Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Outcast"

**

Air date: 3/16/1992
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

The Enterprise comes to the assistance of the Genai, a race that has no gender, to help retrieve the crew of a shuttle that went missing in a mysterious void of "null space." Riker teams up with one of the Genai, named Soren (Melinda Culea), and in the process of their investigation Riker learns more about Soren and the Genai society.

It turns out that the Genai once had male and female sexes but have since "evolved" into asexual beings — their current-day reproduction involves a baby being grown in a husk or something — but occasionally there are some Genai who identify with one gender or the other. Such identifications are forbidden and those individuals are subject to a psychotherapy "treatment" that eradicates those "abnormal" feelings.

"The Outcast" is a Star Trek message episode, plain and simple — an allegory that is born of good intentions about tolerance and acceptance. Every once in a while, Trek will decide to tackle an issue head-on (in this case, acceptance of gays) and go all-out preaching a message; "The Outcast" is such an episode.

But there's a fundamental flaw in the conception of "The Outcast," which is that it's so obviously an allegory about the discriminatory issues facing gays, and yet, in the 24th century, there apparently is no such thing as homosexuality. Riker and Soren have lengthy conversations about sexuality and human sex roles (and these discussions touch upon only the most conventional of sexual and gender roles, ignoring the rest), but there isn't so much as a word that homosexuality exists — or ever existed in human history. The writers dance around the subject completely, as if afraid to offend their audience. Maybe if this episode had aired in 1967 as part of TOS, I could forgive the tap dance. But airing in 1992, this strikes me as gutless. (Might it have been more of a challenging choice, for example, to have Soren be played by a man instead of a woman?)

Also, since Riker is presumably, from all past evidence, 100 percent heterosexual, how exactly would sex even work between him and the genderless Soren? I suppose the message here is that romantic love can transcend sexuality, but the episode sort of glosses over this issue while at the same time purporting that Riker can fall in love with Soren in a matter of days, a TV cliche I never find convincing.

It certainly doesn't help that Soren here is performed by Melinda Culea in dull, relentless monotone — no doubt to make her seem more androgynous. As a person, Soren just isn't compelling; she's a mouthpiece for the message and nothing more. Once Soren is outed by the Genai authorities, she makes a lengthy, impassioned public speech that is preachy and didactic to the extreme, laying out the allegory for the audience in about as heavy-handed a manner as is possible. It fell completely flat for me, especially given the implied hypocrisy of arguing, allegorically, for an idea the TNG universe itself doesn't even acknowledge as existing.

One thing I liked from a character level was Riker and Worf teaming up to break Soren out of the "treatment" facility. Watching Riker get uncharacteristically riled up over an injustice — and his willingness to even break the Prime Directive — is interesting. And I liked Worf signing on to this as a matter of personal friendship. Similarly, Picard's warning to Riker about putting his career in jeopardy is simultaneously accompanied by Picard turning a blind eye to what Riker then does — also interesting. But they're all too late, and Riker finds that Soren has been psychologically "cured" of her "condition." It would be a tragedy if Soren were a character I cared about instead of a placeholder in an allegory. Good intentions here. Not much else.

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102 comments on this review

grumpy_otter - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 6:39am (USA Central)
I agree with you that they blew it on the "exploring sexuality" front. Just like the episode where Beverly can't handle that Odan is now female--she was all excited to meet the new Odan until she sees her, then it's "Damn. Wrong genitals."

But I disagree that Soren is unsympathetic, or that falling in love in three days is unrealistic--at least on TNG. Characters would have to be on multiple episodes to extend that time limit, and that would get difficult to execute. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief for the sake of keeping the series uncluttered with potential lovers all over the place.

I really liked Soren's character--her cute little questions about sexuality were adorable. I was very sad when all that was taken from her.

I know many people find the portrayal of Riker in this episode completely unbelievable, but I loved it. Probably the romantic in me, but I loved seeing him willing to "risk all" for his "girl"friend.
Beta - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 12:58pm (USA Central)
Minor nitpick: It's "J'naii" instead of "Genai".

Glad you're back, Jammer!
Jammer - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 1:33pm (USA Central)
I see from StarTrek.com that it's "J'naii." I'm pretty sure I got the spelling I used from the DVD captions.

Who's right? Who's wrong?

Let's chalk it up to multiple translations.
Destructor - Wed, May 11, 2011 - 8:28pm (USA Central)
Disagree disagree disagree!

This episode affected me profoundly as a teenager and I still love it to this day. 3.5 stars.
Josh - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
Look on the bright side. Only five more years until 'Rejoined'. I didn't care much for the episode itself, but it certainly rights the wrong of this episode. DS9 was also similarly blazé about lesbianim in 'Let He Who Is Without Sin'. I know it is considered the second worst episode of DS9, but at least give it credit for the way Worf could become jealous of Vanessa Williams without so much a hint that Jadzia having a lesbian affair would be regarded in any way as - well - queer.
Ian Whitcombe - Thu, May 12, 2011 - 8:50pm (USA Central)
Modern Trek has did well with acknowledging homosexuality in "Rejoined", but they've never done an story that examined sexual orientation as we've seen it in modern society. On one hand, this is valid because humankind hold different value systems than us in the present. However, it becomes a bit of a cop-out (as in this episode) when they cannot even discusss from a historical perspective their own past, particularily to an alien who is surrounded with sexual stigma.

I always felt that the easiest allegory for Trek to have done would've been an extradition/Prime Directive epsiode surrounding an alien race's stigmatization and percecution of homosexual behaviour. Hell, if they didn't want to offend anyone they could even make the circumstances of the story even worse than 1992 America.
Elliott - Fri, May 13, 2011 - 7:44pm (USA Central)
As a gay man, I want to like this episode, but you're right, Jammer, the hypocrisy just flies in one's face. Most telling is Riker's explanation of human mating and how uncomfortable he is even saying "sexual organs." It's painful. I do, however, disagree that the mischaracterisations of Picard and Riker are "interesting." If anything, they worsen the episode and divert one's attention completely from the issues at hand (poorly handled though they were). Regarding "Rejoined," I also agree with Jammer that the episode was NOT about homosexuality at all.

2 stars for good intentions is about right.
Brian - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 12:35am (USA Central)
Maybe it's that I was 13 (and gay in rural Ohio) when this aired, I really did appreciate at least the acknowledgement that intolerance and inequality were wrong, and that society would protect its values over protecting its citizens. It was a lesson that helped me as I was growing up.

At 31, however, I can 100% understand and even logically agree with your assessment, Jammer. But the 13 year old in me will always remember and cherish this ep.
Jammer - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 11:47am (USA Central)
@Brian: I think that just goes to show that there's no one way to react to these stories. It depends not only on who you are, but what stage in your life you're at.
Andy - Sat, May 14, 2011 - 3:59pm (USA Central)
I read somewhere that Jonathan Frakes had pushed for a man to be cast as Soren, but they didn't go for it.

You make a good point, Jammer, about the good intentions foiled by hypocritical execution. Especially sad given that, in all the time since this episode aired, Trek hasn't had a straight-up gay character (or, at least, cast-member character). Way to have it both ways, guys.
Marshall Maresca - Wed, May 18, 2011 - 11:37am (USA Central)
I'm always a little fascinated to see people complain about how this episode fumbled on its gay-issues allegory, but completely miss it as a transgender-issue story. That's not even allegory. That's text.
charlie - Tue, May 24, 2011 - 11:50am (USA Central)
I agree with Frakes that this story would have been more effective if Soren was a man. Having said that, it was a nicely played drama with an appropriately downbeat ending. I remember reading a 4 star review of the episode in USA Today the very night it aired in my area.
I must also point out that the makeup job on Melinda Culea was really good. Check out how hot she is on "The A-Team" & "Family Ties" and you'll see how good the makeup was at changing her appearance.
pviateur - Wed, Aug 17, 2011 - 12:35pm (USA Central)
This episode failed on any number of fronts including:

Makeup on the Genai: not androgynous enough. It was too easy to tell male actors from female making Riker's attraction to Soren too understandable.

The story didn't work as a homosexual allegory because the desire of Soren was to become normal...as nature intended not abnormal (the male/female division of the genders is apparently the norm throughout the Federation if not the galaxy so far as we've seen of the Trek universe which begs the question as to how the Genai can hold on to their ideas of physical superiority in the face of so much overwhelming evidence)She/he was already abnormal. So her/his struggle to be free was a sympathetic one and her/his subsequent reconditioning tragic.

The story makes far more sense when any consideration of homosexuality is removed from it.

Riker's totally unbelievable actions at the end of the episode was ridiculous! Not only is it impossible to believe that he could fall so head over heels in love in so short a time, but that he could do so with such an unattractive lump as Soren after making love to some of the most beautiful women in the galaxy! On top of that, he breaks the prime directive in the most blatant fashion, even to crashing a legal proceeding! Compounding that, Picard says nothing of his trangression! Anybody else doing such a thing would be brought up on charges but would forever lose any possibility of commanding a ship of his own. How could Starfleet ever trust an officer like that for such an important responsibility?

So far as hipocracy or tap dancing by the writers is concerned, Trek is primarily a family show so who needs it to be cluttered up with such sordid subjects as homosexuality? Ugh.
Brian - Sat, Aug 20, 2011 - 7:28am (USA Central)
--So far as hipocracy or tap dancing by the writers is concerned, Trek is primarily a family show so who needs it to be cluttered up with such sordid subjects as homosexuality? Ugh.--

I think that is awfully short-sighted, pviateur. Trek may have become homogenized/sanitized in the Berman years, but once upon a time, Trek was a show that actually pushed people to think about the world they lived in by presenting stories of peoples "out there"

Was the first televised interracial kiss ever sordid and family show un-friendly?

Family shows doesn't have to equal unchallenging or safe. Kids like to think too.
Nathan - Thu, Sep 29, 2011 - 12:49pm (USA Central)
I think my biggest problem here is that her so-called "female urges" are never explained (and that they probably couldn't be). The only way they seem to manifest themselves is in attraction to male aliens. Perhaps the allegory would have worked better if there were two groups of J'naii, one evolved into androgyny and the other still male/female, who interacted but not sexually, and the evolved 'deviants' found themselves attracted to the unevolved.
Steve - Fri, Oct 7, 2011 - 2:52pm (USA Central)
"So far as hipocracy or tap dancing by the writers is concerned, Trek is primarily a family show so who needs it to be cluttered up with such sordid subjects as homosexuality? Ugh."

The spelling error says enough about this comment. Ugh, indeed.

Imagine that gay people are in families, too.
Steve - Fri, Oct 7, 2011 - 3:02pm (USA Central)
This episode is more directly applicable to transgender/intersex issues than it is to homosexuality.

However, the "psychotectic treatment" program is indistinguishable from today's "reparative therapy", with two exceptions. 1. The former actually does convert the person. 2. Perhaps the converted person will be happy. The so-called "reparative therapy" (ex-gay hate yourself to heterosexuality) con doesn't convert people, only their behavior. It doesn't lead to happiness, only denial. It's also not done for the good of society; it's merely a business.

While there is research that suggests that homosexuals are sexual hybrids to some degree (brain studies find that gay people use reasoning strategies of both sexes to some degree, finger-length patterns of 80% of gay men match heterosexual women's, etc.) homosexual men are still more man than woman and lesbians are still more woman than man. The perfectly neutral androgyne is rare indeed. Jamie Lee Curtis is a potential case. I say potential because she chose to behave/dress/act in a feminine manner. Biologically, however, she is XY.

Recent research has also contradicted earlier research and supported the existence of bisexuality.

One other problem with this episode is that it doesn't clearly distinguish between orientation and behavior. That's quite lazy, given that it's a critical matter in today's politics to realize that virgins have just as much of a sexual orientation as prostitutes and porn stars have — that sexual orientation isn't about "acts" as much as it's about desire.

I think it's tremendously shameful that Star Trek has committed genocide on the gay people of the future by refusing to give them space. This episode certainly does not qualify.
Captain Tripps - Wed, Oct 12, 2011 - 10:19pm (USA Central)
Bisexuality needed support?

Trek message episodes are rarely subtle (He''s black on the left, and white on the right!), so this one kind of fits into that dynamic, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch. I can totally understand anyone growing up LGBT connecting with the message here, however the writers skip around the issue as it actually applies to the audience. As an adult tho it's groan worthy how ham fisted it all is handled.

Found it funny that after 5 years of basically trying to out-Kirk Kirk, Riker has a sit down with Deanna to explain he's seeing other people.
Speaking of Action Man -

Alien Judge - "These proceedings are closed!"

RiKirk - "I just opened them!"

Percivale - Wed, Oct 19, 2011 - 9:37pm (USA Central)
Putting the social message aside for a moment, I want to point out how sub-par both the writing and cinematography were in this episode.

It is boring both to watch and to listen to. Beyond the guest actress's monotone, the conversations were unusually long; the technobabble was particularly uninspired; the scenes were static and slow; and, during one scene (the one where Riker talks with Troi in her quarters), there was even this strange slow zoom that I don't recall seeing in any other TNG episode. It felt like a soap opera in its production values. This could have been much more passionate, but it ended up being very insipid.

