This Week's Guest: Adam Smith
How do you make up for lost time after spending years in the closet? My guest this week is journalist Adam Smith, who avoiding coming out for years because he felt that he needed to maintain a sort of sexual neutrality for the sake of his family. Now that he's finally experiencing the world as an out gay man, there's lots to explore -- which has meant shedding his inhibitions, and occasionally, all of his clothes.
This Week's Recommendation: The Outcast
Thanks again to Adam for joining me. He mentioned Star Trek as being a particularly meaningful laboratory for testing ethical positions, and so for my recommendation this week I'm pleased to have an excuse to recommend the Next Generation season 5 episode "The Outcast," in which the crew encounters a race that has no gender -- or at least, isn't supposed to have a gender. Those that do express an unsanctioned tendency towards male or female traits are subjected to therapy intended to "normalize" them.
Even though The Next Generation never had an explicitly queer character, this episode is as on the nose as the prosthetics on most aliens' faces. Through the metaphor of aliens, it explores the nature of gender, the fear of being subjected to conversion therapy, and issues of consent. There's even a sci-fi metaphor for the closet in the form of a phenomenon known as "null space" where objects can undetectably exist.
Star Trek is at its best when it's a venue for us to explore contemporary ethical questions, which is why the show of the 60s is so different from the show of the 90s. It makes sense, given that the episode aired in 1992, that they would attempt to grapple with sexuality. But the episode is also notable for how timidly it explores the topic. It ends on a fairly neutral opinion of conversion therapy, and of attacks on queer existence. And though the characters are gender-neutral, the casting confines the romances to opposite-sex actors. It's disappointing that to this day, the Star Trek canon remains relatively silent on the topic of sexual orientation, despite its founding captain being a essentially a walking sex gland.
But there's a new series in the franchise set to debut in a few months, this time helmed by an openly gay man. So hopefully now, over fifty years after the series first aired, it'll finally be ready to make up for decades of lost time in its own sort of null space.
Clips of Stuff We Talked About
Parisian Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0