• Marie E. Wilson

LGBTQ Panel: What it's like to lead a panel at Magic City Con

What a joy to have the opportunity to spread my love of LGBTQ Star Wars to others. I didn’t find out I was presenting the panel until the night before!!...but I was ready and raring to go to discuss one of the subjects that is nearest and dearest to my heart. I went over characters and species that are non-binary, lesbian, and gay. But I didn’t just describe and quote these characters. I dug into how their representation connects to our real life. Is it believable? Is it insulting? Is it uplifting? Are there role models you can look up to or are all of them bad people?

Turns out there’s a mix of all of the above when you really analyze what’s out there. I also covered what it meant to be gay and be a part of the Empire as well as what it’s like for a man to come out to his friend. All of this can only be found in the print media unfortunately, but it’s all there if you just know where to look--whether in adult novels, young adult novels, comic book issues, or short stories. Whatever your print format, you can find LGBTQ representation in it. Now when will we be able to say that about the movies or on TV is the real question…

But now I’d like to break down some of what I talked about to give you a general feel for these issues in the Star Wars galaxy. I’m not going to go into super crazy detail because that would take pages and pages. But here is some of what I presented for my panel:

First off, what are lesbians like? Well, they are apparently very motherly and look after their relatives’ children but never have children of their own. I’m slightly flattered and slightly appalled by this representation. I like the idea that they are trusted enough to care for the only children of single parents (that’s exactly how it plays out in two entirely different works - the Aftermath trilogy and a short story called "Laina" in From a Certain Point of View), but I don’t understand why they don’t have their own children.

The very first bit of lesbian representation in Star Wars canon was Moff Delian Mors in Lords of the Sith, a married woman who didn’t have any children. She was also unfortunately not a person you could look up to as she was lazy, hedonistic, and passed off her work to the people below her...she even had a cadre of Twi’lek servants that were a particular shade of green matching the surrounding trees. A really disappointing example of representation for the first go. Maybe wait until some honorable or at least less gross LGBTQ characters have been introduced before representing a whole marginalized group in this way. I’d say that Doctor Aphra as a lesbian character is an exception because despite her being dastardly and out for herself, she is super fun to read and watch!! Her personality and the moments when her surprising kindness shines through, make up for her being a poor role model.

More recently we get some fantastic representation by way of Sache and Yane in Queen’s Shadow, two of Padme’s handmaidens. Their relationship is only hinted at but it is sweet and loving...and once again...they dream of fostering children. I don’t know what it is about lesbians not having their own children from birth. And I don’t mean just in vitro fertilization. This story made it seem like they would take care of older children and not be adopting babies. At least it’s better than pigeon-holing them into only caring for the children of relatives. I’ve always wanted to adopt myself if I ever had kids so I prefer this portrayal of more general adoption over all.

On to gay males. Well, my favorite Star Wars literary character just happens to fall into this category--Sinjir Rath Velus from the Aftermath trilogy. He is a defected Imperial loyalty officer and has a fabulous, very realistic, yet still model relationship with a man named Conder Kyl. And he brings up some interesting points about being gay under the reign of the Empire. Apparently the brass didn’t care what “your peccadilloes were,” they just didn’t want you to display it for all to see. They also desired “breeders” above all else, but then Delian Mors was a Moff...maybe it was her title that put her above the breeder doctrine? Also, perhaps, since she was married, the Empire figured children would be on the way...which goes against everything else I mentioned above about lesbian portrayal thus far in Star Wars. But, maybe Sinjir was just referring to fraternizing lustfully as really being against the rules, no matter what your sexuality. There’s certainly a LOT to ponder on this specific niche of the subject.