I agree with Jammer's "Good intentions. Not much else."
Jay - Mon, Jan 23, 2012 - 3:41pm (USA Central)
Worf sure healed fast from his traumatic injury...he's already back on duty here...
xaaos - Sat, Jan 26, 2013 - 6:52am (USA Central)
Riker to Soren: "I love you".

Yeah, right...
Q - Sun, Jan 27, 2013 - 8:09pm (USA Central)
BTW. This episode was evidently inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Left Hand of the Darkness".
mike - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 9:45am (USA Central)
For my two cents, this would have been more interesting and plausible as a Wesley-centered episode. I really have a hard time accepting that Riker, a man whose had plenty of relationships would be so indiscreet and impetuous. Wesley I could believe.

Making the Soren character a youth subjected to this corrective therapy and Wesley trying to prevent it would have made this theme more daring and plausible.
Grumpy - Fri, Mar 29, 2013 - 7:42pm (USA Central)
Mike... or given Wesley's absence, LaForge might've been more plausible. Desperate for dates, likely to fall for brains not boobs (more likely than Riker, anyway), plus he literally sees people by their auras, not their surface features.

Funny how the episode completely ignored the Little Green Man in the room, as Nathan alluded to earlier: "The only way they seem to manifest themselves is in attraction to male aliens." That is, the J'naii authorities couldn't stand that Soren wanted to tug on Riker's... beard... but seemingly had no problem with the fact that he's a *different species*!
Trans - Mon, Jun 24, 2013 - 4:29am (USA Central)
As some have pointed out this episode is rather about transgender issues than gay issues. Aside from telling us how wrong it is to impose ourselves on other peoples sexuality, it also raises an important point of that it's just as right to embrace your gender (whatever gender you want) as it is to distance yourself from it. It's a good intentioned episode that fall short because of writing and "tip toeing" around what they thought the audiences would perceive as "offensive".
mephyve - Wed, Jul 24, 2013 - 4:19pm (USA Central)
I actually didn't mind the ' tip toeing.' it seemed to me that the point of the episode was not to tell us how to think on the issue, Rather than tackling the issue it appeared to me that they were merely presenting both sides of the issue and leaving the audience to draw its own conclusions.
People who side with Riker will find the judge to be close minded and offensive. People who side with the judge will find Riker 'preachy' and offensive.
I know this kind of writing can be seen as cowardly because we like to know what side somebody is on. As a big fan of 'Boston Legal' however, it is always clear what side David Kelley is on, on any issue, many times to the detriment of the show imo, because the show became his pulpit.
Whether or not transgenders/homosexuals existed in the TNG universe becomes a moot point if they are not taking sides.
William B - Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - 9:27pm (USA Central)
Count me among those who agree with the episode's intentions but find the result sadly terrible. A lot of this comes down to the concept chosen to represent homosexuality in the episode, which is to create a race of androgynous people, and to represent a person questioning one's own gender and sexuality by asking a lot of questions about gender of the main cast. Then the main cast, without fail, describe gender and sexuality in the most normative and stereotypical ways. Men are sometimes attracted to demure women, sometimes attracted to other kinds of women [but always women]. Women style their hair more elaborately and wear makeup, while men play it cool. Worf inexplicably becomes extremely sexist suddenly during the poker game, hating on the J'naii for having no genders (is this really the first androgynous species they have ever encountered?) and declaring that only women are weak and have so many wild cards. It's not so much that Worf could never behave sexistly, but his overt "women are weak!" attitude comes mostly out of nowhere, and one wishes that Tasha were there to give him a smackdown (Ro or Guinan would do). Geordi grows a beard for this episode because, um, men have facial hair being men and all (all except Data, who's an android, and Picard, who's totally old). And as Jammer points out, every discussion of gender assumes that gender and sexuality go hand in hand, that a defining trait of maleness is being attracted to females and vice versa.

Somehow, the episode becomes even worse in its second act, zooming through improbable scene after improbable scene. We have the Riker/Troi scene in which he asks if they can still be friends while he dates Soren, as if their breakup was a month ago rather than around seven years. There is Soren and Riker's kissing scene, following stilted dialogue about beautiful plant life which is some attempt at romantic which fails entirely. And then comes the tour de force, the courtroom scene. In his review of Patch Adams, the late, great Roger Ebert said, "Any screenwriter who uses a courtroom scene in a non-legal movie is not only desperate for a third act, but didn't have a second act that led anywhere." Whether this is true in all cases, it certainly seems true in this episode, in which the courtroom gives Soren an opportunity to get up on her pulpit and deliver her "hath a female not eyes?" speech with passion. Alas, her speech, like most of the episode, falls apart in part because the literal and metaphorical meanings of the speech clash. Soren caps her speech by talking about how the state has no right to interfere in the way people love one another, which, yes, I agree with -- but it caps off the episode's misguided conflation of gender and sexual orientation into one thing, wherein the only possible meaning of being female or male is that you fall in love with other males or females respectively. Not only that, but at no point in the episode has Soren given a single line of dialogue which indicates in what way a male/female J'naii relationship would be different from a standard androgynous/androgynous J'naii relationship; there are no restrictions on who J'naii can be attracted to, and the method of procreation is presumably the same. Does the J'naii government lay in wait, trying to catch couples where (to use Beverly's examples) one styles their hair more elaborately and the other pretends not to be interested in impressing the other. And there it is. What does gender mean to Soren? What does Soren's lifelong repressed urge to be female mean to her? It means that when she meets a man like Riker, she wants to date him. That is it -- that is the entire meaning that this episode can manage to apply to Soren's plight, the only concrete identifier that anyone can think of to identify either gender or sexuality for the character meant to represent a whole wealth of complex issues.

Riker's deciding that he's in love with Soren is indeed unlikely; really, while TNG often goes to the well of the one-episode relationship, for the adult cast members it actually has been pretty good about recognizing the difference between instantaneous infatuation and a deeper connection. And the times in which a one-episode relationship was presented as a chance at real love, it was with characters -- Beverly, Lwaxana -- who had been established as lonely, worried about never feeling something again. Riker may have been pained when he fell for Yuta, but there was no indication that he *loved* her; Picard liked Vash a lot, but, you know, that was as far as it went. Riker's ILY at the episode's end feels painfully unconvincing, which is a matter of the problem of the premise itself of presenting a one-episode love for womanizer Riker, a failure of the writing to indicate what distinguished Soren from Riker's other one-episode flings, and a lack of chemistry on the part of the performers.

I'm actually neutral on Riker's rescue attempt -- TNG has some precedent, from "Half a Life," that it's possible to grant asylum to someone if they request it; and so the fact that Soren clearly would *want* asylum (at least before her treatment) should perhaps count for something. That Riker's going in and punching a bunch of guards has zero consequences is another frustrating point -- at least a line indicating that Picard had to clear up their scuffle would have helped. I do very much like Worf joining with Riker.

The ending is memorably downbeat. I do grant the episode that it went for full-on tragedy, and demonstrated the unsettling consequences of this society's actions. I was reminded of something like The Twilight Zone's "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" or some such -- in which the possibility of a break from conformity eventually is naturally stamped out, and the person is transformed so that they can't recognize what they lost. It's the one thing in the episode that does stand out as successful, in what is otherwise a hopelessly muddled and poorly characterized work. I think even 2 stars is far too generous, even granting good intentions; I would probably give it 1 star, all things considered.
William B - Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - 9:35pm (USA Central)
I had meant to say, at the end of the first paragraph: and as Jammer points out, the episode presents no examples of gay people in the 24th century, implying that they don't exist. (I think I got my wires crossed a little while writing.)
Jens Nordmark - Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - 6:08pm (USA Central)
I do not agree with the assumption that the episode is about homosexuality, instead I think it is a perfect allegory for transgender issues. It is simply inverse transgenderism we see in this episode. The basic issue of course is still the same: irrational traditionalism that one would presume to have vanished in the enligthened 24th century.

Anyway, I hate it. Two lines of conversation were cut, where Riker would have implied that restrictions on sexual orientation would prevent the J'nai from being considered an enlightened race (www.st-minutiae.com/academy/literature329/217.txt):

----
NOOR: In fact, we are a remarkably free and open society. Our people have rights and liberties which give them a great deal of self-determination. We are, by all measurements, an enlightened race.

RIKER: Then how is it... that Soren has no choice about her sexual orientation?
------

Also, the end is unnecessary and might be seen by a conservative viewer as justifying the therapy. Instead, she could have been found dead from suicide for the episode to be a good statement on the issue. The episode fails to give any definite indication of the status of sexual minorities in the Federation.

The choice of Riker as the one falling in love is a strange idea as well, but I am mainly frustrated by the political stuff.
Jack - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 8:14pm (USA Central)
Enterprise (!) tackled a similar issue better with Cogenitor, an episode far more interesting that this one, and with a downer ending that outdoes even this one.
Moegreen - Thu, Dec 12, 2013 - 8:08pm (USA Central)
I think it's wishful thinking that it's a transgender allegory and that what resulted owed to the fact that the writers didn't have the balls to openly cover homosexuality.
Andy's Friend - Sat, Dec 28, 2013 - 12:28pm (USA Central)
Dear all:

What I am about to write may seem provocative. Please read exactly what I write, and don't read anything that isn't there.

Also, I would like to add that English is not my first language. I'm European, and where I come from, we don't suffer from some of the nomenclature issues that seem to be important in the United States. Where I come from, blacks call themselves blacks, and so on. If anyone feels offended by my choice of words, please just insert the word you would prefer. I mean no disrespect.

Regarding this episode: first, I believe this to be an allegory about gays, not transgendered. In March 1992, gays (and AIDS) were being discussed much more than transgendered. The analogy is clear, if inverse: in our old-fashioned world, you were supposed to choose your opposite (sex); choosing your equal was "wrong". In modern J'naii society, you are inversely supposed to choose your equal (genderless); choosing your opposite (being a "sick" male/female) is "wrong". The analogy is as clear as it gets, only inverted.

Secondly, about the absence of homosexuals in Star Trek: what if - just what if - there are no homosexuals in the 24th century?

What I mean is this: I have no doubt that we in Picard's era will be much more "enlightened" (see below) than we are today. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no matter how enlightened, there is a very good probability that, given the possibility to screen and genetically modify embryos, we will make use of that technology. And given that possibility, I believe extremely few people, if any, will be born as, for example, dwarves, or albinos, or blind, or with Down Syndrome, if a simple genetic modification is all it takes to make the embryo "normal". We can all agree that there is nothing wrong with any of these people, but nevertheless, I am convinced that virtually all parents would prefer said small "corrective" genetic modification(s).

There is no doubt that it will some day be possible to do this, and all human history shows us that what is possible to do is also done. All we need is to get used to the idea. A hundred years ago, the notion of cosmetic surgery for no other reason than vanity would be considered wrong, and the idea of having an organ transplant from an animal donor would have shocked every ancient philosopher since Socrates and Plato. Can you imagine how Seneca would have condemned it? Will it shock anýone in three hundred years?

The question is, where does homosexuality stand? I can't help but wonder how many parents, if given the choice, would/will prefer their child to function "within normal parameters"?

Did the producers of Star Trek ever contemplate these matters? Why do we virtually never see anyone outside the norm in Star Trek? On TNG, we never even see any overweight humans. (David Ogden Stirs' character in "Half a Life" was an alien. So are the Pakleds. Other than that only a couple of guest stars are slighty chubby). Is this a mere coincidence? What do you think? What will happen when we finally begin to be able to make such precise modifications to our genome?

I would argue that there is a significant difference between aborting a child and genetically modifying it. Personally, I consider abortion immoral, not on religious, but rather on philosophical grounds. Most classical philosophers - but not all - would agree to this; curiously, some of the early and mediaeval Christan theologians, notably Thomas Aquinas, would say that it depends somewhat on the time elapsed since conception. Now, whether genetic manipulation is immoral from a philosophical point of view is an open question. However, whether it will be done in future centuries is not, I believe. What do you think?

We know that genetic manipulation takes place in the Trekverse, and while "enhancement" is prohibited, what do we know of "corrective" procedures? Can genetic manipulation be the reason why virtually every human on Star Trek is so "normal"? Why we never seen any disabled, or even overweight, human of any kind? Can this be why we never encounter homosexuality among humans on Star Trek? (The only two examples I can think of were both Trills). More profoundly, is it thinkable that humanity in the future will voluntarily eliminate homosexuality along with other "anomalies" by simple genetic modification? That in enough centuries, we will all be some sort of "perfect" mainstream beings? Or is it thinkable that we will leave such technology, which undoubtedly will be developed, unused?

Finally, on the issue of "enlightenment": I find it incredible that so many comments on this site state that DS9 (or BSG) are more "realistic" than the "utopian" TNG. Does anyone have any idea of how much human values in some aspects have changed over the past centuries?

