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We are first introduced to the Trill in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Host" and learn that joined Trill are a combination of a humanoid host and a intelligent worm like symbiont. During the course of the episode the host is killed and the symbiont is joined with a new host, this time, a female host. The new identity, Kareel Odan still maintains feelings of affection for Dr. Crusher but the are no longer returned.

This is explored further and with greater success in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "rejoined". Here Jadzia Dax is reunited with a past wife of the Dax symbiont and they begin a taboo relationship. Taboo not because of any hang ups with sexual orientation or gender by rather because joined Trill are not supposed to resume relationships from past lives.

From the examples we have seen on television it would seem joined Trill are inherently bisexual or pansexual and gender fluid. But that is a broad generalization from just a few on screen examples.

What do we know of joined Trill sexuality?

TV, Movies, official licensed material, quotes from actors and "word of god" are all acceptable sources.

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2 Answers 2

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It is firmly established throughout Deep Space Nine that joined Trill inherit the memories, skills, and personality traits of all Trill who had previously been joined to their symbiont1.

We observe that for Odan and Dax, feelings of romantic and/or sexual attraction are among those traits that are inherited from one host to the next. We infer, but do not observe, that gender-correlated traits are also inherited, as Jadzia seems to gain some of her more masculine proclivities specifically from Curzon.

Logically then, the gender and romantic/sexual orientation of a joined Trill is, like every other aspect of their consciousness, a synthesis of the genders and orientations of all of the symbiont's past and present hosts.

The Dax symbiont's first host was Lela Dax (she/her). When Lela was joined to Dax, it's unlikely that her sexuality or gender changed in any way as a result of the joining, because the symbiont had no other experiences of humanoid sexuality or gender to contribute to her psyche2. When Lela died and Dax was joined to Tobin (he/him), he inherited her memories, including those of her lived gender and orientation. We don't know how, if at all, he incorporated those memories into his own life, but we do know that Lela's feelings persisted, and continue to persist as aspects of Jadzia and Ezri, as demonstrated in the episode "Facets" where we see Lela's identity reified and transferred from Jadzia's body into Kira's.

Let's fast forward to Jadzia. We can observe that she is bisexual3 through her relationships with Lenara Kahn (in "Rejoined") and Worf ("Looking for Par'Mach in all the Wrong Places", etc). It's possible that she was already bisexual before being joined to Dax, or she may have been exclusively homo- or heterosexual or asexual before being joined, and became bisexual as a result of incorporating the sexualities of her symbiont's previous hosts. We know that Curzon was (very) attracted to women, and that Emony was attracted to men, as evidenced by her having a relationship with Dr. Leonard McCoy ("Trials and Tribble-ations"), so either explanation is possible.

What about her gender? Jadzia is assumed to be a woman throughout the series, although Sisko does jokingly refer to her as "Old Man". I can't think of any examples where she declares a gender for herself other than "woman." Perhaps she is genderfluid, or genderqueer, or polygender--or maybe she's just a woman who remembers what it's like to be a man, and incorporates some aspects of that experience into her life without deciding that it warrants adopting a new label for her gender.

The fact that the Dax symbiont has lived as both a man and a woman could be interpreted as observing that the symbiont is genderfluid across the context of multiple lifetimes. However, this doesn't require that Jadzia Dax is genderfluid within the context of her single, joined lifetime. She could be, but it isn't logically required. It's possible for the symbiont to experience multiple genders across multiple joinings while each individual host retains a consistent experience of gender throughout the time that they are joined to the symbiont.

So, is Jadzia Dax genderfluid? I think it's open to interpretation, and ought to remain that way. Applying labels to fictional or historical characters who did not exist in a context4 that recognized those labels is a touchy subject, and personally I'm not comfortable making assertions about Jadzia's gender based on my own interpretations of how she expresses herself 5.

What about other Trill? Well, let's imagine an alternative universe in which Tobin was never joined to Dax, and every host from Lela through to Jadzia was a woman. In this timeline, Jadzia's experience of gender would still be a blend of the experiences of all of the previous hosts, but since the Dax symbiont would not have any memories of being a man, it's unlikely that being joined to Dax would result in any increase in masculine traits.

