Growing up I was a fan of TV’s Star Trek. Star Trek a mixture of drama and ‘campy’ fun unfolded on the starship Enterprise. With Captain Kirk at the helm he was ably served by his helmsman Hikaru Sulu, played by actor George Takei. Star Trek which ran from 1966 – 1969 brought together a multicultural cast that addressed issues of the day such as racism and war. One issue the series didn’t address were gay rights.
George Takei was a closeted gay man during the series. Living in a particularly homophobic period in American life he picked his battles and chose to work against Asian stereotypes prevalent in Hollywood. At a time when most Asian actors could only get limited work, Takei portrayed his character (Hikaru Sulu) with intelligence and dignity.
In 2005 Takei watched as California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a marriage-equality bill. At age 68 he turned to his life partner Brad Altman and decided that now was the time to go public and use his celebrity status to advocate for marriage equality and gay rights.
Now at age 77 George Takei continues to take on homophobia and racism with humor and persistence. He advocates for a society where we can each be that unique person God created us to be. A friend who happens to be gay, says this: ‘It is simply a matter of justice to allow people to authentically be who they are’.
And so we look to George Takei, Captain Kirk’s able helmsman, to boldly take us where we should have been all along. To Mr. Takei we say ‘live long and prosper’.
Today Joe Bell was laid to rest in La Grande, Oregon. He was hit by a truck in Colorado while walking across America in memory of his son Jadin. The headline in the Oregonian read: ‘Death ends dad’s quest to tell nation about gay son’s suicide’.
Last February Joe’s son, Jadin, at age 15 took his own life after suffering relentless bullying by classmates because he was gay. At his son’s funeral, Joe said: “I don’t want Jadin’s death to be in vain. I want it to stand for something. I think we need to look to people for who they are and not who we think they should be.”
To honor his son and for the sake of so many other young people who feel judged and isolated, Joe began his walk. On two artificial knees, with good shoes and a backpack, Joe walked 1000 miles to schools, churches and service clubs to tell Jadin’s story. He spoke about an epidemic of bullying, about the need to educate ourselves for signs of being bullied or of being a bully. The antidote he said, was education and a renewed commitment to do our part, to intervene when needed and to cultivate a culture of tolerance and kindness.
Today Joe Bell was laid to rest. Yesterday, the news reported that a 12-year-old girl in Florida, Rebecca Sedwick, had committed suicide after suffering cyber bullying.
Clearly, Joe’s work remains. What then can we do? We can educate ourselves. A good web site to learn about signs of bullying or of being a bully is at www.stopbullying.gov . For the sake of Jadin and Rebecca and countless other children and youth let’s get involved. Let’s each do our part to make our community a more tolerant and kind place to call home. In memory of Joe, Jadin and Rebecca, let us walk together.