250 years ago, in any major European city, people would rejoice at public executions; depending on region, entering a city you might be greeted by a row of impaled criminals left to rot, or pieces and bits of quartered criminals at city gates, bridges, and similar city crossroads. You might witness a criminal being dragged to death by a horse in the city streets, people being burned alive, or simply the rather mundane beheadings.

250 years. With a bit of luck, one of our great-grandparents' great-grandparent witnessed such events in their youth. Think of it: with a bit of luck, one of us may actually have known someone who knew someone who had witnessed such events. It really isn't such a long time ago.

When our great-grandparents were young a hundred years ago, in virtually every country masters were allowed to hit their servants (or apprentices), parents were allowed to hit their children, and men were allowed to hit their wives. Women in virtually all countries weren't allowed to vote, and most places they weren't allowed to have their own bank account, let alone buy say, a house. And all this had always been considered obvious.

Fifty years ago, smoking was comme il faut, driving after enjoying a bottle of wine and a cognac was no problem whatsoever, gays were sick, you were of course still allowed to hit your children, and any man pushing a pram must of course be a closet gay. And very few people would ever dream of quitting their job to embark on a journey of "personal growth and development".

Now tell me humanity isn't moving forward. Tell me mentalities don't change. Look at how far we've come in the past 250 years, and tell me that in another three hundred and fifty years (350!), Gene Roddenberry's vision isn't possible, that it's "utopian" and "unrealistic".

Look at Scandinavia today; they're almost halfway there, so to speak. Roddenberry keenly observed the evolutionary journey of human (Western) society, and extrapolated. His social vision will, I believe, come true, and quite possibly around the time he predicted. Anti-consumerism will rise, "personal growth and development" will become paramount, and money wil lose most of its significance. We can already see the beginnings to all this.

I'm sure that in the 24th century the BSG approach, which so many here seem to praise, just like most other "dark" and "realistic" sci-fi will be derided, and that Roddenberry will be considered a visionary and a genius for having seen which way the world was heading.

The bottom line is: people calling TNG "utopian" seem to forget that it's set in the late 24th century. They consistently judge it by today's standards - and they seem to forget the fantastic journey we as a people have always been on - and still are.
DavidK - Wed, Jan 1, 2014 - 3:17am (USA Central)
@Andy's friend

Your comments on homosexuality in the future certainly got me thinking. While it's an issue I regularly fight for, to be honest if I knew my unborn child was gay and I had the opportunity to "fix" it, I might even do that...not out of shame or anything, but because I can see in my friends how much harder it is to live with. But then that's probably more an indictment on our society than on them. Ideally we reach a place where it's not such a negative, in which case even if the option were available, it may not be something that's taken up.

I won't go on that topic too much, it's a big one, but it also leaves me wondering why Geordi's vision wasn't caught earlier either.

What I really wanted to reply to was as far as TNG's idealism goes. The thing about the Roddenberry vision that bothers me is that it presumes humanity moves forward in one collective heap. But we don't, there are always outliers. Most of the things you listed still happen. "Society", as a set of regulations that overlays the way we interact with each other, might condemn them now but it doesn't stop them from happening.

So I liked the middle ground that DS9 took. I still argue that it had an optimistic view of the Federation, that by and large it was made up of good people, but they were willing to say there are bad apples. There will always be bad apples because what society defines as a "bad apple" is someone with a different idea, and if no has different ideas then we never move forward. I don't believe that Section 31 *could not* exist in the Federation, but I do believe it would be small, it would struggle to gain traction amongst the wider human society, and the majority of Starfleet citizens would react just like Bashir and O'Brien did: with horror.

On top of that, people seem to ignore that DS9 was able to put most of its dissenting "voice" into alien characters like Quark, Kira or Garak. I think that's fair. Roddenberry had a vision for how humanity would evolve, but we would still have to interact with the rest of the galaxy.

To put it another way, just because we're a moneyless society in 350 years doesn't mean Starfleet doesn't have a stash of Gold-Pressed Latinum, or else what are they trading with the Ferengi? They can't say "oh we're a moneyless society", the Ferengi reply "well, too bad, we're not giving it to you for free".

My point is I think we'll go a long way in 350 years, but who knows what we'll find out there when we get there. "Utopia" sort of implies a closed system in a way, but what happens when utopia has to interact with everyone else? *That* was the interesting question I thought DS9 was asking. Because it's easy for someone on Earth to never see Latinum and live in harmony, but a posting on the fringe like DS9 requires a different skill set. Example 1: if you want to bond with the locals, you can't sit in your quarters drinking your free Starfleet beverages, you need to hang out where they hang out, and bond. And to do that, you're going to need a stipend of local currency of some kind, which I assume is how they paid Quark's tab. Example 2: religion may have died off in the Trek future, and fair enough, but if you want access to another culture's wormhole you can't go throwing it in their faces.

Eh, I'm rambling slightly now, haha, hopefully there's some cogent message in here. The point is, I loved TNG and I loved DS9. A metaphor I've used before here: sometimes I like a restaurant and sometimes I like a bar. They both serve different functions, they have different atmospheres, and they are both true. Some people find restaurants stuffy and boring, some people find bars uncouth and messy and dangerous. But for me at different times, in different moods, I like them both. But most importantly they can be true at the same time.
Jons - Fri, Jan 3, 2014 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
This episode is a complete cop-out. it would have been interesting to study a genderless society. But of course, the episode just goes to demonstrate the exact contrary to the premise: there can never be a REAL genderless society according to Star trek. OF COURSE in the end they're all either male or female, and OF COURSE the one Jnail they encounter is very interested in genders and wants to be one of them... Pff.

I haven't been so disappointed in a Star Trek for a long time. As often, ST pretends to explore different types of societies but usually ends up being incapable to sticking with REALLY different cultures. The Vulcans are emotionless, except that we see them struggling with their emotions 90% of the time. The Jnail are genderless except they actually have genders that they repress and any genderlessness is naturally born out of a dictature etc...
Andy's Friend - Sat, Jan 4, 2014 - 4:34am (USA Central)
@Jons:

It's a valid point, but I think perhaps you're missing the point.

Star Trek, in many, many (most?) cases, isn't attempting to depict utterly different societies. Many times, Star Trek is attempting to hold up a mirror. A slighly twisted, distorted one, that forces you to have to look twice before thinking, "Hey, could this actually be me...?"
Moonie - Sat, Jan 11, 2014 - 3:16pm (USA Central)
Strange, I really liked this episode.

I did get a not annoyed at yet another speech about the Prime Directive. I think quoting the Prime Directive in the face of abuse, torture and cruelty is a moral cop-out. It always bothers me a lot when it happens.

I like Riker even more after this.
Mark - Mon, Jan 20, 2014 - 5:53am (USA Central)
I love Star Trek, but I hate this episode. I just do.
Jamie Stearns - Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - 11:02pm (USA Central)
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

I think that sums up this episode. I have to commend them for trying to address the sexuality issue, but the episode waters it down so heavily and has the characters mention so many sexist stereotypes that it sabotages itself.

Similar "contemporary issue episodes" also took the time to make at least a cryptic reference to the "real" issue being discussed in the dialogue; for example, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" had Chekov and Sulu mentioning that Earth was prejudiced before and "In The Hand Of The Prophets" included a line from Keiko asking Winn what she would do when the class covered theories of evolution. No such luck here, and it's not like there was any lack of opportunities; when Riker was describing male sexuality to Soren in Ten Forward, he could have easily said, "Also, believe it or not, some men are actually attracted to other men." Or go with a continuity nod to "The Host" during the sickbay scene.

All in all, I appreciate that they tried, but it needed to be a lot less watered-down.
dave in nc - Tue, May 27, 2014 - 1:17am (USA Central)
A boring episode, filled with implausible moments. I didn't buy the relationship between Riker and Soren for a second. The actress who played Soren gave a numbingly monotone performance. Just terrible acting on her part, and terrible casting on the producer's party.

I also have to say that I found some of the comments here to be offensive. Being gay isn't something to be cured, ignorance is.

Maybe you all would understand that better if the producers of Star Trek had tackled this subject hesd on even once.
Melkster - Mon, Jun 16, 2014 - 4:49am (USA Central)
An aside -- I remember watching this episode when I was 14. I reacted quite emotionally and cried throughout the courtroom scene.

My reaction was prescient. Not long after watching that episode, my parents found out about my sexuality and reacted in an abusive way which still haunts our relationship to this day, 14 years later.

Jammer's criticism to this episode is completely valid. It's not well written. It's clumsy. And perhaps most importantly, it's tame.

But let's not forget that this episode was created in 1992. Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case which would declare unconstitutional laws against homosexuality, was not decided until 11 years later.

This episode was ahead of its time. In the intervening years between then and now, anti-homosexuality became a key point between the two major parties in the United States. Anti-homosexuality continues to be an important part of many of the major religions in the world. And it's even a crime punishable by death in some countries of the world.

I, for one, can forgive the flaws considering the radical message of this epside. I can hardly believed it aired at all, considering that TNG was pretty popular, and most people in the United States at the time disapproved of anything other than heterosexuality.
Sonya - Sat, Jun 21, 2014 - 6:57pm (USA Central)
I agree that this episode was ahead of its time. I think others make a convincing argument that the episode was meant to stimulate support for the gay rights movement. What's so great is that one can easily see the application to equality for transgendered people. One can even tease apart issues of sexual identity (Soren identifies as female) and sexual orientation (Soren is a female attracted to a male). Implications of Soren's and Riker's speeches are that any person has a right to identify as male or female (or androgynous) and that any person has a right to develop a relationship with any other person, regardless of that person's gender. Very progressive, even if the writers chose to depict the least controversial pairing.

As an aside, I missed having a compelling music score in this episode. Others have commented on this drawback to Season 5. Now that I'm conscious of it, the silence is deafening.
2piix - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 10:29pm (USA Central)
This episode works a lot better if you see it as a story about gender instead of sexuality. Gender is a choice, sexuality is biology. Soren wants the freedom to make a choice. Etc.
Robert - Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - 9:08am (USA Central)
"This episode works a lot better if you see it as a story about gender instead of sexuality. Gender is a choice, sexuality is biology. Soren wants the freedom to make a choice. Etc. "

I don't think gender is a choice and I don't think Soren's identifying with being female or attraction to males was a choice either. I really just don't get this comment.
Dave in NC - Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - 1:24am (USA Central)
I think 2plix was trying to say that for this episode to make sense as an allegory, you have to view gender in the way we view sexuality. At least, I think so.

And for the record, I agree with the above comment by Sonya: the music in this episode is absolutely horrible. Why did they ever fire Ron Jones?! The later seasons really have terrible droning soundtracks.
2piix - Sun, Jul 13, 2014 - 5:53pm (USA Central)
I said what I meant. I don't know who "we" is. Sexuality is your urges. Who you are attracted to.

Gender is how you act.

www.med.monash.edu.au/gendermed/sexandgender.html

The episode is literally about gender. They planet is entirely sex-less. They are asexual. But Soren wants to act a certain way. And she CHOSE TO DO SO.
Robert - Mon, Jul 14, 2014 - 1:10pm (USA Central)
Soren doesn't just want to act female. She has urges of attraction to people who are acting male. In fact, I would argue that the largest component of how she is different is her attraction to Riker, not any choice of how to act (I still don't think gender is a choice but even using your words I think you are wrong).
Sonya - Sun, Jul 27, 2014 - 11:19pm (USA Central)
Here is a link to a helpful site re: definitions of gender identity, sexual orientation, etc.

http: //www.hrc.org/resources/entry/sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity-termin ology-and-definitions (omit the space between the colon and the first two backslashes)

In the past (including recently), I've used the term sexual identity, but I think gender identity is closer to the intended meaning. Using these definitions, I think gender expression is a choice, but not gender identity or sexual orientation. (Also note that sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior... just because someone has sex with a person of a specific biological sex, it doesn't mean he or she necessary gravitates towards that sex in terms of attraction.)

Again, part of what makes this episode a good one is that it prompts these types of questions, and hopefully promotes greater acceptance of diversity and empathy for others among viewers.
msw188 - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 10:24pm (USA Central)
Hm, lots of potential landmines to wade through here.

I watched this episode today for the first time (I think), and I think the 'message' holds up as a product of its time. I also think it's a case where if one gives it a 'low-level scan', the hypocrisy can be ignored in favor of a straightforward idea: people should be free to love whomever they wish. Bundle that message into a primetime television show in the early 90s and you get this.

For me, the heavy handedness of the monologues was dragging the episode down, but count me among the people who was suitably gutpunched by the ending. As soon as Riker and Worf beamed down, I thought about it for a split second and realized what was about to happen, and I was pissed. Regardless of any and all problematic implications of the script and Star Trek at large, the simple idea that a person's right to choose unharmful aspects of their identity is taken away is just the saddest thing ever.
Joshua - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 7:48am (USA Central)
[Comment deleted by Jammer]
Robert - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 8:28am (USA Central)
::Hangs up the "Don't Feed The Trollz" sign::

::Walks away quietly::
Elliott - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 10:57am (USA Central)
@Joshua : When you're ready to come out of the closet, the Jammer community will be here for you.
Dave in NC - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 7:21pm (USA Central)
@ Joshua

I'm a gay dude, and trust me when I tell you it's not a choice. If it were, I'd be straight. lol

Although . . . I have to agree with Elliot, I suspect that you already know that better than anyone.