In conclusion, what we observe of Trill gender and orientation in Star Trek implies that most (not necessarily all) joined Trill are circumstantially (not inherently) queer as a result of being joined. Any symbiont who is consecutively joined to a homogeneous sequence of hosts who all share the same feelings of gender and attraction will not accumulate the diversity of such feelings exhibited by other Trill. This is vacuously true for all Trill who are the first to ever be joined to a symbiont.


1 I am assuming that any contributions from the symbionts themselves are negligible, since their experiences prior to their first joining would be largely irrelevant to humanoids.

2 Then again, perhaps every joined Trill is actively expressing worm gender, and we simply lack the frame of reference to recognize this.

3 Synonymous with pansexual.

4 That context being "American television produced during the 1990's", not necessarily "The United Federation of Planets during the 2370's".

5 If the Trill were a real species, I would expect them to have their own unique language for describing the gender of joined individuals, rather than use any of the terms used by humans.

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    Genuine question: is it a valid assumption to equate emotional feelings to specific persons from one's past (i.e. Dax's love towards Kahn) with physical attraction (which is THE definition of any -sexuality)? It is entirely possible that - in outside-the-universe-terms - Dax was created for the specific purpose of eliciting a discussion on genders in real life. However, since every mentioned case (excluding ST:DIS; haven't seen it, not planning to ever) of Trills' relationships involving same-sex characters is based on previous heterosexual relationships, I think you overreach in conclusions.
    – AcePL
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 9:46
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    @AcePL Star Trek had a tradition of breaking taboos of its time, and getting away with it by adding a sci-fi framing around it. Kirk and Uhura were the first interracial couple kissing on screen, but only because they were mind-controlled by aliens. Dax was the first Star Trek character to have a homosexual kiss on screen, but only because she continued a relationship from when she was literally in the body of a man.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 11:25
  • @AcePL I think that is exactly the question that episode is supposed to evoke. It's been a while since I saw it, but I do seem to recall Jadzia had trouble with it, not just because it was a lesbian relationship but because it wasn't really "her" emotions and sexuality. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 1:32
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    @Philipp There was a TNG episode a few years before that where Riker had a relationship with a member of a non-binary race, though the actor playing that character was female, it was still pushing the taboos just a bit. Oh, and also there was that female Ferengi that disguised herself as male and had a crush on Quark, I forget if that was before or after Jadzia's fling... Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 20:45
  • @Philipp - This was what Gene Roddenberry basically incorporated into Star Trek: pushing the envelope on social topics. No argument here from me. My point here is exactly this: validity of the assumption that emotional attraction is physical attraction, thus reaching conclusion of gender fluidity and all kinds of -sexuality. I am of the opinion that it does not apply to beings who remember perfectly all their previous relationships and their partners... In a way simple framing Jadzia as gender fluid because of that is crude, if not outright vulgar.
    – AcePL
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 13:34
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You are trying to apply human categories to an extraterrestrial with a non-human lifecycle. I would call Trill not so much "fluid" but "undergoing distinct events of change."

  • The Trill with the most screen time, Dax, appears to have been in a pattern of serial monogamy. Monogamy or promiscuity are distinct from gender identity, but it would appear that both times the joined Trill identified as female and courted males (Worf and Julian).
  • Another Trill with significant screen time, Tal, identifies as non-binary. We know that before the joining, Adira was in a relationship with a transgender person.

From this sample, it would appear that Trill gender identity is strongly influenced by the host body. The Trill symbiont overlays this with memories and emotions.

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    Though your second example partially contradicts your first point - Adira is human, not Trill. The fact that they have formed a viable bond with a symbiont is very much the exception. (The only other case we know of a non-Trill host bonding with a symbiont was in that first TNG episode, and it was not long-term viable, as it would have killed them both had they not found a new host, and Adira was at least at first considered an abomination by other Trill.) Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 13:44
  • @DarrelHoffman, in both cases the preferences of the host prevailed. And we know it wasn't because the host was selected for pyschological compatibility, because both Ezri Dax and Adira Tal were emergency solutions.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 16:35

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