Definite Article: LGBT+SW

A galaxy far, far away hits home in plenty of ways. And now it’s making a welcome environment for the LGBT+ fans and community, giving them new characters to adore and identify with. Mostly canon, but definitely an article, keep reading for a look at great LGBT+ Star Wars characters across Legends and Canon!

 

Our worldview is tiny compared to what someone in the Star Wars universe probably thinks about on a day-to-day basis. Imagine that for a second. Does your neighbor have lekku? Ever share a drink at the cantina with someone who has more eyes than limbs? Whether you live onboard a fancy star destroyer or owe every last credit to the Kanjiklub, Star Wars recognizes struggles between class, political affiliation, and hundreds of alien races and cultures. And after spending forty years strong debating ideologies and space politics, we’re finally getting some great LGBT+ representation in the galaxy’s best media.

 

In the beginning. . .

 

Let’s journey all the way back to 2003 (okay, I don’t want to either but bear with me.) Knights of the Old Republic was released, and included a party member named Juhani. By this time, romance options in roleplaying games are becoming more and more common, but KOTOR contained some dialog where the female Juhani would profess her love to the player character regardless of their gender, effectively making her bisexual. However, this was later found to be a coding error. Was she supposed to be straight? Actually, no! Turns out she was supposed to be a lesbian all along, and the dialog errors/options were fixed in later releases of the game.

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Juhani, Image Credit: BioWare/LucasFilm

Juhani was the first character written specifically as a lesbian, and this is further expanded upon by her relationship with another female character named Belaya. The pair are hinted to be childhood friends, but likely more the way the dialog is written and spoken. So not only was the first confirmed LGBT Star Wars relationship between two women, it was no less between two Jedi as well. Attachment is forbidden and all that but we’ll let that slide since the story of Juhani redeeming herself after falling to the Dark Side was in such a great game.

Three years later in 2006, a character named Goran Bevlin is introduced in Karen Traviss’s Boba Fett: A Practical Man. The Yuuzhan Vong War has begun, and the Mandalorians are trying to fend off the strange warriors from beyond the known galaxy. Goran Bevlin – commando, bounty hunter, and trusted lieutenant in Boba Fett’s inner circle of protectors – works for the Vong while secretly feeding intel to the New Republic. Goran mentions a relationship with another character named Medrit who was left somewhat of a mystery, as no gender for Medrit is mentioned. However, a year later in another novel by Karen Traviss titled Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice, it is confirmed that Medrit is in fact male. The couple were also confirmed by Traviss to be married, marking the first appearance of a married gay couple in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Not a great deal else is known about the couple, but knowing they were around is reassuring.

Fast forwarding to 2013, some controversy begins with another roleplaying game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. To their credit, BioWare, makers of the Knights of the Old Republic and The Old Republic games, stated that a certain feature wasn’t ready to be implemented at launch. That feature was same-sex relationships between the player character and non-playable characters in the game. A compromise to get a start on these complex interactions was the addition of the planet Makeb in the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion. Many NPCs on the planet had same-sex relationship side stories, but their limitation to one planet caused some issues within the fanbase, namely a feeling of segregation.

Makeb was quickly labeled as “the gay planet,” and its inclusion in an expansion pack meant that not all players had access without paying for the DLC. This caused some ire within the fanbase, especially since BioWare was known to include same-sex relations in previous games (and they created Juhani in a previous Star Wars game, no less.) However, in BioWare’s defense, they created a roleplaying game with one hundred percent voiced dialog, and it likely would have been very challenging and expensive to go back and retread previous stories to include same-sex options. And given the decline in player base and eventual sale to Disney, there wasn’t enough incentive on their side to go back and fix/update the game as promised.

You might think that’s a dig at Disney, but they seem to be pretty on top of getting more LGBT+ characters into the Star Wars limelight.

 

New Canon

 

From 2015 on, Star Wars has changed a bit with every new release. There’s films with female protagonists, a story group that keeps canon as consistent as possible, and even oranges!

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Orange you glad? I’ll show myself out.