We also get a coming out scene between Sinjir and one of his closest friends (who’s female) soon after they meet in which she says that she would like to couple with him. He tells her he’s not into “this” and she’s offended thinking he means aliens (she’s a Zabrak) and he responds “women.” Whereas a poorly done coming out scene would show the gay person being embarrassed, this one really hit the right stride--Jas Emari (the Zabrak) is the one who is embarrassed. This is clear in her reaction to him and how after the coming out moment, they go back to their normal bantering ways. This is the ideal coming out scenario and I think the way it plays out most of the time. I’ve certainly come across the exact opposite in my life, but overall I believe the person doing the assuming turns out to be more embarrassed than the person coming out. I really enjoyed the inclusion of such a scene and thought Wendig did a wonderful job with it.

Then we have a lust story with "Of MSE-6 and Men" in From a Certain Point of View between an Imperial officer and a stormtrooper that is a super clandestine affair. Could it be the canoodling across ranks that’s the problem? Or is it perhaps that they were just having fun and weren’t planning on marrying? I don’t think the secret nature of their relationship has anything to do with their being gay which is quite refreshing.

There’s also a beautiful love story in the "Doctor Aphra" comics between a decraniated man named Caysin Bog and a mostly cyborg named Tam Posla. Their loyalty to each other runs super deep and is a model of what to look up to in a relationship. Their love obviously transcends appearance, and even after Caysin’s death, Tam is loyal to the end.

And finally we come to non-binary characters and species. There are some wonderful portrayals for this particular group of LGBTQ people and there are portrayals that bring up so many questions.

The best is that of Taka from Last Shot, who uses they and their as their pronouns. The descriptions of Taka are super descriptive and yet completely non-binary. There is absolutely no indication of the biological sex of this character and we only see them as a person, which in my experience is how most non-binary people feel. They want you to see them as people above genders. And I think that is beautiful. Taka is also a fantastic character who serves as a fine role model for anybody!

There are also three species (besides humans) that we know of so far with individuals who identify as a non-binary gender. There are the Chal-huddans from Leia: Princess of Alderaan who cycle through five different genders during their lifespan and whose pronouns identify previous genders, current gender, and forthcoming genders. Leia actually meets Threepio for the first time as he’s explaining all of this to her and he says that “you” or “they” will suffice. The dianoga (the trash compactor monster--see "The Baptist" in From a Certain Point of View) is of a sentient species that chooses male, female, or diangous as their gender and they are naturally hermaphroditic. Then we have the Sabetue introduced in the Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization whose color indicates gender. White means genderless. I think all of these bits of representation are great doorways into societies that accept and honor non-binary people which is a huge step in the right direction!

That’s just a taste of the LGBTQ issues in Star Wars. I could honestly go on for hours talking about this material. I inserted my questions and answers to some of the thoughts that were brought up by attendees of my panel above. But one standout question I got at the end of the panel was the following: What kind of LGBTQ representation would I want to see in The Rise of Skywalker? My answer? I want Poe Dameron to have a boyfriend. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, it could be an intimate hug or a photo of him snuggling another guy. I do not feel like that would feel shoehorned in and I think it would be perfect for the story. After The Force Awakens, I always felt like Finn and Poe had chemistry so I don’t see why Poe couldn’t have found another guy to spend his life with by the time of The Rise of Skywalker. This got a room full of applause. I think it’s plausible and think that Lucasfilm should just do it. It is time.

Well that’s all for my panel. I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about LGBTQ Star Wars and if you have any questions about where to find the material or any issues or points you’d like to discuss with me, please feel free to contact me! I’m always up for talking about this subject.

About Marie:

I am so excited to have joined the Beyond the Blast Doors Star Wars conversation! As a person who is deeply passionate about every aspect of the galaxy far, far away, I'm always looking for ways to spread my Star Wars joy and love.

I've spoken at cons and written articles on a variety of topics but one of my biggest passions is the canon literature. I hope to help you find your way through the Maelstrom because what is out there is truly amazing!

Email: melisabethwilson@gmail.com

Twitter: @aliamorgaine

Blog: www.thestarwarsreview.blogspot.com