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Dictating Love


This following paragraph is the YouTube description of the video embedded above.  I felt it was a masterful explanation, so I have quoted it verbatim.

"The Outcast" is a 5th season episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation first broadcast on March 16, 1992. Commander William Riker (played by Jonathan Frakes) falls in love with Soren who is a member of an advanced, humanoid alien race called the J'naii. The J'naii are an androgynous species that views the expression of any sort of male or female gender, and especially sexual liaisons, as a sexual perversion. According to their official doctrine, the J'naii had evolved beyond gender and thus viewed the idea of male/female sexuality as primitive. Those among the J'naii who viewed themselves as possessing gender were ridiculed, outcast, and forced to undergo "psychotectic therapy" - a psychological treatment to remediate gender-specificity and allow acceptance back into J'naii society. When the affair between Riker and Soren is discovered, J'naii diplomats force Soren to undergo this therapy. When Riker beams down to the planet to rescue her, she has already undergone the therapy. She refuses to go with him, claiming that she is happy now, and that she was sick during her affair with Riker. She apologizes to him for his feelings of love toward her. Riker remains unconvinced of the righteousness of the procedure. This episode contains obvious allusions to the debate over homosexuality in our own world. The conclusion of the episode does not espouse one point of view over the other but instead allows the viewer to decide whether being forced to undergo therapy was right for Soren. Although many Star Trek fans were pleased to witness the Star Trek franchise tackling complex gender and sexuality issues, others felt that the episode was incongruous with Star Trek's legacy of controversially presenting an egalitarian, prejudice-free future society. Jonathan Frakes, notably commented that the episode wasn't "gutsy" enough and that "Soren should have been more evidently male". In fact, while the J'naii actors were all female, Frakes thought there should have been male actors, including Soren's character. Many felt that the episode did not adequately condemn J'naii society and that Star Trek had faltered given the opportunity to condemn modern societal prejudice in the same way it had confronted societal racism in Star Trek: The Original Series.

Oh, how I wish I was old enough to understand these concepts when I watched this show as a child.  I may not have ever even seen this episode, I'm not sure.  I know I watched several episodes with my family, but I don't recall any in particular.  Anyway, there were several key arguments that this episode made that stuck out to me.  The one that I found most poignant was Soren's argument at her diatribe.  She points out that she has not hurt anyone, and that the tribunal has no place to dictate how people should love.

Sadly, our country, and the whole human race, has a legacy of dictating to people how and whom they should love.  For a long time, it was not legal in our country for a white person and a black person to marry.  There was a time when gay people had to keep their relationships secret merely to preserve their own lives.  There was a time when it was common to send gay people to reparative therapy, to help them and make them become straight.  There are still places in the USA where this is practiced.  But, unlike Star Trek portrayed in the above clip, such efforts have never been successful at anything other than creating psychological problems for the patients.

I was personally disappointed to see how the episode ended--that Soren had been "cured" and Riker had to live with the broken heart.  However, to me it is an indicator of how people's hearts are broken when they are asked to pretend to be straight when they are in fact not.  I know of people who are gay who lived "that lifestyle" and then, upon being converted to a religion (Mormonism, in every case I am personally acquainted with), they sever their relationship with the parter they were with.  I'm sure this hurts both people in the relationship.  How is it helpful--how is it compassionate--to break up lovers like this?  How is it loving to tell someone not to love?  It is cruel, heartless, and hurtful.

Don't dictate how people should love.  Don't dictate whom people should love.  If love is happening, simply admire it and appreciate it.  There is enough hurt and conflict in the world.  Let love bloom.  Let it take root.  Let it happen.  Let it shine.  Do not stifle the light and love that beams from another person's heart.  Embrace it and admire it.

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