Out of the closet and into the UNIVERSE

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News Media Commentary
Title: Out of the closet and into the UNIVERSE
Commentator: Elisabeth V.
Date(s): February 23, 1993
Venue: print
Fandom: Star Trek, science fiction
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Out of the closet and into the UNIVERSE is a 1993 article that was published in "The Advocate." It has the subtitle: "Gaylaxians prove you don't have to be a nerd -- or straight — to like science fiction."

first page of the article, as it was reprinted in Strange Bedfellows #1
second page of the article, as it was reprinted in Strange Bedfellows #1


As a group, science fiction fans have a notoriously low hipness factor. Gays and lesbians who are uninterested in the genre category assume it's populated by straight white males who wear their pants too high around their waists. Never assume. A group of lesbian and gay science-fiction fans that call them selves Gaylaxians shatters the stereotype that the genre's devotees are (a) nerds and (b) heterosexual.

"In science fiction, being a fan comes first, so people tend to be accepting when they discover your gayness," says Stephens. "In the gay community, people are surprised to hear you like science fiction. In fact, my brother is more accepting of my gayness than of my being a fan."

Jennifer Green, current chair woman of the Greater Gotham Gaylaxians, cites socializing as a prime attraction for the membership. "Until recently, women hadn't come for ward as lesbian science-fiction fans," she says. Naomi Basner, a media representative for the Gaylactic Network, concurs: "When I started going to cons [conventions], around 1972 or 1973, there were very few women in attendance — maybe 1% of the total turnout. Now conventions see about 40% women."

One of the most visible gay presences in science-fiction fandom is "slash" — denoting the many Star Trek fanzines describing Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock as engaged in an explicit sexual relationship. (Slash refers to the slash mark in the construction Kirk/Spock.) Despite the gay angle, though, the vast majority of slash writers are straight women. Slash 'zines are sold by mail under the table at conventions -- both because of copyright problems and because it's adult material.

The Kirk/Spock relationship, though, seems to fascinate some straight female science-fiction fans. Film theorist, Constance Penley, in her article Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Study of Popular Culture," writes that one of the biggest debates raging in the slash world is whether Kirk and Spock are homosexual — or just engage in homosexual sex. To the Gaylaxians, naturally, such semantic disputes are academic.

In fact, the way gay and lesbian characters are depicted does not seem to be the Gaylaxians' main concern. "We aren't PC," says Stephens, "though we strive for decent depictions of gay and lesbian characters in science fiction." Green also takes a fairly neutral position, adding that she's "not opposed to gay villains per se, except if the writer includes only gays as villains." The Gaylactic Network did start a letter-writing campaign to persuade the producers of Star Trek: The Next Generation to have gay characters on the show. (One female Gaylaxian suggested that The Next Generation's writers turn the show's Dr. Beverly Crusher into a lesbian — "and send her to my apartment.")
The new visibility of Gaylaxians has had other con sequences. In a field where interaction between authors and fans is encouraged and frequent, the presence of openly gay fans has made it easier for some authors to come out of the closet. Stephens points to the emergence of Samuel Delany, a gay science-fiction writer who teaches at Amherst College. Back in the '70s, Delany and Joanna Russ became the first openly gay science-fiction writers, and their books reflected gay and lesbian characters and concerns. Asked about other gay and lesbian science-fiction writers, Basner says, "Not that many are officially out, but on the other hand, it's become less and less accepted to write homophobic stuff. With the Gaylaxians around, some gay writers feel more confident at cons — but it's not like their press release will say, 'She lives in Brooklyn with her lover and their two cats.'"