Most of the awareness of LGBT+ characters is present in the Aftermath trilogy by Chuck Wendig, which was one of the first new canon novels introduced in 2015. One of the main characters, Temmin “Snap” Wexley often stays with his aunts (aunts as in married couple, not aunts on each side of the family living together for some reason) on his homeworld of Akiva. While Snap hasn’t been confirmed to be gay, straight, or somewhere in the middle, he does associate with the most LGBT characters so far in canon (between his aunts and his friend Sinjir Rath Velus, but more on him in a moment.) Although a minor character in The Force Awakens, Snap is the first onscreen character to be brought up, at least in part, by an LGBT couple. He’s a very strong character in the novels and grows up to be a hero in his own right, so obviously his aunts did something right when they helped raise the boy. It’s a subtle example of normalizing same-sex relationships and showing that a child can be raised by two same-gendered people just as well as any heterosexual couple.

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Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy – they get a bad rap, but they’re worth your time in my book. Image Credit: Disney/DelRey

Another prominent character in the Aftermath trilogy is former Imperial loyalty officer Sinjir Rath Velus. Sinjir isn’t a great role model and doesn’t claim to be. He drinks. He manipulates. He hurts people, but tries to only do it when he has to. But what’s more important than even his inclusion on this list is that he’s a former Imperial who developed a conscience. His actions, even in the name of the New Republic, bother him and effect his relationship with slicer Conder Kyl. Sinjir is the perfect example of a person broken down by war and government manipulation, and Conder helps him through the times where his guilty conscience threatens to ruin him. Together they make a perfect couple, one that can work through anything so long as they stick together. They make it work one way or another, and that’s something not even all the film characters can say.

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Happy couple, the focus of a series of movies and TV OH MY GOD. Image Credit: LucasFilm

Also in 2015, Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith detailed rebellion on Ryloth and an attempt to assassinate not only Darth Vader, but also the Emperor himself. Caught up in the middle of this scheme is Moff Delian Morrs, a loyal Imperial with a tragic past. Her wife was killed in a ship accident, and Delian hasn’t been the same since. Moff Morrs is the first LGBT character in the new canon, and is unique in that she’s a widow. Despite her grief, she’s still a capable officer and (spoiler alert) she helps make sure that the assassination attempts are not successful. There is (understandably) no new romantic story for her in the novel, but she survives and continues to serve the Empire, so there may be more stories for her in the future. Despite the prevalence of LGBT characters in the Aftermath novels, Mors actually appeared first in canon.

Also of note from Lords of the Sith, the Empire doesn’t care if you’re gay. They don’t ask questions about what goes on behind your bedroom door. They prefer you produce another little loyal Imperial, but they don’t force the issue.

2016’s Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston also dabbles with lesbian characters with the inclusion of a character named Kaeden Larte, who is interested in Ahsoka from the day they meet. While Ahsoka is hiding after the Siege of Mandalore and after Order 66 is issued, she travels to the planet Raada and begins finding work there. After meeting Kaeden, the pair quickly hit it off and become friends, but Kaeden remarks at times that she is starting to develop feelings for Ahsoka. Like the example in Lords of the Sith, an LGBT side character is present throughout the story without a romantic interest being the central story. I think this is great, as not every story has to center around romantic love. Kaeden’s feelings are not reciprocated, which creates tension during moments where it may be uncertain of Ahsoka might respond to what she can undoubtedly feel due to her Jedi powers.

Doctor Aphra, introduced in 2015’s Darth Vader series by Marvel Comics, is one of my favorite characters in the new canon. She’s a self-ascribed “rogue archeologist,” who is equal parts brilliant and naïve. She’s always on the hunt for a way to get her debt off her back, even if it means recovering classified assassin droids for Darth Vader’s personal missions. More likely than not, she’s also the first canon bisexual character.

After raising too much suspicion within the Imperial ranks, Aphra is to be executed by Darth Vader. But she survives being jettisoned from the airlock of a star destroyer and continues to make trouble across the galaxy. While hunting for artifacts for the sake of her spirt (at the behest of her estranged father,) Aphra runs afoul of captain Magna Tolvan of the Empire. The pair cross paths on Yavin IV after the rebels have abandoned their base there. Tolvan had been assigned to Yavin IV as punishment for her failings on Eadu (leading to Galen Erso’s death in Rogue One.) She crosses paths with Aphra there and her troops are continuously bested by Aphra’s inventive crew. However, when Tolvan is injured in battle and facing death in a collapsing temple there, Aphra assists her. And she can’t help but do so because she thinks Tolvan is cute.

