Recently Joshua Yehl, a friend of Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen, one of the 49 people killed in the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, started an online petition urging that the makers of the Star Wars films use Leinonen, a devoted fan of the franchise, as the basis for the first LGBT Star Wars character. On the following pages we offer an introduction to Leinonen and look at existing Star Wars characters who could be revealed to be gay, along with gay characters from the books who could be brought to the screen.
Joshua Yehl's Change.org petition urging the makers of Star Wars to base a character on Drew Leinonen (pictured, bottom, with Yehl) is nearing its goal of 10,000 signatures. Yehl noted, "It’s vitally important that LGBT people are included in mainstream media because it will show that we don’t need to be feared or hated or hidden. We can be part of the rebellion and we can fight evil, and we can do it while being who we are with pride.”
Yehl expanded further on the idea, turning it over to the imaginations of the Star Wars creative team and emphasizing what it would mean to LGBT people: "How this is done — using his likeness, running his name through one of those Star Wars name generators, etc. — is totally up to you. You are all masters of your craft, so I know that whatever you come up with will be marvelous. This character will not only honor Drew but all of the other victims at Pulse in Orlando, including his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero, and every LGBT person to ever lose their life to hate."
Now that we’ve signed the petition, we want to suggest to the Disney creative types that after they include the new character based on Leinonen, they should take a look at some of their existing characters and maybe help one or two of them out of the closet as well. J.J. Abrams, director of The Force Awakens, has already said in an interview that “it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.” That said, here’s our list of the 15 Star Wars characters most likely to be the first LGBT characters to grace the franchise.
Luke Skywalker was always a kid who didn’t fit in. Raised in a dusty rural town and dreaming of far-away cosmopolitan adventure, knowing there was more to him than his conservative family could ever accept, he basically lived the quintessential gay American story. There was a short period when we thought maybe he was into girls, but then it turned out he was just uncomfortably close with his sister. And then he speny the rest of the trilogy working out his daddy issues, getting makeovers, and learning to move things with his mind, which is all stuff gay guys do. In all seriousness, though, the fact that he’s a young, attractive man who never has a romantic interest before him in three movies makes him an anomaly among action movie heroes. The blankness of Luke’s sexuality means audiences can fill in his story for themselves. Mark Hamill himself confirmed this to the U.K.'s Sun newspaper recently, saying, "Fans are writing and ask all these questions, 'I'm bullied in school ... I'm afraid to come out.' They say to me, 'Could Luke be gay?' I'd say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. ... If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.” We say yes, let’s nail that down, Star Wars bosses!
Just as gays are often drawn to the Catholic priesthood, the life of celibacy required of members of the Jedi order might mean that there are several closeted gay members hiding among their ranks. The mannered, bearded, immaculately-clean-even-though-he-literally-has-to-live-in-a-cave-in-the-desert Obi-Wan Kenobi is a prime example of a heroic character who could be a gay role model. Granted, this would be another case of finding out the wise old wizard who helps our young hero is gay only after he’s dead, à la Dumbledore, but some of the Star Wars movies set to come out in the future take place in a time when Obi-Wan was still alive. Ewan McGregor, who played gay in Velvet Goldmine, has said he’s willing to come back to reprise the role anytime. And it would be nice to learn that Obi-Wan got some loving during all those years hiding in the wilderness before immediately dying on his first adventure.
Rey is different from previous Star Wars ladies. Princess Leia didn’t go 20 minutes into her rescue on the Death Star before she started kissing boys. Amidala basically threw her whole life away for a forbidden romance with a dangerous man. They were both strong, independent women, but they wasted no time in making their sexuality known. Conversely, Rey spends the majority of The Force Awakens with the handsome Finn, and while there is a palpable chemistry between the two, she is careful not to let things get flirtatious or physical. Could it be she’s not romantically interested in men? She’s certainly not the damsel in need of rescuing that these movies’ previous leading ladies, strong as they are, have found themselves repeatedly becoming. Rey has already become a feminist hero, and maybe now she can be an LGBT icon.
Alternative: Not as cool, but we’ll take it — Rey spent much of the movie wondering about her parents. It would be awesome for her to find them and learn she has two moms or two dads.
“Who?” you are probably asking. Moff Delian Mors has the distinction of being the first LGBT Star Wars character introduced into the new official Disney canon, having made her debut last year in the novel Lords of the Sith. That’s a pretty big deal, although she is described as “lazy, hedonistic, nihilistic,” is addicted to drugs, and is extremely loyal to the evil Emperor Palpatine. And her wife, like too many other fictional LGBT characters, is killed off. So maybe this is not exactly how we want our representation. Never mind, Star Wars. Keep Moff Mors off the big screen, please.
