`Sulu' of `Star Trek' reveals that he's gay

November 06, 2005|By LYNN SMITH | LYNN SMITH,LOS ANGELES TIMES

A few Star Trek fans were shocked by the official revelation that actor George Takei - aka Mr. Sulu - is gay. But many 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 years.

What prompted his recent disclosure to the media, he said, was California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a same-sex marriage bill in September.

"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."

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.

For years 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.

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 acceptance. "People in the Star Trek fan universe are extremely accepting. ... We all love George."

Takei's character, Mr. Sulu, was part of an ethnically, racially and culturally diverse leadership team - an idea ahead of its time. "The idea of diversity as espoused by [the show's creator-producer] Gene Roddenberry was part of my broadening horizon," Takei said.

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."

Lynn Smith writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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