@ Robert & Elliot & Sonya & Andy's Friend & everyone else besides Joshua:

Thanks for being open-minded and inclusive. Trek fans really are the best people!
bhbor - Tue, Sep 16, 2014 - 8:56pm (USA Central)
If Star Trek teaches us anything its to embrace diversity - that, and simple metaphors are a great way to explain away complex technobabble.
Joshua - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 1:20pm (USA Central)
I'm sorry to see the gay agenda is alive and well on here. I expected most of you to have drunk the kool aid, but i was surprised Jammer would censor my comments when he talks about freedom of speech so much.

There are no gay people in Star Trek because no one chooses perversiont in the future. End of story.
Robert - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 1:36pm (USA Central)
IDIC
Joshua - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 1:59pm (USA Central)
Vulcans don't even have emotions, so I don't see how that applies here. Diversity is not a virtue.

Dave in NC isn't the only one who should be worried for his soul, i hope you know that promoting sin is almost as bad as doing the act.
Robert - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
"Dave in NC isn't the only one who should be worried for his soul"

Agreed.
Time_Travelling_Robert_From_Yesterday - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 2:17pm (USA Central)
::Points to "Don't Feed The Trollz" sign::

::Slaps his present self in the head::

::Slingshots back around the sun::
bhbor - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
This is what I never get about religious people. One would think that if Dave's soul is doomed, why would you care feeling so satisfied in your correctness? Let him burn if that is the will of the universe, which in all its wonders and complexities has awarded Earth (and I suspect, in your ONE religion) as being the center for moral correctness... for some reason.

The fact that there aren't gay characters in Star Trek (although the topic is broached in a handful of episodes across all the series) says more about our societies present view of sexuality than it does about the future.

Although I fundamentally disagree with Joshua, I believe its a topic worth of discussion in the context of Star Trek, especially with this episode.

On another note, now that I think of it, Odo can be seen as a kind of transgender/no gender character. One who chooses his sexuality... or does he? hmm
Robert - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 3:03pm (USA Central)
"Although I fundamentally disagree with Joshua, I believe its a topic worth of discussion in the context of Star Trek, especially with this episode."

The lack of gay characters in Trek is certainly worth discussing. In the context of a 20th century TV show that was ground breaking in it's exploration of other kinds of diversity. DS9 for example had exactly 1 white male on the show (characters of course, not actors). And he wasn't even an American. For a franchise that had the first interracial kiss and people from different colors and countries flying on a starship together 40 years ago, it is notable that they never really boldly went there with a gay character.

So yes, it's totally a valid discussion to speak on why there were no gay characters written into Star Trek by the writers of our time. It is NOT a valid discussion to speak on if there will be no gay people in the future. That there is troll bait.
Elliott - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 3:04pm (USA Central)
If there is a hell, I'd imagine it's a lot like South Park's depiction as a never-ending luau replete with the sexually, intellectually, spiritually, interrogatively, communally, conversationally, historically, physically and socially interesting lot of humanity (aka "the sinners").

Joshua, I'm sure Jammer would agree that your comment was not censured because you have a radical opinion, but because you used a hateful slur.

@ Dave in NC--see you at the luau! (you, too, Joshua)
Elliott - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 3:05pm (USA Central)
@Robert :

2 words : Rick Berman
Elliott - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 3:11pm (USA Central)
I was pleased that DS9 was willing, at least, to address the topic of fluid sexuality (Dax in "Rejoined," Odo in "Chimera, Quark, God help us all, in "Profit and Lace"). I was far less impressed by the silliness in, say "Body and Soul," or, God couldn't help us if he were real, "Bound."

SIgh, and of course the Abrams' flicks are just dripping with "not-gays" (see RedLetterMedia).
Robert - Wed, Sep 17, 2014 - 3:15pm (USA Central)
"On another note, now that I think of it, Odo can be seen as a kind of transgender/no gender character. One who chooses his sexuality... or does he? hmm "

I choose to think Odo and Dax are nearly pansexual (and Dax is genderless). Jadzia obviously has a gender, but the Dax symbiont cannot possibly have a gender as we understand it and seems to be capable of romantic relationships outside the consideration of gender (a trait that Jadzia Dax has demonstrated to have obtained via joining most likely). There was no element of bi-sexuality in her attraction to Lenara Khan, it was much more gender blind/pansexual.

As to Odo? He only exhibits sexual attraction towards women, but I don't think he selected his gender anymore than Data did. Odo's is modeled after his "father" Dr. Moya and Data's is modeled after his "father" as well. I would assume that both of them would be capable of attraction to their same gender, since the entire great link is well, practically the same organism?

"ODO: To differentiate yourself from the others.
FOUNDER: I don't.
ODO: But you are a separate being, aren't you?
FOUNDER: In a sense.
ODO: When you return to the Link, what will happen to the entity I'm talking to right now?
FOUNDER: The drop becomes the ocean."

That basically means that, to my understanding, they should all be the same gender (or lack there of). And unless something in them programs them to like humanoid females, I'd imagine that, should the right man come along, Odo could be attracted to him. (I'm SURE there has got to be some Odo/Garak fan-fic somewhere).
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:17am (USA Central)
@ Elliot

I've never been to a luau, so it should be fun. :)

@ Joshua

It's sad that you are so judgmental . . . obviously your parents failed to teach you about empathy or respect for your fellow man. Apparently Star Trek didn't help either.

I can only hope one day that you'll see that bigotry and fear is no way to live a life.

@ Robert/Elliot/bbhor

Your discussion of Odo's gender/sexuality is fascinating.

My two cents? In the episode where Odo boinked the hideous "female" changeling as the solids do, the dialogue basically stated that linking is the Shapeshifter equivalent of sexual intercourse.

This is interesting because there was also an episode where Odo linked with a "male" changeling. If we DO accept that changelings have a gender, the Odo was definitely double dipping.
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 8:47am (USA Central)
"This is interesting because there was also an episode where Odo linked with a "male" changeling. If we DO accept that changelings have a gender, the Odo was definitely double dipping."

Agreed. It was stated (in some ways) that linking is even more intimate than sex. But even if Odo is confused by solid terms I don't the "female" changeling would actually consider herself female or consider her or Odo bi-sexual. That's why I went with pan-sexual... I just think it's about the person, not about an attraction to a gender.

In a lot of ways DS9 was very progressive about sexuality. I particularly liked that in "Rejoined" nobody even blinked that Lenara was a woman. It was all about violating the Trill taboo that people were upset with. DS9's progressive take on sexuality was, to me (especially as a product of the time) a natural progression from TNG being willing to dip their toes into such subject matter in this episode. Sadly future Trek series dropped the ball.

When I was younger and watching Star Trek I couldn't understand why people were clamoring for a gay character. I mean, I wouldn't have had a problem with it (my parents were pretty conservative, and my father even fairly religious... but they actually never tried to teach us there was anything wrong with being gay, and I had already watched gay characters on Roseanne) but I didn't see the need. I suppose it comes with being a straight white male.

With a little more perspective I see the legacy Gene left. A Japanese man, a black woman, a Russian (during the cold war) and even an alien first officer (how nice to think that when we finally meet another species we'll be friends with them). That's a legacy of inclusion. A show that had the first interracial kiss written by a man who's pilot included a female first officer!

For all of Gene's faults it's a hell of a legacy and one that I'm proud to be a fan of. With a little more perspective I do see that Rick Berman dropped the ball. It might not have meant much to me as a middle schooler watching Voyager, but to the kid who just realized he was gay it might have meant the world.

A quote from Whoopi Goldberg :
"She said, 'Well when I was nine years old Star Trek came on,' and she said, 'I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, "Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!"' And she said, 'I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be, and I want to be on Star Trek.'"

Now that I'm older I could see what seeing a gay person on the bridge of a starship in an accepting future could have meant to that kid. And I'm sad that Rick Berman decided he couldn't boldly go where no one had gone before.
Andy's Friend - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 12:09pm (USA Central)
@Joshua: ”There are no gay people in Star Trek because no one chooses perversiont in the future. End of story.”

@Robert: "Although I fundamentally disagree with Joshua, I believe its a topic worth of discussion in the context of Star Trek, especially with this episode."

@Everyone else:
Joshua’s fundamental attitude is of course not worth waisting time on. However, I wholly concur with Robert. However, I disagree on the final outcome.

Yes, “seeing a gay person on the bridge of a starship” far in the future could be very meaningful and important to the viewers, and especially to the particular viwer. But the question is actually: would it be realistic, i.e., consistent with the view of humanity in TOS and TNG?

I believe it’s short-sighted to focus on gays, or the absence of gays, in Star Trek. There’s a much, much more obvious absence in all the series that is indicative of the much greater issue at hand: that of obese humans. In other words: in Star Trek, what we see in the future is ideal humans.

Consider that.

This is especially true in TOS and TNG, where every human is more or less an ideal human, in every way, except for a few individuals who turn out to be more or less insane or otherwise "inhuman", such as Bekker in "The Doomsday Machine", or even better, Korby in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?". But see also Satie in "The Drumhead", Marr in "Silicon Avatar", Maxwell in "The Wounded", or Graves in "The Schizoid Man", just to name a few. Apart from such "wounded", "schizoid" people, and the very rare example of Pressman in "The Pegasus", humans on TOS and TNG were virtually always near-ideal: physically "perfect", and morally paragons of virtue, much like Jean-Luc Picard. There are very few shades of grey here.

This poses a much, much more fundamental question than the superficial gay issue; the gay question is interesting, of course, in late 20th/early 21st century contexts, but less significant in the grand scheme of Trek.

The real question is: why are there never, apart from such clinical cases as the above mentioned, any anormal people in Star Trek, apart from the genetically enhanced in "Space Seed", before DS9 revisits that exact same theme with "Doctor Bashir, I Presume?", and "Statistical Probabilities"?

[It’s interesting to note how DS9, which completely subverted what humanity and the Federation had evolved to in the course of TOS and TNG, also subverted their very idea of ideal people.]

Allow me to quote my previous comment on this thread of Dec 28, 2013:

"Secondly, about the absence of homosexuals in Star Trek: what if ― just what if ― there are no homosexuals in the 24th century?

What I mean is this: I have no doubt that we in Picard's era will be much more "enlightened" (see below) than we are today. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no matter how enlightened, there is a very good probability that, given the possibility to screen and genetically modify embryos, we will make use of that technology. And given that possibility, I believe extremely few people, if any, will be born as, for example, dwarves, or albinos, or blind, or with Down Syndrome, if a simple genetic modification is all it takes to make the embryo "normal". We can all agree that there is nothing wrong with any of these people, but nevertheless, I am convinced that virtually all parents would prefer said small "corrective" genetic modification(s).

There is no doubt that it will some day be possible to do this, and all human history shows us that what is possible to do is also done. All we need is to get used to the idea. [...]

The question is, where does homosexuality stand? I can't help but wonder how many parents, if given the choice, would/will prefer their child to function "within normal parameters"?

Did the producers of Star Trek ever contemplate these matters? Why do we virtually never see anyone outside the norm in Star Trek? On TNG, we never even see any overweight humans. (David Ogden Stirs' character in "Half a Life" was an alien. So are the Pakleds. Other than that only a couple of guest stars are slighty chubby). Is this a mere coincidence? What do you think? What will happen when we finally begin to be able to make such precise modifications to our genome?

[...]

We know that genetic manipulation takes place in the Trekverse, and while "enhancement" is prohibited, what do we know of "corrective" procedures? Can genetic manipulation be the reason why virtually every human on Star Trek is so "normal"? Why we never seen any disabled, or even overweight, human of any kind? Can this be why we never encounter homosexuality among humans on Star Trek?"

And to finish, what follows: "More profoundly, is it thinkable that [...] in enough centuries, we will all be some sort of "perfect" mainstream beings? Or is it thinkable that we will leave such technology, which undoubtedly will be developed, unused?"

This is really the main question we should be considering; homosexuality is merely part of a larger question.

I’m guessing all of us ― apart from Joshua ― can see no moral wrong in being a homosexual. I’m guessing most of us ― including me ― can see no ethical problem with civil marriages for gays. I’m guessing some of us ― though not me ― can see no ethical problem in gay adoption. But *when* a bit of genetic resequencing of an embryo is all it will take to make the future child a person who will not be blind nor deaf, nor have some other physically or mentally crippling genetic disorder [I’m *not* including homosexuality in this category], and who will be able to fall in love and have children with a person of the opposite sex as the most natural [no pun intended] thing on Earth, who will refrain from doing it? I’m guessing not many.

