Deep Space Nine has always been a hot topic when it comes to LGBT+ characters. The series’ most popular pairing is a gay relationship between Garak and Bashir. This relationship has even been recently acknowledged by Garak actor, Andrew Robinson, and DS9 showrunner, Ira Steven Behr, in the 2019 Deep Space Nine documentary, “What We Left Behind.” And Jadzia Dax is probably one of the most pansexual and transgender-coded characters in all of Trek. But no one ever talks about the lesser-known letters in the acronym, the ones beyond the plus sign, and wherein Trek they might be. But that’s where my identity lies, and thus my search began.
I am asexual and non-binary. What this means is that I do not experience sexual attraction and that my gender identity isn’t exclusively male or female, it lies outside the binary. Think of it this way; if male is blue and female is pink, that doesn’t make every other gender a version of purple.
But finding my queer representation in mainstream media is more difficult than understanding temporal paradoxes. Lots of studies have shown that being represented in media matters a lot, especially to children and young adults, and especially those that belong to a minority. Everyone should have a character or images they can see themselves in. It creates relatability and sources of inspiration. Representation breaks down stereotypes and misconceptions. More accurate portrayals allow minorities to feel heard and seen.
As society progresses, queer people are given snippets of their identities on the big screen, but a lot of queerness in Star Trek is just speculation from fans trying to find that character they relate to, not much is in-universe until it’s either seen on-screen or confirmed by showrunners or actors.
As someone with an identity that is largely unheard of, it’s hard to find those kinds of characters. The first character I ever saw as asexual, like me, was the Doctor, from Doctor Who. But when I watched Deep Space Nine for the first time back in 2018, it gave me whiplash seeing Odo on the screen practically oozing similarities between him and I. Odo is the one character in all of Star Trek that I can proudly and confidently say is both asexual and non-binary.
There are three major excuses to invalidate Odo’s queerness; first, Odo presents male and uses he/him pronouns. Second, his relationship with the Female Changeling. And third, his relationship with Kira.
Gender expression/presentation and pronoun use are not indicative of someone’s gender identity. You cannot tell someone is non-binary or transgender just by looking at them. In fact, Odo’s true form is a gelatinous blob, so the fact that people have decided that sentient goo has gender is mind-boggling to me. But in flashback episodes, we find out that Odo was taken in by a Bajoran scientist named Dr Mora. We also find out that Odo only looks the way he does because he learned to mimic Dr Mora’s humanoid appearance. Had Dr Mora been female, we might have had a female Odo.
That brings us to the Female Changeling. If you just read the previous paragraph, then you’ll understand when I say that there is no such thing as a female changeling. The Great Link is Goo Lake Central and giving the Founder breasts was useless. I believe the writers needed the evil opposite to Odo’s good-natured maleness, a possible product of hetero-normativity.
And finally, his relationship with Kira. Sexual and romantic attraction are separate. You can be asexual and still have romantic feelings for someone. To add an argument within the argument is DS9 season 5, episode 17, “A Simple Investigation,” when Odo becomes intimately involved with Arissa, a woman working with the Orion Syndicate. Asexuality is a spectrum, and attraction does not equate to libido. But with Kira, we never see her and Odo in any kind of sexual manner, unlike Jadzia and Worf, or Ezri and Bashir.
The more I thought about it, I saw that Kira herself could be asexual as well. While Kira is presented to us as straight, lots of fans see her as bisexual, pansexual, or just gay. Kira is one of my all-time favorite Trek characters, and the fact that she could even be just a little bit like me in this way made me feel less alone than ever. If not completely asexual, then perhaps along the spectrum like grey-sexual, where very little to no attraction is ever experienced. Or demisexual, where a very deep and emotional bond with a partner is needed for sexual attraction to occur. Besides, if Kira is asexual, then it would make sense that her mirror-universe counterpart, the Intendant, is hypersexual. The Intendant is a good example here because she is physically intimate with lots of people she is not romantically attracted to. If you can have sex without romance, then you can have romance without sex.
Furthermore, Odo’s asexuality was confirmed by Rene Auberjonois during a Star Trek Las Vegas convention in 2017. During a Deep Space Nine panel, Rene said of his character, “I always thought of Odo as asexual. I wasn’t quite sure what sexuality or sex meant to Odo.”
Having Odo and, on a smaller scale Kira, as a part of my life in this way is very special for me. For someone questioning their sexuality, it’s easy to figure out if it feels right or not if you have other gender(s) to base that attraction on. A gay man can very easily tell if he’s sexually attracted to another man. For asexuals, it’s a lot more difficult because the attraction isn’t there, to begin with. There is so much self-doubt. The Founder once said to Odo, “She will never love you, you are a changeling.” Odo’s attitude toward himself and his self-worth were the same as mine. How can I ever be loved if I’m not sexually attracted to my partner? Seeing Odo in a successful, happy and loving relationship with Kira was so solidifying for me to see on screen. The two characters were so wonderfully written and acted out that I couldn’t be prouder to have them as my queer representation in Star Trek.
Kira Knotts (they/them)
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