Was Spock “Queer”?

W.J. Astore

Friendship? Bromance? Something more? Spock and Kirk in an “intimate” moment

Was Spock “queer”? Of course he was, by one definition of the word. He was unique. And he was (and remains) my favorite character on “Star Trek.”

If you’re a fan of the show, you may have heard of a rich literature that suggests Kirk and Spock were something more than friends. That they were, in some sense, lovers. And indeed there apparently exists plenty of imaginary pornographic imagery of such a relationship, which, to be honest, I have not checked out. I’ll use my own imagination here.

The whole idea of Spock as queer was revived for me by this article at Tropics of Meta:

When I watched “Star Trek” in reruns in the 1970s, I never thought of Spock as “queer” in this way.  I viewed him as exceptionally loyal and in such a close friendship with Kirk that it transcended our limited sexual categories. But just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so too can be other forms of attraction.

The notion of Spock’s “queerness” strikes me as part of the richness of “Star Trek.”  That it’s open to multiple interpretations.  That it had complex characters who couldn’t be reduced to one type.

As a character, Spock was truly a stroke of genius.  Half Vulcan, half human.  Always alien — and always conflicted. Spock is a friend and inspiration to anyone who doesn’t quite fit in. Anyone who feels himself or herself (or themselves!) to be “alien” in some way.

His superior, Captain Kirk, seems to be a conventional ladies’ man, but you get the sense they’re all disposable.  Kirk is in love with his ship, with his command, and the only “human” who’s truly indispensable to him is Spock, or so it seems to me.

They had a “queer” relationship in the best sense of the word: rich, complex, special, and unique. They could (and did) risk their lives for each other. May we all have more of such “queer” relationships in our lives!

22 thoughts on “Was Spock “Queer”?

    1. Dear Mr Astute Astore
      I love your column your stance against the military industrial complex a term Eisenhower used in his farewell address to the nation the year I was born is couragious.

      I just really want to say this column on Spock and your definition of queerness not in the conventional sense is terrific.

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  1. When I grew up the world “queer” meant “odd.” Because of my status as the Catholic-school child of a divorcee, when she remarried and sent me to Catholic school starting in 3rd grade, I was apart from any peers. Because catechism class required me to “counsel the sinner” I wound up also isolated from my parents (bio and step). So, it was many years before I realized the “queer” had any other meaning.
    It wasn’t until the late 1970’s when I was spending time with a group of gay guys that they educated me that I was “straight” (a new term at the time for me), that they were gay and that “queer” was a term that hurt (something the current owners of the word “queer” seem blithely unaware of). When they said that, I remember thinking back to a small incident in the Air Force when four of us were riding in a truck and the driver, referring to two guy in the back seat, my workmates, said something disparaging about “the queers” in the back. What I remembered was thinking, at the time, that I worked with one of them numerous times and he never seemed odd to me.
    Anyway, those guys were working the same restaurant as me and invited me along. I was a bit separate but that was okay for them. They were funny, and clever and very smart. I had not belonged, really , anywhere, but they were okay with me, even though I was straight.
    Funny story at the time: This was when “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was a regular event at our Tivoli art theater. There would be midnight showings and if you came in a group you were supposed to have a name for your group. We were the “12 gays and a straight.” (me, being the “straight”).
    One night as we left the showing a group of women from an escort service came by and gave their cards to all the guys, the gay guys, and not me. They all offered to give me their cards. We all thought that was funny. I’m sorry to say that 40+ years later I’m not sure I would remember anyone from then if I ran into them but I certainly do remember not just their humor and smartness but also their kindness, graciousness and generosity. Just great guys.

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    1. Yes, “queer” was often a derogatory term. I remember it being used in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) in the taunt used by the DI (“steers and queers”). That taunt would never past muster today.

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      1. In Montreal in the late 50s, queer meant gay, homo, fag, or “just one of those”

        I was 22 when Star Trek started and I was an instant “Trekie’ It was so civilized and mature.
        It looked so Futuristic that looks so passe now. The Sets were cheap and the Aliens fake looking, compared to the later spinoffs

        But we all have our Communicators these Days, and “on Screen” at least for this Earth, is real with Skype and other similar platforms.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a whole niche in “Star Trek” fandom devoted to this possibility, and some of the material is explicit, so I’m told.

      I guess we see what we want to see — and we also use our imaginations to see what arguably wasn’t there to see.

      Not logical, as Spock might say, but very human.

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      1. Yeah….like any other visual, oral, or written material, the interpretation varies according to the interpreter. But I really don’t think Roddenberry meant to suggest any gay overtones in 1966. And I’d go so far as to say that positing such overtones is an affectation. It’s like, say, a Star Trek buff trying to make a case that DaVinci meant the Mona Lisa to be a depiction of a space alien. Just doesn’t track.

