Yes, I went there, and am going there even further.
My postulating on this topic was spurred by recent hoopla made over trans and non-binary characters being included in Star Trek: Discovery, heralded as the first characters to be officially recognized as such in the franchise. To this I say, well, first of all, you must not have watched the show because there have been such characters before. Just because they weren’t called out by the labels now commonly used in the 21st century, doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. To paraphrase Neil deGrasse Tyson, the truth is the truth, just because you didn’t discover it until now doesn’t mean it wasn’t already the truth. The J’naii and the Trill are but merely two examples of Star Trek fictional races who had characters that I argue fit into the broad definitions of trans and non-binary. Oh wait, are the woke trying to invalidate the gender identities and struggles these characters faced just because they weren’t using our modern PC terminology? Huh…
Patting oneself on the back for taking credit for progress already made is one thing. It’s another to ignore the elephant in the room, the one the activists have to know is there but they refuse to address it. That is, in a future setting like Star Trek, a universe with fantastically advanced technology, inhabited by a humanity and its allies that have made enormous strides in improving the human condition, would transgenderism as we know it even need to be a thing? Hear me out, and think about this carefully. Surgery by the 24th century in Trek is so advanced that it’s possible to alter the appearance of your species, so much so that a Cardassian, for example, can convincingly be altered to appear Bajoran, and not merely through makeup (reference, Seska in Voyager). Wounds can be repaired almost instantaneously without leaving scars. Cancer and even the common cold are no longer problems. The transporter can be used to deliver babies and to reset premature cellular aging. People who were born blind can be made to see. I could go on, way on. So don’t tell me that by that point, sex reassignment surgery and hormone replacement/reprogramming could not be so advanced, that one could transition so effectively as to give no indication to an observer that they were ever the other gender to begin with.
What’s more! This is even precluding the possibility of preventing anyone from ever having to suffer gender dysphoria in the first place! You see, this may not be a politically convenient thing for me to say, but being born with gender dysphoria, unlike being born gay or bi, is a mental affliction. It doesn’t mean that person is “sick” in the sense that people have tended to think of that word. It doesn’t mean that they are inferior, not an adult, not capable of functioning, are any less worthy of love, respect, or acceptance, it doesn’t automatically make them a threat, it doesn’t mean they should be condescended to by anyone who is “normal.” However, it is a disorder, like chronic depression or generalized anxiety, though not as widespread as those damaging conditions. Because it is something that causes severe distress and turmoil for the individual experiencing it, gender dysphoria is something I believe should be researched as a problem to alleviate. Why wouldn’t you want science and medicine to advance to the point where no person need suffer from gender dysphoria, and end up having to rewrite their bodies and their lives at a later point just to feel like their actual selves? Why would you stand in the way of preventing that suffering? Because it would be politically inconvenient? Because you would lose the social power trip you get from being a “special” and having a letter in the ever-growing LGBT alphabet just for you? I’m hard pressed to think of any logical or compassionate answers, here.
So, my ultimate point is that I believe the representation of humanity we already saw in Star Trek was great. Sure, perhaps not all-encompassing, we didn’t see any explicit same sex romance until Deep Space Nine and even after that it was sparse; however it’s not as though it couldn’t be improved, for example, the franchise in the 1960s didn’t do the best job at portraying women, but it got substantially better in the years following. The problem is, there is a difference between making an effort to be more representative, and pandering to an audience that demands political correctness and seems to relish the power trip they get when these big studios get woke and cave to what a handful of activists are screaming. Why do I say it’s pandering? Ugh, I mean, should I really have to spell it out? Trans and queer folk are minority identity groups. That’s not meant to be an emotionally charged statement, it’s merely a fact. It smacks to me as being extremely unlikely and extremely unrealistic that the pizza cutter-class Discovery just happened to end up with a gay couple, a lesbian, a non-binary person, and a transgender individual on the crew at the same time. If written expertly, that could still be fine even if it’s far-fetched, however the added caveat is that it’s not as though they feel organically integrated as people either, for their identity politics are shoved way into the forefront of the script, even going as far as to have the fucking cringe-worthy “pronoun talk” at one point. If we are still having those kinds of interactions by the 23rd century, well, then how did we even make it to the 23rd century, I would ask if still alive by then. It is one thing to be Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s to say that he wanted his show to have persons that represented as many of the major ethnic demographics as possible. It’s quite another to literally hit the checklist and try to tick a box for every single politically correct fringe area minority representative possible, and then instead of showing them smoothly assimilating into the crew and working together toward a greater cause, the representation is them being obsessed with their own identity politics and behaving as though everyone around them must accommodate their feelings and demands. Ah yes, and also crying, because professionalism is totally out the window with the Starfleet depicted in CBS Trek. There is a fine line between trying to throw a wide net in having a diverse cast, and pure tokenism, and the people running Star Trek today as well as many modern fiction writers have done crossed it, by my reckoning.
Quite frankly, I think this sort of regressive attempt at progressive inclusion is upsetting. Why would you take away, or at least attempt to, the hope that comes from seeing a future depicting a particular type of suffering being alleviated or eliminated? It’s insulting. If you have a science fiction world that is lower tech, or not as evolved as the one we see in Star Trek, then sure, have at representing a trans character dealing with issues much like what we see today. If you are writing a dystopian world, then yeah, it might just figure that a queer or trans character is gonna have a hard time of it. But that doesn’t make it okay to shit on science fiction that implies, suggests, or even blatantly says that in this more optimistic future we created, the struggles that plague trans folks are no longer a concern. That’s the whole point of transgenderism even being real, to transition from one gender to another. Logically, the point of going through such a change is to move to the other side of the coin from that which you were assigned to be from birth. It leaves me scratching my head that one would cling on to a label and an identity politic that is all about being in the middle of the genders being transitioned from and to, so much so that even centuries from now such folk are suggested to carry it around like an asteroid sized chip on the shoulder.
So yes, I am hopeful for a future in which a man suffering from gender dysphoria could literally become a biological woman to the fullest extent possible and vice versa, or, better yet, a future where the causal factor for dysphoria can be identified in the womb, and the child can be afforded the basic decency of being born into a body that matches the brain they developed. An end to suffering is a much more desirable endgame for me than ticking a box in the name of identity politics representation.