Stella Maxwell
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Star Trek: Discovery Casts First Trans, Nonbinary Roles in Franchise's History

Star Trek

Today the producers of Star Trek: Discovery announced that next season they will be introducing the first nonbinary and trans characters in the history of the Star Trek franchise.

Nonbinary character Adira, played by Blu del Barrio, and transgender character Gray, played by trans actor Ian Alexander, will be beamed up when Star Trek: Discovery kicks off season 3 on CBS All Access on October 15.

“Adira is a wonderfully complex character,” del Barrio, who is making their screen debut in the role, told GLAAD. “Mainly because of this duality they have within them: They're astonishingly intelligent and yet they're still a kid. They experience their emotions at a heightened level, like most teenagers. That's what makes them so fun to play. I like to describe them as cerebrally brilliant and emotionally a puppy. Adira is an introvert, but they keep a few people close to the chest, which I definitely resonate with. I don't want to say too much and get in trouble, but all in all, Adira is a uniquely strange and beautiful character.”

Alexander (they/them and he/him) is best known for their roles as Buck Vu on Netflix’s The OA, where he made history for being the first out trans Asian-American person to act on television. 

Star Trek: Discovery has had several firsts. In 2017, Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz became the first gay characters in a same-sex marriage in the franchise’s history. Additionally, Sonequa Martin-Green made history as the first woman of color to lead a show in the history of the franchise.

Star Trek has always made a mission of giving visibility to underrepresented communities because it believes in showing people that a future without division on the basis of race, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation is entirely within our reach,” Michelle Paradise, co-showrunner and executive producer, said in a statement. “We take pride in working closely with Blu del Barrio, Ian Alexander and Nick Adams at GLAAD to create the extraordinary characters of Adira and Gray, and bring their stories to life with empathy, understanding, empowerment and joy.”

Del Barrio told GLAAD that they were cast as Adira while in their final year at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

“When I got the call that I’d been cast as Adira, I hadn’t yet told the majority of my friends and family that I was nonbinary,” they said. “I had only recently discovered the word and realized that it described how I’d felt for a long time. I knew I wanted to tell my friends and family, so when this happened, it felt like the universe saying ‘go ahead.'”

When asked why it’s important to speak about nonbinary issues, del Barrio responded, “Nonbinary people have always existed. People’s immediate response is often that they've never heard the word ‘nonbinary’ and therefore question its validity. Most people don’t personally know someone who is transgender, so they don’t know much about gender diversity. This is where I believe the problem starts — the problem that leads to discrimination and violence against trans people.”

They continued, “Our education system in the U.S. is severely lacking LGBTQ+ subject matter in the curriculum as well as resources for LGBTQ+ youth. I knew I was different at 8 years old, but there wasn’t one person who knew how to help me. I was struggling with terrible dysphoria, and every single day I wished someone would understand and help me. No one ever did. That led me to change everything about myself so I could survive, but it would have been so much better if my gender had been affirmed by those around me. Many trans kids don’t make it. This is not something we can put on a to-do list. It requires immediate action. Forty percent of trans people attempt suicide, compared to 4.6 percent of the general population. If that doesn’t scream urgency, I don’t know what does.”

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