David, Arne, George Takei and me, 1990
David, Arne, George Takei and me, 1990

by Robert Gillis
Published in the Boston City Paper 1/2007 and the Foxboro Reporter 2/2007

In late 2005, actor George Takei (Captain Sulu) from Star Trek “came out” as a gay man. Good for him! I’ve always liked George, and to be honest I suspected he might be gay because when I read his autobiography, the mention of liking girls, falling in love, looking for female (or any) companionship, was conspicuously absent.

I had the pleasure of meeting George back in January 1990. My best friend, David MacDonald, knew Arne Starr, who inked the DC “Star Trek comics,” and arranged for us to spend the day with George before a Star Trek convention in Boston at the Sheraton hotel. We’d be taking him on an Old Towne Trolley tour of the city, followed by lunch.

George is a charming, friendly man and we all hit it off. Surprisingly, we didn’t talk Star Trek at all (until the end of the day).

George loves Boston. He’s fascinated by the architecture here; the mixing of the old with the new. He said David and I have a “passion” for our city that is wonderful.

I told him the story of the Prudential Center Christmas tree; he was intrigued how Nana passed the story on to me. George had a 103 year old grandmother.

We got to talking about a Boston statue of Abraham Lincoln and an African-American slave. Some African-Americans want the statue removed because it’s considered racist. George said that’s not a good idea — you can be ashamed of your history, but you must never deny it or you learn nothing. On a related note, George made a trip to Singapore some years back. He found that in many ways they were ignoring their history, and he spoke up about it.

The unusual sculptures outside Copley Place got us into a discussion of art. George’s brother is an Orthodontist, and he asked his son Scott to create some artwork for the office. Scott slapped together a typical childish drawing and signed it “T. Scott.” His brother had it professionally framed and refers to it as a “T. Scott” original.

George told us he runs every day. He’s never run in the Boston Marathon but has done the New York and London races — although he called London a “walking tour.”

We went to Cityside in Faneuil Hall, where George bought us lunch and stole my French fries. He really is a delightful man, and told us about how politically active he is, and how he once met Eleanor Roosevelt.

The second part of the trolley tour was given by an enthusiastic kid named Tommy who seemed thrilled to have George Takei on board. He kept everyone laughing with stories Paul Revere and Boston. He said he was honored to have Commander Sulu on board his trolley.

When we got back to the Sheraton, George kept thanking us for a wonderful day and noted that he loved our idea of making Sulu a captain in the next Trek film. He told us he had been lobbying for some time to give his character a much deserved promotion to mastering a starship.

George Takei and me, 1990
George Takei and me, 1990

At the Star Trek convention that afternoon, George came on stage to thunderous applause and mentioned me, David and Arne by name and spoke of the wonderful day that he had with us. After his talk, we met George and Arne again, and got more pictures.

Since that day so long ago, I have followed his career with interest and highly recommend his book, “To the Stars.” You might be surprised that very little of the book is about Star Trek. Much of the work is devoted to George’s family being unjustly placed into an interment camp for Americans of Japanese descent during World War II–they lost everything. He also speaks about his lifelong ambition to be an actor, and his roles in community service.

Back in the present, George commented that the response to his “coming out” has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m glad for that. This world needs more tolerance.

I have a friend who is bisexual. Her private life and feelings do not factor into my opinion of her. What matters is the beautiful person she is. I have friends who are gay — they have their lifestyle, I have mine. It doesn’t change how I feel about them. What happens behind closed doors between consenting adults is none of my business. As long as both parties are adults, and as long as both parties are consenting, it’s none of my business.

And by the way, it’s none of yours and none of the church’s and none of the government’s business either.

I remember an episode of the TV show “Friends” where Ross’ ex-wife was marrying her female lover. The words of the minister were particularly poignant: “You know, nothing makes God happier than when two people, any two people, come together in love.” I have to agree with that. We are all God’s children, and I believe He wants us to be happy.

There are many who will quote the Bible and proclaim that homosexuals are sinners. I have a different view, and I also quote the Bible: Psalm 139. God made each of us. Psalm 139 proclaims, “Lord you know me,” and goes on to say that God knew us long before we were conceived. I interpret that to mean that God knew EVERYTHING about us long before he created is — including our sexuality. We are God’s children, we are designed by God. We are part of His plan.

In that vein, George Takei, a compassionate human being, a good actor, in words and actions espouses hope for humanity, and urges us to remember our history — even the unpleasant and violent aspects of it — lest we repeat it. Now, by coming out publicly, and becoming a gay-rights activist, he will remind people again about the virtues of equality for all. That is admirable.

I wish George every happiness and praise him for his courage and good work. I applaud his courage for coming out, and am thrilled that he is using his celebrity to spread a message of equality for all.

We need more tolerance, compassion and understanding and acceptance in this world. George Takei is one person helping to make that possible.

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