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      2. There’s a deep intimacy between Kirk and Spock, the deepest on the show. But intimacy doesn’t always extend to sexuality, obviously. Some people just want to “make it so,” in the words of another “Star Trek” captain, and they’re free to do so.

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    2. Google for “Spock romantic relationships” and you will get a lot of references, including a few where 8 are listed. Spock and women either when the Vulcan rutting season is upon him (turns Vulcans into … gasp their most shameful non-logical selves, such as the Vulcan “pon farr” – good for laughs around our SciFi house) or his “intended” or something else which derails his Vulcan logical demeanor.

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  2. I have to agree with DD above. I was in my mid-teens when Stsr Trek first aired and I generally liked iis plots (they often had political undertones that resonated with myself and others in the mid-60’s) but the acting was often humorously over-the-top and cliched. And as a pubescent male teen, the sexuality that garnered my attention was the Vegas cocktail waitress dress code for the female crew members, (WJA-did female members of the USAF dress that way during your tenure? 😉 ) so maybe my ‘gaydar’ was jammed, but I never perceived any hints of sexual relationship between Kirk & Spock, and I’ve seen all the episodes over the years. With Spock’s major, primary characteristic being his logical alien/Vulcan mind, it just seems like a big stretch that a semi-alien character like that would have a sexual relationship with another male, though obviously with fictional characters you can imagine it anyway you want and not be entirely‘wrong’.

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    1. Oh, I agree. It never occurred to me either. But I’m intrigued by those who saw something I didn’t and created their own “reality,” so to speak. Again, I think it’s part of the richness of “Star Trek” that it inspired impassioned fans to imagine alternate realities.

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    2. Really good point about the political issues that were brought up in the plots, Eddie. It’s always struck me that those very overtones were what made the show so appealing. Roddenbrrry addressed many issues of the day (and, indeed, things that are still relevant) using some very pointed references. The episode, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” with Frank Gorshin, being perhaps the most starkly rendered example (Gorshin played an alien with a face that was half black, half white, and his enemy had a mirror image on his face).

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      1. Yes, I also had read that Roddenberry said he set out to make “a ‘Wagon Train’ in space kind of series”, which there were elements of that old series present in StarTrek.

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      2. Side note: Roddenberry was a WWII bomber pilot (B-17) and after that an airline pilot. Had a friend named Kim Noonien Singh. Was an LA cop from 1949-1956, after the airline, at least partly to gain experience he needed as a writer. Klingons were named after a fellow officer, Walter Clingan.

        Prior to “Star Trek,” Roddenberry had a series (his first) called “The Lieutenant” about life on a Marine base. The series had support from the Pentagon (equipment and extras) until the episode “To Set It Right” (22 Feb 1964 – question, why the air date at IMDB when it “never aired”[?]). This was an episode about race, which introduced a 32-year old Nichelle Nichols with Don Marshall, whose character was confronted by bad boy Dennis Hopper as Marshall’s HS nemesis and of course they tangled.

        It is worth looking up on Google to see just how good Nichelle Nicholls and Don Marshall are in what little can be seen (a full tape is part of the Paley collection in NYC). Compare her very dimensional character to her celebrated but mostly dimensionless Uhura. Roddenberry seems to have learned the lesson that you had to have some pretty cliched, flat characters to send social messages.

        Once you can see how good she is, even in this tiny extract, you can imagine how frustrated she must have been. Then when you look at the other fare (so flat) from the time (MeTV is a great source for past(I hope)-word viewing), you can see why MLK saw her importance in at least just being a visible presence as a black person. ~~ht~~tps://youtu.be/3E5jtSF12U4

        Because the episode went head on about race it was never aired. The first kill was the Pentagon who withdrew all support. Then the series was canceled the very next week.

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        1. Yes — Nichelle Nichols was very talented and appeared in musicals. She could sing, dance, and basically do it all. It’s too bad she didn’t get more opportunities on “Star Trek” to showcase her talent.

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  3. We in Boston “The Hub of the Universe” just Elected our 1st. Woman of Color Mayor in History last Nite.!– all other Mayors in Boston’s history White Men. Ms. Mayor is of Asian Descent why I say this back in the Early Nineties. I and a Friend a brother Firefighter went into Town (Boston) to a Trek Convention. We met George Takei (Mr. Sulu) of S.T.T.O.S. Asking the tough Questions we wanted to know why Mr. Sulu as a 20+ Yr. Career Star Fleet Officer never Rose to Captain? He said I believe he and Roddenberry were working on it. Checked the very next Flic. in the Franchise Can and George now as Captain Sulu of the Starship U.S.S. Excelsior w/ Trans. Warp Speed Drive!!! lol A Series way ahead of its time. “George Takei” I shook his hand was a most gracious and articulate Speaker at the S.T. Convention.

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