This would, at first glance, point to another lesbian character in new canon. But Aphra also makes similar remarks to Luke Skywalker, albeit in a more teasing fashion, during their appearances together in Screaming Citadel (Marvel Star Wars.) While this may just be her carefree, joking attitude, it could hint at her being bisexual. However, it’s also confirmed that Aphra used to date Han Solo’s ex-wife Sana, so who knows. I just hope Aphra sticks around for a long time, because her personality is great, her perspective is unique, and she’s by far the most interesting of the LGBT characters in canon so far.

Last but not least, how can we forget about Captain Phasma? The novel by Delilah Dawson (Phasma) gives a glimpse behind the chromium into Phasma’s psyche. And what’s under there is scary at times, but also makes sense. I can’t find the tweet to verify, so it might have been deleted, but the author viewed Phasma as asexual when she wrote the backstory. Phasma is depicted as an extreme of asexuality – there is no love in her heart period, but she also lacks romantic love for anyone regardless of their gender. Phasma cares only for her own prosperity and survival, and she never had time for romance growing up on what was left of Parnassos after the planet was left in ruin by climate disasters. The fact that none of that is explicitly explained in the novel makes it even better. Phasma never explains herself to anyone – that would mean letting someone in, and doing that even a little bit just isn’t in her character. Really, Phasma is a brilliant book and made me love that minor character so much more.

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Not a lover, just a fighter. Image credit: LucasFilm/DelRey

Moving On. . .

 

So what do we have to look forward to? There’s rumors going around that gay characters are coming to Star Wars films. When? Who knows. Will it be Finn and Poe, the space brothers from different mothers? I think that’d be fun. We’ll forget about that scene where Finn flirts with Rey and asks if she has a “cute boyfriend.” (Or does that actually prove the point?) And the way he reacts to seeing Poe again at D’Qar screams that these two might have feelings for each other, even though they had next to no time to develop them in the film.

And what about Rey? Does Jedi training mean she has to forgo attachment and can’t form intimate relationships? Could forcing the asexual monk aesthetic onto her push her closer to a dangerous relationship with Kylo? Or maybe there was something to the chase scene on Jakku where Rey insists that Finn stop taking her hand – it could be that she’s genuinely offended by gender roles, or that she doesn’t like his touch in any context and just wants him to stop trying so hard.

Last but not least, Claudia Gray’s latest Star Wars novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan introduces a character named Amilyn Holdo, who will appear in The Last Jedi later this month. There’s a scene in it (I’ve read the line but haven’t finished the book, so I don’t know all the context for this) where Holdo reveals that she isn’t attracted exclusively to humans. Could the first human/alien romance appear in The Last Jedi? Well, probably not, but it’ll be interesting in a comic, right?

 

Final Thoughts

So Star Wars has mass appeal, and it’s only getting bigger. I wanted to write this for any LGBT+ readers who may not know that there’s a galaxy out there with positive LGBT+ characters. Star Wars is pretty PG when it comes to most of its storytelling, but I’ve never been one to believe that that’s hurt its storytelling. All these characters, Legends or New Canon, have something great in common. They are ‘different’ than heteronormative characters, and their sexuality informs their stories rather than dictating their stories.

What do I mean by that? Here’s an oversimplified example. A character is gay and quippy/catty to the point that it’s annoying. They can’t end a sentence without reminding you that they are attracted to their same gender, or relating every spoken word back to sex. That’s doing it wrong.

Now take some of the examples I talked about earlier in the article. Two women raise their nephew after his estranged parents join a rebellion against the government, and he turns out to become a hero of that rebellion. Or someone who used to be a very bad man drinks and isolates himself to make the pain of war and his actions soften, and only the man he loves can make him feel better about himself and his value as a human being. A rogue archeologist leaves an enemy alive because sometimes she just can’t think with her brain, and maybe not every enemy deserves to die anyway. Now those sound like good stories to me.

 

As always, thank you for reading! I know this can be a sensitive subject but I wanted to put this out there for anyone who feels like being different is too much to handle. It can be, but if you’ve got positive representation in entertainment out there, having something to identify with can make it easier. If you’d like, please leave a comment – I think Disney and all the writers are doing a great job with LGBT+ representation in Star Wars thus far! I probably (actually I know for a fact) that I didn’t get to every single character, especially in Legends, but I wanted to highlight as many of the more important characters as possible.

-Supreme Leader David

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