To me, there's nothing as beautiful in creation or evolution (your choice) as the ability of two people of the opposite sex who love each other to have a child that is, quite literally, a part of them both. This is something truly amazing. For no other reason than that, I would feel extremely sorry for being gay, just like I feel extremely sorry for all the people who for one reason or another cannot have a child with the person they love.

I think adoption is a beautiful thing. I think the capacity to love a child that is not your own is a beautiful thing. But don’t tell me that that is what every straight couple in love dream of. No, we dream of creating new life, unassisted by technology, that is, magically, a part of ourselves and the very man or woman we love. And I believe (though I may be wrong), that this is some sort of longing, and a problem, that at least some homosexuals who truly love each other somehow must feel, at some point. “Ahh, if only we could...”

So please don’t take this the wrong way. But who on Earth would deny their future child the possibility of having a "normal" family, if all it took was a visit to the doctor?

I seriously believe that someday in the future, there will be no homosexuality. I seriously believe that in the future, every human being will be near-perfect. And yes, I’m sorry to say this, but there is such a thing as "perfection" to most humans. We all know that, let’s not pretend otherwise. When the technology becomes available, we’ll all have different eye and hair and skin colours, but we’ll all have essentially the same build, etc. No one will chose their child to have short, crooked legs, or be bald, or with a tendency to be fat. We’ll all look essentially alike. Hell, to any alien species out there we probably already do.

That’s actually something I like about TNG. In TOS it would of course be totally unthinkable to mention homosexuality. But by the time TNG was around, the issue could have been adressed. By season 7, we could have seen a gay captain in one of the episodes. In a way, I’m actually glad we didn’t. I understand Robert’s argument that that would be an important message to the viewers back then, or even today, twenty years later. But I actually believe that doing so would be an undermining of the “ideal human” idea that pervades TOS and TNG.

No, some of you may be thinking: “What is this idiot talking about? There is no such thing as an ideal human.” I share that sentiment, but again, please, let’s not fool ourselves. There’s nothing wrong in being very short, and yet we give people growth hormones these days.

I’m sure that in the real 24th century, no one will be missing homosexuals in TNG; in fact, they’ll probably praise it for not caving in to that particular social issue of its day, and having been so far-sighted in predicting the human trend for perfecting ourselves as soon as the relevant technologies are becoming available. In that way, we humans aren't really that different from the Borg.

But I may be wrong. Who knows, by the 24th century, maybe we’ll see it as something natural that two male homosexuals, one of whom is some sort of cyborg, have their DNA matched in a laboratory, and then have their scientifically engineered child implanted in the cyborg for gestation. It could certainly be done, and would merely be another take on our resemblance to the Borg. All I’m saying is, the other way around would make a lot more sense.

What do you think?
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
"So please don’t take this the wrong way. But who on Earth would deny their future child the possibility of having a "normal" family, if all it took was a visit to the doctor? "

I do agree. I just wonder if the trip to the doctor would simply mean that 2 men or 2 women could combine their DNA and create a child that is half daddy and half daddy (heh, I actually wrote this part before I read your ending... to me this would actually make more sense based on current trending morality).

"What do you think?"

I also think that people TODAY might choose to make their child not gay (if only to spare them some difficulty in life), as it becomes less difficult to be gay... well I don't know. In 100 years will people even think it's worth designing your designer babies around that?

I also think that Star Trek (and modern morality) have an unspoken "don't mess with nature" law built in. The Prime Directive seems to lean that way. I think that designing our babies to do anything other than not have horrible diseases will probably be off limits. Obviously time will tell though.
Peremensoe - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 1:17pm (USA Central)
I agree with Robert, I believe. I think we are closer to engineering babies with same-sex biological parents (with donor eggs and surrogate mothers for the male couples, it can probably be done *this* century), than to eradicating homosexuality. By reasons of both science and culture. I think it will become accepted that gay people are as natural and *desirable* a component of human diversity as any other.
Peremensoe - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 1:23pm (USA Central)
Also, Andy's Friend, I'm sure that we see mostly 'ideal' humans in the shows because we are mostly watching the exceptionally talented and motivated people who chose, and succeeded at, careers in Starfleet.
Elliott - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 2:45pm (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend :

I appreciate that you're making every effort to present a genuine argument and are not purposefully promoting a prejudiced view, but your argument is specious.

Being gay (or possessing any number of sexual orientations other than what you are calling "normal") has no bearing on one's ability to interact with society. Unlike a mental or physical disability, non-hetero orientations are simply different flavours of human sexuality, akin to race.

Being gay also has absolutely no effect on one's ability to raise a family, work, attend social functions, etc. The affinity with race comes in the fact that the difficulties associated with being gay are socially imposed, not empirically determined.

"I’m sure that in the real 24th century, no one will be missing homosexuals in TNG..."

Um, homosexuals have been a part of every society since the dawn of recorded human history (and most likely long before). Being able to make babies within the confines of one particular socially-imposed monogamous sexual relationship is not what I would call a determining factor in choosing an "ideal human." Making babies is really, really easy. It's the raising them part which requires a bit of effort, don't you think?
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
Andy's friend said:
Yes, “seeing a gay person on the bridge of a starship” far in the future could be very meaningful and important to the viewers, and especially to the particular viwer. But the question is actually: would it be realistic, i.e., consistent with the view of humanity in TOS and TNG?

I believe it’s short-sighted to focus on gays, or the absence of gays, in Star Trek. There’s a much, much more obvious absence in all the series that is indicative of the much greater issue at hand: that of obese humans. In other words: in Star Trek, what we see in the future is ideal humans.

Consider that.


Reply:
Except Geordi is blind. Counselor Troi loses her powers. Admiral Clayton, Sarek, Picard and Tuvok have incurable illnesses. B'elanna, Troi, and Spock are mixed. Half the TNG cast are social outcasts. Many nationalities and worlds are represented. People from young to old serve in Starfleet. Sisko was a grief-stricken widower. Barclay has a anxiety disorder. Miles has PTSD. Bashir was genetically manipulated by his parents. Admiral Hanson and the admiral in the "Drumhead" were far from svelte. (I suspect limited budgets led them to save the over-sized uniforms for the Bolian extras).

So why is the "focusing on the gay issue" "short-sighted"? It seems to me that you are casually dismissive of the big civil rights issue of our time.


Andy's Friend said:
This poses a much, much more fundamental question than the superficial gay issue; the gay question is interesting, of course, in late 20th/early 21st century contexts, but less significant in the grand scheme of Trek.

reply:
How can you refer to being inclusive of gay people as "superficial"? Having even one gay character isn't too much to ask, especially of a forward thinking franchise like Trek. The implication that we don't exist is wrong for a lot of reasons.


Andy's friend said:
Allow me to quote my previous comment on this thread of Dec 28, 2013:

"Secondly, about the absence of homosexuals in Star Trek: what if ― just what if ― there are no homosexuals in the 24th century?

What I mean is this: I have no doubt that we in Picard's era will be much more "enlightened" (see below) than we are today. Nevertheless, I am convinced that no matter how enlightened, there is a very good probability that, given the possibility to screen and genetically modify embryos, we will make use of that technology. And given that possibility, I believe extremely few people, if any, will be born as, for example, dwarves, or albinos, or blind, or with Down Syndrome, if a simple genetic modification is all it takes to make the embryo "normal". We can all agree that there is nothing wrong with any of these people, but nevertheless, I am convinced that virtually all parents would prefer said small "corrective" genetic modification(s).

There is no doubt that it will some day be possible to do this, and all human history shows us that what is possible to do is also done. All we need is to get used to the idea. [...]


reply:

Get used to the idea that eugenics is ok?! You have no idea how offensive it is for you to say that my life is broken and needs to be fixed! Saying I'm a DNA edit away from "normal" is NOT a compliment.

I'm sure you feel what you wrote is very even-minded and logical, but your conclusion that being gay is comparable to having a disease is wrong. Even more offensive is your oh-well attitude toward eugenics.


Andy's Friend said:
The question is, where does homosexuality stand? I can't help but wonder how many parents, if given the choice, would/will prefer their child to function "within normal parameters"?

reply:
So I'm abnormal? I'm defined by one characteristic of myself? I know you don't mean to be offensive, which in some ways is even worse. You don't understand what you are saying.

Andy's Friend said:
We know that genetic manipulation takes place in the Trekverse, and while "enhancement" is prohibited, what do we know of "corrective" procedures? Can genetic manipulation be the reason why virtually every human on Star Trek is so "normal"? Why we never seen any disabled, or even overweight, human of any kind? Can this be why we never encounter homosexuality among humans on Star Trek?"

reply:
Starfleet, like our military, probably has fitness standards just as we do. Besides, the replicators are probably to the point where they can remove calories/fat without effecting taste too much.

The civilians we DO see definitely run the gamut of body-types.


Andy's Friend said:
And to finish, what follows: "More profoundly, is it thinkable that [...] in enough centuries, we will all be some sort of "perfect" mainstream beings? Or is it thinkable that we will leave such technology, which undoubtedly will be developed, unused?"

reply:
You should read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

Andy's friend said:
This is really the main question we should be considering; homosexuality is merely part of a larger question.

reply: When Gene R. decided to include Uhura, Chekov, Spock, Chapel and Sulu in the cast, was that part of a larger question?

Sometimes, just the act of showing different kinds of people are still people is enough.


Andy's Friend said:
I’m guessing all of us ― apart from Joshua ― can see no moral wrong in being a homosexual. I’m guessing most of us ― including me ― can see no ethical problem with civil marriages for gays.

I’m guessing some of us ― though not me ― can see no ethical problem in gay adoption.

reply:
Ethical problem with gay adoptions when so many children live in foster care and group homes?


Andy's friend said:
But *when* a bit of genetic resequencing of an embryo is all it will take to make the future child a person who will not be blind nor deaf, nor have some other physically or mentally crippling genetic disorder [I’m *not* including homosexuality in this category], and who will be able to fall in love and have children with a person of the opposite sex as the most natural [no pun intended] thing on Earth, who will refrain from doing it? I’m guessing not many.

reply:
You assume it is genetic and NOT epi-genetic, which is a much different beast. I suggest you do some research before you start fantasizing about deleting aspects of society you have a "etchical problem" with.


Andy's friend said:
To me, there's nothing as beautiful in creation or evolution (your choice) as the ability of two people of the opposite sex who love each other to have a child that is, quite literally, a part of them both.

reply:
First off, I can still have children.

Secondly, If the technology for two males/females to reproduce does develop, doesn't that throw your whole "beauty" argument out the window?


Andy's friend said:
This is something truly amazing. For no other reason than that, I would feel extremely sorry for being gay, just like I feel extremely sorry for all the people who for one reason or another cannot have a child with the person they love.

reply:
Spare me your false pity. Just because I can't combine my genetics with someone (at the moment) doesn't mean I need someone to feel sorry for me. Besides, currently there are many ways to conceive a child that CAN involve sibling DNA, etc, if that is your big thing.

I
Andy's friend said:
think adoption is a beautiful thing. I think the capacity to love a child that is not your own is a beautiful thing. But don’t tell me that that is what every straight couple in love dream of. No, we dream of creating new life, unassisted by technology, that is, magically, a part of ourselves and the very man or woman we love. And I believe (though I may be wrong), that this is some sort of longing, and a problem, that at least some homosexuals who truly love each other somehow must feel, at some point. “Ahh, if only we could...”

reply:
Thanks for filling us gay people in on why straight people like to have kids.

Andy's friend says:
So please don’t take this the wrong way. But who on Earth would deny their future child the possibility of having a "normal" family, if all it took was a visit to the doctor?

reply:
I am not an aberration. You make it sound like being gay is Lou Gehrig's disease.

Besides, one could argue that since gay poeple are inordinately involved percentage-wise in high culture (music, the arts, architecture, etc) that we serve a vital social and intellectual function.

Andy's friend says:
I seriously believe that someday in the future, there will be no homosexuality. I seriously believe that in the future, every human being will be near-perfect. And yes, I’m sorry to say this, but there is such a thing as "perfection" to most humans. We all know that, let’s not pretend otherwise. When the technology becomes available, we’ll all have different eye and hair and skin colours, but we’ll all have essentially the same build, etc. No one will chose their child to have short, crooked legs, or be bald, or with a tendency to be fat. We’ll all look essentially alike. Hell, to any alien species out there we probably already do.

reply:
That will only happen if people decide that tinkering with non-disease related aspects of their children is the right thing to do. The fact that you have decided that I am an aberration and "not normal" is where you need to start over.

And frankly, your sort of back-handed endorsement of the process is just the sort of thing that gets the slippery slope started.


Andy's friend says:
That’s actually something I like about TNG. In TOS it would of course be totally unthinkable to mention homosexuality. But by the time TNG was around, the issue could have been adressed.

reply:
It doesn't surprise me that you would like this.

Andy's friend says:
By season 7, we could have seen a gay captain in one of the episodes. In a way, I’m actually glad we didn’t.

reply:
Of course you are. That whole diversity and inclusion thing was so 1960's, wasn't it?

