in TOS.

That's a tricky question, and it is difficult to even discuss without offending people (so, I hope I manage). There're several assumptions you have to take into account: Is sexual preference a genetic trait, pure choice, environmental, upbringing, ...? I've no idea, but I'm given to understand that some people take offence in some of them.

However, these theories all influence whether changing his preference in post 2009 productions would imply assertions about TOS-Sulu. For instance, if its genetic, the connection is obvious; Somebody going back in his life-time (we can assume Sulu to be about the age of Kirk, right?) wouldn't effect a change in his DNA. Similarly, if the environment theory applies, the changed conditions of his life (that were affected) could support a change of preference.

So, featuring any indication of Sulu's sexuality in new films without careful consideration could lead to drastic continuity errors that would imply statements about LGBT that the producers are (if they are the slightest considerate) not going to be willing to make.

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    Or like 'Blood and Fire' --en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – CamelBlues Jul 30 '12 at 17:29
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    I love Kate Mulgrew more and more :) – OghmaOsiris Jul 30 '12 at 17:30
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    @zipquincy I disagree. According to the new Star Trek movie co-writer, Kirk's backstory is totally different in the movie from TOS trekmovie.com/2008/12/11/… – CamelBlues Jul 30 '12 at 18:22
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    @CamelBlues: Yes and no. See my update. It's hard (impossible?) to tell at which point and how Sulu's conception+life was influenced by this random event (Nero travelling back through time). – bitmask Jul 30 '12 at 18:26
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    @CamelBlues: I don't see how that's relevant. The decision where to build the Enterprise can be considered to have been made after Kirk's birth. – bitmask Nov 10 '12 at 6:11
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There are several pieces of evidence which could be taken to suggest that Sulu is probably attracted to women, but none of them strike me as definitive (and in any case he could always be bi):

  • In "Mirror, Mirror", mirror-Sulu hits on Uhura, but the DS9 mirror-universe episodes suggest that sexuality need not be preserved across universes so this doesn't necessarily imply anything about Sulu himself.
  • In the animated episode "The Magicks of Megas-Tu", Sulu conjures up a beautiful woman using magic.
  • His daughter Demora appears in Generations, but there's no on-screen indication of who her mother is, and expanded-universe mentions of her are contradictory on this point.
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    Note that the Federation could have the technology to allow male-male reproduction (which as far as I can tell (as a layman) isn't that far fetched). – bitmask Jul 30 '12 at 18:46
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    @zipquincy: Mirror-Kira is pretty clearly bi -- she's attracted to her own counterpart in "Crossover" and in some sort of (perhaps not-entirely-consensual) relationship with mirror-Ezri in "The Emperor's New Cloak". The end of "The Emperor's New Cloak" also implies a budding relationship between mirror-Ezri and mirror-Leeta. There's no evidence that the original-universe versions of any of the three women aren't entirely straight. I'd assume this is one of the things bitmask was thinking of with eir "few exceptions" sentence... – Micah Jul 30 '12 at 18:55
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    @bitmask: Absolutely -- male-male reproduction has to be easier than human-Vulan reproduction, right? Or he could have used IVF, or any number of other possibilities. Which is why I wouldn't consider it remotely definitive, but it seemed worth mentioning. – Micah Jul 30 '12 at 18:58
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    @Bobby: It's hard to know, since Star Trek canon contradicts both itself and most known science on this point. But the divergence point between humans and Vulcans is considerably further back than the divergence point between humans and, say, bonobos -- and I'm pretty sure male-male reproduction would be a lot easier than human-bonobo reproduction. – Micah Jul 31 '12 at 17:11
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    In "The Naked Time", an intoxicated Sulu also seems interested in Uhura; between that and "Mirror, Mirror" I'd conclude that Sulu is generally attracted to her but too professional to make a move on her. – Russell Borogove May 11 '13 at 1:04
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No. This answer is based on speculation about how well the cast knew Takei and the fact that Roddenberry first considered including gay characters in the late 80s, in response to a request from a gay fan.

Star Trek TOS ran from 1966-1969. George Takei 'officially' came out in 2005, even though it had been an 'open secret' that he was gay in the 1970s (according to Wikipedia).

William Shatner, upon getting 'snubbed' from Takei's wedding, made a statement indicating that during the actual production of TOS, he didn't know Takei very well.

[Takei] would come in for a day or two, as evidenced by the part he played. Then on the movies, there occasionally.

I would assume that if Shatner didn't know him too well, it would be hard to put in allusion to his sexuality in TOS. Keep in mind that Star Trek has never had an openly gay character.

Gene Roddenberry promised to do an episode of TNG, Blood and Fire, that would feature gay crewmen. The episode was shelved and was never produced. Later, the script was re-written for Star Trek New Voyages.

  • oops, see my clarification above. – zipquincy Jul 30 '12 at 17:45
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I don't have any conclusive in-universe proof, but George Takei thinks that Sulu is straight. After news recently broke that the new movie Star Trek Beyond would reveal Sulu as gay Takei said that it was "unfortunate":

I’m delighted that there’s a gay character. Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.

Takei tried to convince the film makers to not make Sulu gay and instead create a new gay character:

I told him, "Be imaginative and create a character who has a history of being gay, rather than Sulu, who had been straight all this time, suddenly being revealed as being closeted."

Along with the inconclusive evidence offered in other answers that Hollywood Reporter article mentions that the 1995 novel The Captain's Daughter says that Sulu's daughter was the result of a one-night stand with a glamazon, a "very athletic, powerful and stunningly gorgeous woman", which would also support him not being gay.

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There is an important new update

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/07/sulu-gay-star-trek-john-cho

Looks like Star Trek Beyond will boldly go where no Star Trek film has gone before: Melbourne’s Herald Sun reports that the upcoming movie will depict U.S.S. Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu as a gay man raising a daughter with his partner. (Vanity Fair has reached out to Paramount for confirmation and comment, and will update this post accordingly when we hear back.)

When this is officially confirmed I will accept this as the answer.

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Did not see it mentioned above, but there was a brief "comic" moment near the end of Star Trek V when Sulu and Chekov were tailing a Klingon woman before abruptly turning tail as she approached her bigger, burlier Klingon man. Just a small suggestions that support Sulu was not gay in the original timeline at least.

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