Poe and Finn
Enough has been said in the media about everyone’s favorite sci-fi ’ship. The way they look at each other. The meet-cute when Finn rescues Poe. The time when Poe gives Finn his letterman jacket and now they are going steady. The steamy make-out session they have on the bridge of the Millennium Falcon. I mean, it’s been a minute since we saw The Force Awakens, but I’m pretty sure that last part happens in the actual movie and not just in the daydreams we have had ever since. And this one is not merely a case of wishful thinking. Between the actors admitting that they were playing romance and John Boyega saying of the next installment, “You never know what they’re going to pull. I’m looking at the director Rian [Johnson] closely so he can get me involved early, so I can prepare myself. So who knows?” Sure, it’s a long shot that Disney would have the cojones to out both of the charming young male leads, but to quote Han Solo, “Never tell me the odds!”
We’ve all had our suspicions about Yoda, right? I mean, it seems a little fishy that so much of Luke’s Jedi training should involve letting Yoda ride him all around that swamp. If I were training ’70s Luke Skywalker, I’d probably come up with the same exercises. Sweaty we will be getting today. That green tank top you must wear. Standard training we swear this is. And this is not even taking into account the relationship Yoda has with Frank Oz’s right hand. Just sayin’.
In a separate piece of recent Star Wars news, we learned that Samuel L. Jackson believes his character from the prequels, Mace Windu, is still alive and hiding out like Obi-Wan did. Jackson claims George Lucas himself gave this theory his blessing. And as much as we’d like to forget those prequels ever happened, maybe the timing of these two stories is too perfect. After all, there’s probably some symbolism behind that unique purple light saber. Maybe Mace has quietly settled down with a nice padawan somewhere and renounced the religious restrictions of the Jedi lifestyle. Whether he comes back in the movies or not, we hope he’s happy out there.
Like all Star Wars women who aren’t related to Luke, Mon Mothma isn’t given a lot to do in these movies. She basically delivers the news that Emperor Palpatine will be on the Death Star when they attack it, and then she has a dramatic moment when she tells us, “Many Bothans died to bring us this information.” This line has become an internet meme because of the absolute gravity and empathy with which the actress says it. combined with the fact that these movies never explain what a Bothan is. But if you’ll allow us a crazy theory (and this is Star Wars, so we’re allowed crazy theories), is there any reason “Bothan” couldn’t be the Basic word for LGBT people? Maybe the “Bothan spies” she references are a ragtag bunch of sexual minorities who went and stole the plans for the second death star, and maybe she was once part of their group? I mean, she has the ferocity, the empathy, the haircut. Plus, wouldn’t that make an awesome spin-off movie? Am I nerding out too much here? In the meantime, she’s going to be in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story this December, so I guess we’ll get some answers then.
When we first meet Darth Vader as a little boy, he’s living with his mom on Tatooine. She seems like she’s doing a pretty good job of raising him, despite the whole thing where they’re slaves. When Qui Gon Jinn asks her, “Who is his father?” (which, rude, Qui Gon — you can’t just ask who is the father), her response is “There was no father.” And sure, we’ve all taken that to mean some sort of immaculate conception of Darth Vader happened, but what if she just meant she’s not into dudes? Maybe there’s another mom in the picture that Qui Gon just never asked about. It’s Shmi’s death that first sets young Anakin on the path to the dark side. Maybe he kills all those Tusken Raiders because they were attacking his gay mom. Aw. Now it’s touching.
Of the three new female characters named in The Force Awakens, Captain Phasma is probably the most primed to come out. Maz Kanata is clearly into male wookiees, and Rey has at least a potential suitor around in Finn. But Phasma has not been romantically connected to anyone. What we know about her so far is that she’s a tough military leader who likes to polish her armor. Kathleen Kennedy has promised fans we’ll see more of our favorite chrometrooper in episode 8 than we did last time around, so maybe that will include a girlfriend or wife.
Sinjur Rath Velus
Another gay character from the new Star Wars books, Sinjur Rath Velus, is presented as sort of a nega-Han Solo. He was an imperial officer during the battle in Return of the Jedi but faked his death and escaped and had adventures in the space between the original trilogy and the current one. Described as “scruffy” and a bad man who’s “trying to do better,” this guy could be the closest thing we ever get to a gay Han. What Star Wars god do we have to pray to to make this happen?
Campbell’s Soup Dads
Remember that so-adorable-it-hurts commercial for Campbell’s Star Wars soups where the two dads took turns saying “I am your father” to their son as they spooned droid-shaped noodles into his mouth? Let’s get those guys in a Star Wars movie. They could play gay storm troopers or accountants for the first order or maybe Luke Skywalker’s lovably quirky neighbors on that lonely island he’s been inhabiting or whatever.
Let’s be real here. Star Wars’ gay character has been in front of us the whole time. Well-traveled, fluent in over 6 million forms of communication, and dressed like he took a costumes-encouraged Oscar party too seriously, C-3PO is a gay android if ever one existed. Even setting aside the fussy personality, the voice, the walk, his affinity for the word “brute,” and all the rest of the stereotypes, he displays a real and beautiful affection for his obvious romantic robot partner, R2D2, throughout the series. Sure, they may bicker like the odd couple, but whenever R2 is in danger, 3PO’s real feelings come out. Despite how annoying he can be, those moments are pretty sweet. This guy is one of ours, and it’s time Star Wars made it official so we can welcome him into the LGBT fold.