Andy's friend says:
I understand Robert’s argument that that would be an important message to the viewers back then, or even today, twenty years later. But I actually believe that doing so would be an undermining of the “ideal human” idea that pervades TOS and TNG.

reply:
You are wrong. Khan was exiled for this, Julian shouldn't have been in Starfleet. They've established pretty firmly that it's a big no-no in the Trekverse.


Andy's friend says:
No, some of you may be thinking: “What is this idiot talking about? There is no such thing as an ideal human.” I share that sentiment, but again, please, let’s not fool ourselves. There’s nothing wrong in being very short, and yet we give people growth hormones these days.

reply:
That shows how little you understand biology. There are physiological MEDICAL reasons why an extremely short stature can be non-advantageous. Doctors don't just hand them to kids that are a little short.

Andy's friend says:
I’m sure that in the real 24th century, no one will be missing homosexuals in TNG; in fact, they’ll probably praise it for not caving in to that particular social issue of its day, and having been so far-sighted in predicting the human trend for perfecting ourselves as soon as the relevant technologies are becoming available. In that way, we humans aren't really that different from the Borg.

reply:
Well, they'll definitely be some bored humans, because their art, music, fashion and architecture will probably suck.

Andy's friend says:
But I may be wrong. Who knows, by the 24th century, maybe we’ll see it as something natural that two male homosexuals, one of whom is some sort of cyborg, have their DNA matched in a laboratory, and then have their scientifically engineered child implanted in the cyborg for gestation.

reply:
I love how you wax rhapsodic about the "loving process" of ejaculating semen into the vaginal canal, but somehow creating a process where I could reproduce with my partner is deserving of this Borg-analogy-heavy description.

Andy's friend says:
It could certainly be done, and would merely be another take on our resemblance to the Borg. All I’m saying is, the other way around would make a lot more sense.

reply:
And that, my friends, is a textbook example of how to campaign for racial purification.

Oh, and "Andy's friend", please stop referring to us as "the homosexuals". We generally prefer the adjective gay, because after that comes the word it describes: person.

You definitely could use the reminder.
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:41pm (USA Central)
I'll quote from an episode of Star Trek that I think is relevant to this discussion.

HANNAH: May I see it? Your visor?
LAFORGE: Sure. So, I guess if I had been conceived on your world, I wouldn't even be here now, would I?
HANNAH: No.
LAFORGE: No, I'd've been terminated as a fertilised cell.
HANNAH: It was the wish of our founders that no one had to suffer a life with disabilities.
LAFORGE: Who gave them the right to decide whether or not I should be here? Whether or not I might have something to contribute.
HANNAH: I don't know what to say. Here you go. How does it work?
LAFORGE: Well, the visor scans the electromagnetic spectrum between one hertz and one hundred thousand terahertz, converts it all to usable frequencies and then transmits that information directly to my brain.
HANNAH: What about the data conversion rates? How do you avoid a sensory overload?
LAFORGE: A bank of pre-processors compresses the data stream into pulses, you see. That way, my visual cortex never. Wait a minute. Wait just a minute. We should be able to send a high-energy pulse through the tractor system. If it's short enough, it shouldn't overload the emitters. The technology is right here. If we could adapt those pulse compression routines and then apply them to the warp power conduits.
HANNAH: We'd have to avoid tractor force rebounding, but that shouldn't be hard.
LAFORGE: Sure. With a few modifications. Oh, that's perfect.
HANNAH: What?
LAFORGE: If the answer to all of this is in a visor created for a blind man who never would have existed in your society. No offence intended.
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:47pm (USA Central)
Actually that entire episode makes a good case against "ideal humans" the way you'd describe it (via designer babies).

I choose to believe nobody is overweight in the future because replicated chocolate ice cream has no calories and that nobody is gay in the future because Rick Berman has no balls. But that's just me :P
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:49pm (USA Central)
@ Robert

I said the same in my mega-reply. :)

BTW, apologies to Jammer and the visitors to this forum.

I know huge posts are irritating to read, but I felt that Andy's friend needed to be addressed point for point.
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:52pm (USA Central)
"I said the same in my mega-reply. :)"

Your comment about Geordi being blind is actually what made me think of this episode.
Peremensoe - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:52pm (USA Central)
Dave in NC, thanks for the above. I must admit, I skimmed Andy's Friend's comments and certainly overlooked some key points. The "ethical objection" to adoption by gay couples is striking, for one thing.

I have to say, while we all can debate many points of the depicted Trekverse/future culture, it is pretty strongly established that *eugenics* is seen as wicked, in the canonical history and in specific contexts such as Robert points out.
Elliott - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 3:59pm (USA Central)
Bravo, Dave in NC! I've always been bothered by the idea that straight intercourse can be described in flowery 19th century poetic terms while gay intercourse is, as you put, an aberration. It's all equally gross and beautiful depending on where you're standing.

Worth pointing out that Andy's Friend specifically said "obese" people--which is as ridiculous as complaining we don't see people with cancer--a diversity of body types should be shown, but obesity is a product of poor health and poor diet, both of which are antithetical to Federation economics and technology. My issue is that it seems like only the males show a diversity of body types, whereas *all* the women we see have to be petite, busty and generally gorgeous (psst, it's a TV show after all). Now that I think about it, I think everyone in Trek was portrayed as rather fit until Jonathan Frakes started putting on the pounds...
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
@ Peremensoe

Not to be overly personal, but I've thought about maybe adopting one day (once I find the right person to spend my life with), but in my state I would never be allowed to.

It really saddens me when I see a majority of people say I'm unfit to care for a child (and especially when they rationalize it away like Andy's Friend).
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:04pm (USA Central)
@Dave - I'm really sorry to hear that. I know it's easier said than done (or impossible in some cases), but there are many states that will welcome you. And in the absence of being able to move, things have changed a lot in a short period of time. ::Fingers crossed::
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:04pm (USA Central)
@ Elliot

Thanks! I was trying *really* hard not to get too soap-boxy.

Also, you may actually be onto something there with Riker's slow bloating process. ;)
Robert - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
He clearly got his hands on some un-replicated chocolate iced cream.
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:17pm (USA Central)
Hopefully society will progress before I'm 90. lol
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:18pm (USA Central)
^

That was @ Robert
William B - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 4:57pm (USA Central)
Just wanted to share some solidarity with Elliott, Robert and Dave in NC on this one.

It actually MAY be true that genetic engineering may be used to eliminate homosexuality, and certainly may prospective parents, if given that choice right now, would make the choice to have straight children rather than gay children. However, I don't think that's true of all parents at all, and I think it's very likely this will become less and less true.
Elliott - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 7:38pm (USA Central)
If I may share a little snapshot of my own life to (hopefully) showcase that attitudes are changing for the better :

At this moment, I am 26 years old and engaged to a man. My devoutly Catholic parents and I have a fantastic relationship and are tremendously excited about our wedding. Just a few days ago, my fiancé's 82-year-old grandfather (a personal friend of John McCain's no less) asked us when he could expect great-grandchildren. I have never considered my life or experiences to be exceptional, except I would hope, in what I have *accomplished.* Although it's the last thing I'd aspire to, this thread has provided an enlightening revelation that my life is exceptionally normal. Go figure.
Genre-Buster - Thu, Sep 18, 2014 - 9:54pm (USA Central)
Expanding the boundaries of the normal. Sounds like a Trekker to me...
Robert - Fri, Sep 19, 2014 - 8:28am (USA Central)
"Although it's the last thing I'd aspire to, this thread has provided an enlightening revelation that my life is exceptionally normal."

No worries, you still like VOY better than DS9. You're hardly "normal" :P.

Seriously though, congrats on your upcoming wedding/marriage! Wishing you both lots of happiness!
Dave in NC - Fri, Sep 19, 2014 - 11:00am (USA Central)
@ Elliot

Congratulations! I'm just a wee bit jealous. ;)
Andy's Friend - Fri, Sep 19, 2014 - 5:30pm (USA Central)
@Dave in NC: I’m sorry that you felt offended by what I wrote. It is ironic, as my actual views on the use of genetic engineering are very different from what I predict will be done. But this is a sci-fi forum, so I offered those predictions. You seem to have chosen to believe that I endorse them. I do not. I'm a historian, and a fan of sci-fi: I gave you a vision of a foreseeable future.

I was hoping the readers would be able to see that I am not claiming that you, or any gay, is an “aberration”, to use your word, but simply implying a known fact ― that there is an overwhelming preference for the “normal” man & woman relationship in the world ― and that because of this, most people will certainly, when the technology becomes available, ensure that their children will follow that norm.

Apparently you didn’t notice the difference. But how can we talk about this if you allow the very topic to offend you?

Nevertheless, consider this: you would still be you if your parents had played any genetic tricks on you while an embryo or a foetus ― and made you, among other things, straight. Please don’t tell me your whole identity is based on your sexuality, Dave. So what if they had changed your hair colour, and eye colour? So what if they had made you love cheese? So what if they had made you fall for girls? As much as I oppose genetic engineering: do you think any of it would matter at all to you today?

I understand that reading about how a majority of the world’s population thinks you’re an “outcast” ― just to mention this episode’s title ― can be very unsettling. But there you have it: *that’s reality*. It is a fact. If you can’t discuss it, don’t. But please, don’t make the classic mistake of mistaking the messenger for his message.

I never accused you of being “unfit to care for a child”. I stated that I consider there are ethical problems about gays adopting.* You could have asked which, but you didn't. You seem to just have assumed that I must somehow believe gays are “unfit to care for a child”. Who’s being prejudiced here? I also believe that there are serious ethical considerations attached to various technologies used today to help people have children.** Likewise, I also believe there are deep ethical problems attached to certain types of straight adoptions. There are many kinds of ethical considerations, Dave. Only irresponsible people disregard them.

Have you ever read any statistics on children from third-world countries adopted by straight couples in Western Europe (take Koreans or Indians in Scandinavia, for example), and how a majority of these have psychological issues ― low self-esteem, etc. ― and questions of who their real parents were, and why they were “abandoned” by them, not to mention issues created by being obviously different from the average population and from their adoptive parents?

There comes a time when every Korean kid in say, Sweden realizes that everyone knows he or she is an adopted child. Do you have any idea of what that realization does to *some* of those children? Have you ever personally known mentally screwed up adoptive children, perfectly normal on the outside, but deeply self-destructive inside, and recognized the patterns? Did it occur to you that my ethical qualms about gay adoption might have very little to do with your ability as a gay to care for a child, which I don’t question for a second?

[* As I said, I have very serious doubts on the adoption issue, because I do believe there is such a thing as gender: we’re not just persons, we’re ladies and gentlemen, different as we may be, with different qualities and attributes. This should really be self-evident: it’s what the women’s rights advocates argued for the better part of a century ever since the late 19th century, and is the very rationale for saying that ideally both sexes should be equally represented in parliaments and governments and, and, and... everywhere ― a claim I have no problem with whatsoever. For that very same reason, I think that ideally children should have a male and a female ― diversity ― in their home: the relationship between a father and his son, a father and his daughter, a mother and her son, and a mother and her daughter are all slightly different, and I feel that children should, ideally, be given the opportunity to experience this wonderful diversity. Of course the two men or two women will be different, and the child will experience something similar. But similar is not identical, and I really do believe that the child is entitled to a male and a female. It’s the child’s interests that matter to me. Of course, if we want to be merely pragmatic and not idealistic, and just to mention one of the worst possible alternatives, if the alternative is being sold to child prostitution in India, being adopted by any loving couple, straight or gay, in say, Finland is infinitely better; and there are many other alternatives when adoption would seem a better destiny for the child. But *ideally*, I still believe the child is entitled to a man and a woman. For the exact same reason, I am against single people adopting, which sincerely annoys me, as it strikes me as the ultimate egoism: instead of a pet dog, they would buy a pet child.]

[** Allow me to quote an earlier comment by me in “Dear Doctor”:

“Think of the technological advances of the past decades on Earth. Several of these, some decades ago, allowed us for example to help people with difficulty in conceiving to have babies of their own. And now, several decades later, research suggests that on average, those who were conceived thanks to such technologies have somewhat greater difficulty themselves in conceiving than the average population. What will happen if/when those people also receive technological help to conceive? How many generations will it take before we have succeeding in "breeding" an otherwise barren "sub-species" that can only conceive by technological means?”

Again, as you can see: there are many ethical considerations.]

Also, do you have any idea how much it hurts some straight couples not being able to just make love and have babies like the rest of us lucky healthy couples? How devastated some men and women get, how “faulty” and “defective” some of them feel, after years of trying to have a baby? Have you ever witnessed someone’s marriage disintegrate because of just that problem? Ever listened to a man talking about this problem ― and then, a few days later, his wife? Have you ever had women ask you to sleep with them so they could get pregnant because their husbands couldn’t have children and you have a physical similarity to them and are an intelligent and mostly amiable fellow; and then had long talks with them about all the problems and the pain and the moral questions involved, to talk them out of it and help them in some way?

Have you ever seen that wonderful film, “Magnolia?” I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by a female friend on the phone, having a complete breakdown and revealing that she had begun to work as a prostitute and was on the verge of suicide. I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by another female friend on the phone, crying and having a similar breakdown because her family had finally decided to marry her off to some distant cousin she hated and would mistreat her on a daily basis. I’ve been called at work and taken the day off to talk to yet another friend who had attempted suicide three times, and prevent a fourth attempt. And you pass by these people every day on the street. There is so much sorrow in this world you wouldn’t imagine it, Dave. So please, don’t presume to lecture me on morals. I've experienced my share, in very different cultures at that. I know full well that life isn't black and white.

It is something of extraordinay beauty and wonder to spend hours just observing your children, and recognizing traits of their mother, and traits of yourself, in them. This is a simple fact: don’t twist it into an anti-gay statement. I merely said that I could imagine some gay couples must feel some similar longing. This was not “false pity”.

So try turning your “automatic defence mode” off, and read what I write. I was posing a problem, not passing moral judgement. I don’t know you, and don’t know the story of your life, and I’m ready to believe that you may have very good reasons to react as you did. But read again closely, and you’ll see that you were reading things I never wrote.

I hope we can have some nice conversations again someday; perhaps about other subjects. If not: good luck on your travels.

PS. Regarding some of your specific replies:

― On epigenetics: please, be serious. By the 24th century, we'll be able to make a hippo go transvestite if that's what we want.

― On ST eugenics: you're mistaking the "corrective" procedures I predict and "enhancements". ST explicitly is against the latter; no questions there. But little is known of corrective procedures. In real life, given enough time, I predict we'll do enhancements as well. Do you seriously doubt this?

― On Geordi's blindness and "The Masterpiece Society": a valid point... sort of. Because we all know that the only reason Geordi was blind was so that he could sport a cool-looking visor with fancy abilities. This was then used as an ironic element in that episode, granted. But "The Masterpiee Society" deals with something much, much closer to eugenic "enhancements" than the "corrective” procedures I’m talking about.

― On growth hormones: not true. I have no idea how this is done in the US, but in most European countries, children are entitled to them if they appear to reach a specified height below the (variable) national norm, whether it's due to hormonal defficiency or simply a very short child in a family of short people.

― On art, music, fashion and architecture: they already suck! :D

― On "Brave New World": I've read it, thank you, and am known to quote from it. But who cares about you and I? The real question is: how many Indians and Chinese and Muslims have read it? See where I’m heading at?
Grumpy - Fri, Sep 19, 2014 - 5:47pm (USA Central)
Excuse me for interrupting the flow of discussion, but I just noticed a nitpick that I never saw before. In "The Outcast," who, exactly, is cast out? Not Soren; her society keeps pulling her back *in*.
Elliott - Fri, Sep 19, 2014 - 7:49pm (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend : as I said in my reply, it is quite clear that you are not *trying* to offend, and I for one appreciate that, but your views are heavily coloured by unspoken presumptions, thus making your conclusions and "predictions" rather upsetting :

"...there is an overwhelming preference for the 'normal' man & woman relationship in the world "

You are conflating what is common (heterosexual coupling) with what is normal. There is an overwhelming preference for being filthy rich in the world, but it is neither normal nor common. This commonness is not important in considering anything other than averages and other statistics.

"...because of this, most people will certainly, when the technology becomes available, ensure that their children will follow that norm. "

I have no doubt that some or many parents would choose this if it were an option, but I wouldn't say "'most." More to the point, it doesn't matter if they would (under current social conditions) make this choice, the morality of the situation would not change. As you yourself I'm sure would note, this kind of non-essential genetic tampering is a slippery slope of Huxleyan conditioning.

"...you would still be you if your parents had played any genetic tricks on you while an embryo or a foetus ― and made you, among other things, straight. Please don’t tell me your whole identity is based on your sexuality, Dave."

I won't presume to answer for Dave in NC, but while sexuality is not my *whole* identity, it most certainly is an important part of it--as it is for most people. Sex is a regular part of life and it isn't up to other people to dictate the acceptable terms under which my sex life can operate.

"...don’t make the classic mistake of mistaking the messenger for his message."

The issue isn't that you necessarily harbour the same beliefs as the those who brandish the "message," but you are looking for ways to avoid holding those people accountable for their misguided beliefs. Rather than advocating taking them to task for being prejudiced, or analysing the root of such prejudice, you are thinking of ways to avoid the conflict all together--sweeping it under the rug with a bit of genetic tampering.

"I stated that I consider there are ethical problems about gays adopting.[I think that ideally children should have a male and a female ― diversity ― in their home: the relationship between a father and his son, a father and his daughter, a mother and her son, and a mother and her daughter are all slightly different, and I feel that children should, ideally, be given the opportunity to experience this wonderful diversity.] You could have asked which, but you didn't. You seem to just have assumed that I must somehow believe gays are 'unfit to care for a child'. Who’s being prejudiced here? "

You are prejudiced, sir, in your assumption that diversity of gender (need i point out that this diversity in your prototype is exactly 2 types of gender?) is more valuable to children than other forms of diversity, such as racial or sexual. Are we not harming our children in your view (or denying them "wonderful diversity") by not insisting that straight couples of the same ethnicity not procreate?

Your statements about the problems with adoption are a non-issue here--though certainly worth considering in another context. Gay couples are perfectly capable of having biological children with donors and surrogates. The problems facing families where adoption is concerned are universal regardless of whether the parents are or aren't of the same gender.

"But similar is not identical, and I really do believe that the child is entitled to a male and a female. "

So much for wonderful diversity. Look, you're entitled to your beliefs, but there is no empirical basis for thinking that children need their *parents* to be opposite gender. As a child, I had relationships with dozens of adults--uncles and aunts, grandparents, family friends, mentors, teachers, and my parents (I had three of them [my mother remarried], so I guess my gender ratio was off). Children are social creatures as much as any other people. What matters to a child's development is that he or she is loved unconditionally, cared after and educated, not whether he has the option of developing and Œdipus complex.

The logical question that emerges is, if there's really an "ideal" family unit, why stop at opposite gender parents? Aren't there other "ideals" after which we should mould our families? Number of pets, number of vehicles, environment, wealth, etc.? Can you not see how ridiculous your assertions of idealism are in this context?

"I am against single people adopting, which sincerely annoys me, as it strikes me as the ultimate egoism: instead of a pet dog, they would buy a pet child."

Some people certainly do this, but that's incredibly presumptuous. Many single people adopt or conceive because they want families, not pets. And many more couples conceive children by accident or for reasons of vanity and status.

"There is so much sorrow in this world you wouldn’t imagine it, Dave. So please, don’t presume to lecture me on morals."

This is a non-sequitur; your personal anecdotes about pain and loss do not exempt your from justifying your moral positions.

"On ST eugenics: you're mistaking the "corrective" procedures I predict and "enhancements". ST explicitly is against the latter; no questions there. But little is known of corrective procedures. In real life, given enough time, I predict we'll do enhancements as well. Do you seriously doubt this?"

See Voyager's "Lineage."

"Because we all know that the only reason Geordi was blind was so that he could sport a cool-looking visor with fancy abilities. "

Um, no, that's not why at all. His rôle was to represent the disabled in Gene's diverse bridge crew.

"The real question is: how many Indians and Chinese and Muslims have read it? See where I’m heading at?"

Actually, no, I have no idea where you're heading [at].
Andy's Friend - Fri, Sep 19, 2014 - 8:21pm (USA Central)
^@Grumpy: Hehe, good point! ;)

@Dave, Elliott, Robert, & all: allow me to make my point much clearer. And please note: I do not condone genetic engineering on humans.

I live in Copenhagen, and Elliott lives in San Francisco: arguably two of the world's most progressive cities when it comes to their inhabitants. Are places such as these representative of the world? No.

Madrid alone has more inhabitants than all of Denmark; the city of Bombay, where I've also lived, has more inhabitants than all of Scandinavia; and the state of Maharashtra of which Bombay is the capital has twice as many inhabitants as California ― and isn’t even the most populous in India.

We also have places like Amsterdam and Seattle and Stockholm, cities with generally equally progressive and open-minded inhabitants. But again: Mexico City has more inhabitants than the Netherlands, the Cairo has more inhabitants than the state of Washington, and Moscow has more inhabitants than Sweden.

The point is, what we in Copenhagen and San Francisco think and feel and believe is largely irrelevant: there’s a much larger world out there. It’s what they think, and what they’ll do, that matters and will influence how the world will look like in say, the 24th century.

I was personally utterly amazed, some fifteen years ago, by the attitude towards genetic engineering in South Korea: it is considered a simple tool, which requires as many ethical considerations as say, a screwdriver to use. When the technology one day becomes available, they will look at a “genosequencer” (or whatever) the way I look at my razor blades. And if this, as it seems, is any indication of the feeling towards genetic engineering in China as well, what we feel and do in Scandinavia and California truly becomes totally irrelevant.

So let’s all step out of our little worlds of Star Trek and [your other favourite series here] and look at the real world out there:

The overwhelming majority of the world today still sees homosexuality as something undesirable. The overwhelming majority of the world merely *tolerates*, at most, homosexuality. To most, it’s akin to prostitution: sure, it exists, but it’s not what people wish for their children. And a very significant part of the world's population is no candidate for changing their mentality on this specific issue in the foreseeable future.

Roughly speaking, we have a billion or so Muslims. They’ll screen out homosexuality or actively induce/imprint heterosexuality genetically on their unborn as soon as it becomes technologically possible ― and they will continue to do so in any foreseeable future. There will exist no homosexuality in Muslim countries in the future.

Take a billion or so Indians: ditto. Look at how Indians are aborting girl foetuses by the millions today just because they're girls, and you’ll get the idea.

Take half a billion or so Latin Americans. The overwhelming majority of these will also screen out homosexuality from their foetuses or use whatever other technology is available to affect their sexuality as soon as they’re given the chance.

Take some four hundred million Southern & Eastern Europeans: ditto.

On China, I can only refer what I have read. They would appear to be less opposed to homosexuality than Muslims, and Indians in general regardless of religion, and Latin Americans, but still in the “as long as it’s not my children” line of thought.

Sub-Saharan Africa? I’ll leave that to your imagination.

And lastly, take a look at the US and Northern Europe: even here a very considerable part of the population would do the same the moment they had the chance. I suspect that the state in which Dave lives is a good example of this.

Yes, more and more countries are passing legislation to allow for same-sex marriages and even adoption by homosexuals. No, this does not mean that everyone is beginning to truly accept homosexuality. There is a big difference between truly respecting and merely tolerating.

The truth is that the technological advances are happening at a much faster pace than the changes in mentalities around the world. And the truth is that people in the majority of the world will have no qualms whatsoever about using genetic engineering to have more “perfect” children. Just look at how Indians are obsessed with having "fair skin". The minute the technology is made available, you'll see a middle-class larger than the US population rushing to clinics to have "fairer" babies. If they can make sure that the baby besides healthy will also be straight while they're at it, does anyone doubt they'll do it?

This is what you should be considering, not your own personal experiences or what's happening in the US. Allow me to quote Elliott's comment the other day on economics on “The Siege of AR-558”: “But like in most things, this is no longer the 20th century and the US is no longer the trend-setter.”

The bottom line is that what we, a tiny bunch of intellectuals and free-thinkers and fans of Star Trek living in insulated pockets of the world, a mere hundred or two hundred million individuals at most, think or believe is unimportant: there are billions out there who will eliminate homosexuality as soon as it becomes possible.

This is a higly plausible, and in my opinion even perhaps probable, scenario, which shouldn't be dismissed out of hand: the end result of which would be an inverse "The Oucast".

And the question is: if and when that happens, when homosexuality has been largely eradicated in most of the globe ― what will people in California and Scandinavia do?
Dave in NC - Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - 12:34am (USA Central)
I don't have the time or energy now to pick through all this at moment, but I must say for someone who "doesn't support this position" you seem awfully invested in making the point in as dramatic fashion as possible.

I will give you a +1 for a passable Michael Chrichton impression in the second post.

*I will return to reply in full at a later time
Andy's Friend - Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - 8:46am (USA Central)
^@Dave in NC: hehe, I wish I were; I'd write "Last Days of the Last Gays" and make more money than I'll ever do as an academic ;)

But in truth: I'm a historian, mostly influenced by the analytical-critical traditions of Germany and Scandinavia, but also with some elements of the "Annales"-school. Normally, unless you belong to the Marxist school, which emphasizes emotional detachment from the subject matter, we do tend to investigate issues that we find personally interesting. That does not mean that we have to agree with the trends we study; and we must always be prepared to study and discuss events which we find strongly objectionable with as much objectivity as possible. In this case, the theme that most interests me is genetic engineering; the homosexuality aspect of it is, to me, only a facet of this issue. The question is: how far will other cultures go, and how far will we follow?

Just to give you an idea: my research areas concern essentially two distinct but somewhat related problem complexes, both cases of "longue durée" comparative social history, one in the 1550-1750 period, and another in the 1675-1925 period. In both problem constellations there are events and trends that I am happy took place and likewise others that I am sorry took place; but my job is to collect evidence that suggests or proves patterns and trends over time that would confirm or disprove my main theses, whether I like it or not. Every now and then, as happens to any other historian, the evidence I find doesn't support my original assumptions, and I must adjust the thesis accordingly to match the findings. Whereas a dishonest, proud, or stubborn scholar might make more selective use of his source material in order to twist the results into proving his original thesis, for example. Some people change their truths according to the facts; others change the facts according to their truths. I'm sure you can see the parallels in life.

In this case, I'm merely looking at the evidence like in any other case. Regardless of whether this is the scenario that seems most likely or not, as a worst-case-scenario it's in my opinion the most interesting to debate: because it is actually a possibility. To dismiss it out of hand would be foolish. I have actually studied this in some detail, because the issue of genetic engineering does interest me, and could describe several variations, including scenarios that have more moderate or the opposite outcome. But again ― unfortunately, as I really am opposed to genetic engineering ― I actually believe this is a very realistic and probable scenario. And as the most radical and controversial, it is the one I chose to share, because I believe it's important that people face the (possible) realities. I'm not the sort of fellow who merely tells people what they want to hear.

Consider this my take on "Statistical Probabilities": we must surrender to the Dominion. I may be just as wrong as Dr. Bashir et al.; but I find that the scenario merits a serious consideration or two. I thought we could discuss it here without being accused of promoting anti-gay propaganda. Having lived in Southern Europe, India, and now Scandinavia makes me very fond of comparative social studies, and I believe it's important more people in the insulated West start looking at what's really happening out there in the world and the mentalities of other cultures. As the Chinese recently said, the US is a small country; in the 22nd century, India and China will be dictating the ethics as much if not more than the West. Many people in the West seem to be completely oblivious to this, and to just how vast the differences in mentalities really are. Do you think that given the possibility, the 50 million-strong Indonesian middle-class will care the least about Swedish ethical guidelines, and will refrain from using genetic engineering to do various "corrections" to their unborn? What happens when that middle-class is 200 million-strong ― and the Indian half a billion?

This has very scary potential long-term consequences, the perpetuation of caste systems in India and elsewhere being assured at the very genetic level merely being one of them. Believe me when I tell you that there are hundreds of millions of Indians who would like nothing better. That's part of what I meant when I said that the issue of homosexuality is but part of a much bigger problem complex.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to your comments.
Peremensoe - Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - 12:01pm (USA Central)
Andy's Friend is *your* whole identity...based on your sexuality? Your rhapsodizing about the joy and beauty of het sex suggests it's not irrelevant. Would you "still be you" if your genes had been flipped to make you gay? It's pretty clear you, the present you, would see that as a meaningful difference.

Sexuality, and gender identity, are important components of *everyone's* whole personhood. They are not the totality, but they are inseparable. The post-treatment Soren may retain memories, other aspects of the pre-treatment Soren, but they are not the same person.

Also, your argument that being adopted by gay parents is somehow harmful to children is very weakly reasoned. Not only does it imply that children (like mine) are harmed by having single heterosexual parents, it completely ignores the *fact* that children are far more likely to be neglected, abused, or killed by either their own biological (heterosexual) parents, or the state foster system, than they are by loving adoptive parents of any description. Think about this. Plenty of het folks fall into parenthood without a lot of thought; they do it because they're 'supposed' to, or because they're just not concerned with birth control. By contrast, gay couples have to *really* want to be parents. As a class, they're certainly not perfect, and a few may even turn out to be awful--but a kid's odds are better when parents *want* them, and have fully committed themselves to the concept.
Andy's Friend - Sun, Sep 21, 2014 - 2:58pm (USA Central)
@Peremensoe #1: thanks for your comment, which opens up for interesting talks. Here’s my first, very short answer:

”is *your* whole identity...based on your sexuality? Your rhapsodizing about the joy and beauty of het sex suggests it's not irrelevant.”

I was not in any way rhapsodizing about the joy and beauty of sex, I was rhapsodizing about something completely different: the birth of new life, unaided by technology. I was writing about the absolutely wondrous thing that the natural conception of a child is.

So read again: “creating new life, unassisted by technology, that is, magically, a part of ourselves and the very man or woman we love.”

This is not about the sex act, but the very creation of life. I was writing about the end, not the means.
Andy's Friend - Sun, Sep 21, 2014 - 3:02pm (USA Central)
@Peremensoe #2: just to answer your specific question:

” Would you "still be you" if your genes had been flipped to make you gay?”

Yes, I would still be me if all my parents had done had been making me like guys instead of girls. I wouldn’t be quite the same me, but I would be essentially the same ― and the present me wouldn’t give a frak, as he would never have existed.

This reminds me of that extremely imbecile DS9 episode, ”Children of Time”. In that episode, there is no ethical question whatsoever: the moment the Defiant leaves the planet, those people down there won’t merely cease to exist: they will *never* have existed. There is no dilemma whatsoever. The script manipulates its (less attentive, or more gullible, if you will) audience with various smokescreen maneouvres, and tries to create an ethical dilemma that simply does not exist: they are *not* killing 8,000 colonists by leaving. Sadly, that episode makes the DS9 crew remember them: the correct thing to do would be to make them forget, and let them only be remembered by the audience. This is one of the reasons VOY’s ”Course: Oblivion” is a far, far superior episode, with a truly tragic dimension.

Similarly in your scenario. If my parents had chosen to give me purple eyes and white hair, and made me hate cheese and olives and love guys instead of girls, no, it wouldn’t be the present me ― but the alternate me wouldn’t give a frak. He would be him, and be perfectly happy that way. And who I am to say that I’m better than him?
Andy's Friend - Sun, Sep 21, 2014 - 4:37pm (USA Central)
@Peremensoe #3: Here’s an answer on the matter of adoption:

All your arguments are valid ones. And for the record: your understanding is not correct. I know for a fact ― this is a matter of statistics ― that being adopted *by anyone* is harmful to *some* of the children. I therefore consider that there are ethical problems concerning gay adoption just like any other adoption.

I should have written this from the very beginning; that was my fault.

In one of my posts to Dave in NC I gave a specific example of how many third-world children in Western Europe suffer various types of psychological problems because they feel different. It might be argued that it would thus be better ― more ethical ― for say, Italian or French parents to adopt a child from Romania rather than Korea or Sri Lanka, as the likelihood of that happening would be much smaller. This is an example of the ethical issues I’m talking about.

Other adopted children suffer simply because they realize they’re adopted. This is of course a universal problem, i.e., it wouldn’t matter whether the parents were gay or not.

Some children adopted by gay parents will also suffer. How many? I’m guessing not many. How much wiill they suffer? Hard to tell, but some probably to the point of the typical self-destructive behaviour of those children adopted by straight couples who experience similar psychologic problems.

What I am thus trying to say is that adopting, in itself, is unfortunately connected with various, if mostly small to moderate, degrees of risk of psychological damage to the children. Some of these risks are easier to calculate and thus avoid than others. Some kids just can’t deal with the fact that they’re adopted. We cannot predict which ones. But adopting a child from Uganda in Finland will expose that child to a much, much greater risk of suffering certain issues than adopting a child from the Ukraine.

Unfortunately, there is no way to similarly estimate which children will most likely suffer problems specifically because of being adopted by gays. I believe that risk to be small, and I recognize that it is not the gay couple’s fault in such cases. But the risk exists.

The question is: when kids suffer issues because they can’t handle the fact that they’re adopted, they do just that. It’s an inherent risk that we must be willing to accept if we wish to have an adoption system. Whereas it is unacceptable, in my opinion, to expose a child to higher risks ― such as the examples with Koreans in Sweden or Ugandans in Finland.

*Ideally* there should be no problem in a couple of Finns adopting a Ugandan baby. But when *reality* shows us that that child has a severely higher risk of suffering from psychological side-effects because there are just virtually no blacks in Finland and the child naturally feels different (the symptoms themselves can very different, and can lead to psychoses or neuroses, depending on the personality of the child), I consider it wrong to adopt one ― the parents should choose a child from say, Moldavia instead.

*Ideally*, there should likewise be no problem in a gay couple adopting any child. But the truth is that this is adding another level of uncertainty to the equation. As such, ethical logic tells me that we have a dilemma: should we, for the sake of the few percent who actually develop some psychologic problems specifically because of this, not allow it? Should we allow that concern for a few to prevent the many from living a happy life adopted by gays? It’s an ethical dilemma in the best tradition of Star Trek: do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? This is what I meant.

Adopting is a risky business. When the kids find out, most of them have to work out the problem that their parents aren’t really their parents. Most of them deal with it just fine. But some don’t. You can’t ignore that.

In this aspect, children adopted by gay couples are of course better off, because they cannot obviously be the children of two men or two women, and they will know that from a much earlier age and thus in the majority of cases have accepted the fact that they’re adopted much sooner. However, at present we simply don’t know enough about how growing up with a gay couple affects the psyche of the kids, and how many or how few of them develop problems specifically because of the fact. As I said, I believe that few will. But this raises the question: is a few a few too many?

So therefore, yes, I consider gays adopting as irresponsible as the Finnish straight couple who chooses to adopt a baby from Korea. It’s gambling with other people’s psychological well-being. And regardless of the odds, that should just not be allowed...

...but on the other hand, we also have to consider the alternatives for the children. Chances are the kids will be happy being adopted. But if not, is being a depressed child in Western Europe better than being a child labourer in some third-world country? The scenarios are many. So are the ethical considerations.

It’s merely because of this that I give serious thought to the issue of adoption. Being a parent, you know that dealing with children is not all as simple and easy as some people out there seem to think it is. Even in Scandinavia adopted children suffer many more problems than the average child. You don’t just get adopted and live happily ever after.

Finally, we also have a very fundamental question: is having a child a human right? Can anyone just say: ”Hey, I want a kid” and fill a requisition form? Many straight people who are irresponsible do have children. But does invoking that entitle anyone ― a single person, for instance ― to a child? Because that places children in a category dangerously close to a product.

So as you can see, there are many ethical considerations. And this is want I meant: I have ethical considerations about gay adoption. Just like any adoption. We're talking about human beings. How could there not be ethical considerations involved? I cannot believe that I in a Star Trek forum would need to explain this.

Anyway, as I said, in the majority of cases ― any types of cases ― the children grow up just fine. We normally accept the reality that is given to us; that’s how people survive in hell-holes plagued by war and poverty in the third world. A child adopted by Data would probably get used to growing up with an android.

Consider that. Is Data alive? Is he sentient? We’ve seen him care for Spot. We’ve seen him in command of the flagship of the Federation. We've seen him create Lal. Should Data be allowed to adopt a human child?
Robert - Mon, Sep 22, 2014 - 8:58am (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend - Most adoption research these days believes that you should eventually tell your kids that they are adopted. I'm not entirely sure that your point that kids who are a different color or could not have been biologically reproduced* are necessarily at much worse risk

"You don’t just get adopted and live happily ever after."

Some people do (I happen to know one who was adopted outside her race and is doing awesome, but anecdotes make lousy statistics). But more to the point.... there is no other choice. These kids have already been given up. The choice is not be adopted or be raised by your responsible biological parents. Obviously that's preferable, it's be awesome if kids never ended up in an orphanage, but it's hardly reality.

h t t p ://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/adoption-and -foster-care/Pages/When-to-Tell-Your-Child-About-Adoption.aspx

"If your child is already of school age and has not been told that he is adopted, you need to talk with him about it, as early during this time of life as possible.

Adoption should not be a secret. Every youngster needs to have an honest understanding of his origin. Adopted children who have not been told seem to sense that somehow they are different; this nagging intuition can in­fluence their self-image. "
Robert - Mon, Sep 22, 2014 - 9:11am (USA Central)
Also, to chime into the other discussion.... everyone is a sum of their genetics AND their experiences. If I were flipped to gay I'd have had a different set of experiences and would be a very different person. That's way more tweaking of the genome than I will EVER be comfortable with.
Elliott - Fri, Sep 26, 2014 - 11:19am (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend:

All you have done is identify problems that happen to be unique to adopted families, not endemic to them. Every family has it's issues and whether or not you have two parents and their genitals are different from each other is amongst the least concerning qualifications I would worry about on your "requisition form." While I occasionally get frustrated by how ignorance and stupidity in parents leads to innumerable problems our societies (I know a woman, in progressive San Francisco, who has birthed 11 children, because, you know, condoms are a sin), having children really does have to be a human right. We aren't animals competing for mates, we're evolved human beings.

For an historian, your arguments against adoption (or more accurately, in favour of being skeptical of adoption on ethical grounds) are incredibly specious and reliant on considerations of a child's hypothetical happiness. There's not a lot of science to consider in a position like yours; it's mostly cultural bias and sentimentalism about familiar forms.

Finally, I think Data would make a great father/mother--certainly better than Worf.

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