Warning! Spoilers for Star Trek Picard.
As per usual, whenever there's an LGBTQ* character of any form introduced in Star Trek it sparks some form of controversy.
With Seven and Raffi holding hands at the end of Star Trek: Picard season 1, it's no different. Some critiques of this scene are legitimate, some not so much. How can we make legitimate critiques without invalidating the sexual identity of Seven and, by extension, real people?
Let's look into it, shall we?
One of the biggest critiques I think we need to unpack is: Seven is straight! She was straight in Voyager! Why did they change her at the last minute? I'm fine with gay characters in Star Trek, but changing the sexuality of a character we know and love just to have another queer character is stupid!
Okay. Let's unpack a few things here.
First of all, Seven is not "another gay character." She is pansexual. It's been confirmed by creators and actors (okay, mixed accounts of her being bi/pan . . . for the simplicity in this article, I will refer to her as pansexual), and there are nuanced differences.
Second of all, it's great that you're down with having gay characters on TV. That's a step in the right direction!
Third of all, if you say the words, "She was straight in Voyager," that is actually a biphobic comment.
Not a HOMOphobic comment—a BIpbobic comment.
Homophobia would be hating two women—any women—holding hands at the end because you believe only opposite genders should be sexually attracted to each other.
Biphobia, in this instance, is when you define a bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual person's sexuality based on who they are with, instead of acknowledging that they have the capacity to be sexually attracted to X amount of genders at any given moment.
Essentially, it's stripping a person's sexual identity down to who they're with instead of who they are. A bisexual woman dating a woman is not a lesbian—she is still bisexual. A pansexual woman dating a man is not straight—she is still pansexual. An omnisexual man dating a man isn't gay—he is still omnisexual.
See? Your sexual preferences don't change based on who you're with. You're always bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual.
Now here's the super fun part: if you're straight, you can be biphobic. If you are gay/lesbian, you can be biphobic, too. Fun fact: bisexual/pansexual/omnisexual people face discrimination from straight and gay people equally.
The good news is, no matter who you are, you can learn and grow! (I believe in you!)
So quickly, let's look at Seven: she dated predominantly men in Voyager. While watching Voyager many years ago, we may have assumed Seven was straight because she gave no indication that she was sexually attracted to women/other genders as well.
Fast forward to Picard: suddenly, Seven is now attracted to women, too. It's new information. What do we do with the information?
Simple. We understand that Seven is pansexual. A lot happened in 20 years, and Seven learned she was sexually attracted to more genders.
It's really as simple as that. Seven dating men in Voyager? Doesn't mean she "was" straight. It meant for that period Seven—as an autonomous individual—dated predominantly men. Having dated mostly men in the past doesn't erase Seven's pansexuality.
In essence, we do need to redefine what we know about Seven because while dating mostly men in the past does not erase her pansexuality, learning she is now pansexual erases the assumption she was straight.
As I'm writing this, I'm realising that it's actually EXTREMELY fitting that Seven's pansexual. Biphobia is about erasing a person's sexual identiy—their individual identity—based on who they're with at any given moment. Seven being pansexual means that she needs to assert her individuality, and claim her pansexuality. It perfectly fits in with all the themes Seven explored in Voyager.
Now, I'm going to be fair, and at this point say: I understand if all this is complicated. I perfectly acknowledge that this might be difficult for some people to wrap their heads around. Who Seven was in Voyager is very different than who she is in Picard and it forces us to change our understanding of Seven's sexual identity.
But here's something super fun about Voyager: they had episodes with temporal anomalies, like, all the time. If you enjoyed Voyager, it meant you were able to suspend your disbelief with all the jumps in time, effect preceding cause, etc.
If you've gotten to this point in the article, and you still can't quite understand how Seven is "now" pansexual, just imagine that this is a temporal anomaly—and suspend your disbelief the same way you would any other Voyager-esque anomaly. Seven's pansexual, always was, blame it on a temporal anomaly if you find that more believable.
Now, also for the sake of fairness, let's also understand that Raffi and Seven's relationship isn't above critique.
But there is a line between what is a legitimate critique, and what is a biphobic remark.
I'm going to go through them because, as a writer and director myself, I see that there are legitimate critiques. As an omnisexual, I also see that there are biphobic remarks.
Let's explore where the line of appropriate/inappropriate is!
Seven and Raffi didn't even talk to each other that much before the end, how can they be holding hands? They really just threw the two of them together.
Yeah. This scene didn't have any lead up. In terms of writing, that's a legitimate critique. The ending with handholding totally came out of nowhere. Good news is that we have all of Season 2 to explore their relationship start, duration, and potential end.
I don't like Seven and Raffi together because I don't see the two of them getting along.
Here's the thing: if you acknowledge that Seven and Raffi are individuals, you're allowed to not be a fan of their relationship. Nobody is saying that you have to love ALL non-straight relationships for fear of SJWs attacking. With that being said, we haven't seen enough of Seven and Raffi together to make an educated guess about how they are as a couple. I'm down to give them a chance in Season 2.
What HAPPENED between Seven and Chakotay?
Again, looking at the writing, there are definitely some plot holes with Seven as a character on Picard. Most definitely this is a legitimate question, and being frustrated with the lack of information is understandable. Hopefully, they will give us the answers we want in Season 2.
I don't like who Seven is in Picard.
Yeah. Voyager Seven is much different than Picard Seven. She changed within twenty years. She's now an alcohol drinking, swearing, pansexual, vigilante. It's okay to prefer Voyager Seven and to say that you're not a fan of Picard Seven. If she's not your cup of "Earl Grey—hot" anymore, that's okie dokie! Just make sure that, if you don't like Seven now, it has nothing to do with her sexuality, okay?
I prefer Seven and Chakotay!
Cool! Seven and Chakotay were such a cute couple! It's okay to prefer Seven and Chakotay as a couple, and to ship them hard. Heck, it's okay to be sad they're no longer together.
Now, here's the line:
They changed Seven's sexuality because she was with Chakotay before (in addition to several other male characters), and therefore clearly straight.
This got unpacked before. Seven's sexuality is pansexual. We haven't seen exactly how or when Seven realised she was sexually attracted to multiple genders. That's missing from the writing. But it's the truth and, as mentioned before, being with men in the past doesn't erase Seven's pansexuality.
They were only paired together because the writers thoughts the actresses looked cute together. That's disrespectful to the gay community!
No, that's finding inspiration from your actors. When making a film, the story development doesn't end the second the script is printed. It doesn't even end when the actors wrap up a scene. It finally ends once the final film is finished editing. Until an artistic crew reaches that point, the story develops based on the inspiration found as it's being created. If the actresses were cute together and that's the inspiration for their relationship, that's not disrespectful. That's finding inspiration within the actors. Happens, literally, all the time.
They're just pandering to the gay community.
Okay, no. The world is a diverse place, with every person having a unique experience and identity. Having a character who isn't caucasian/straight/able-bodied/neuraltypical/conventionally attractive isn't pandering. It's just showing the world how it is.
Seven is just suddenly attracted to women? That was really poorly introduced into the story, with no warning, or character arc.
This one is legitimate . . . to a point. I mean, sure, it was a bit jolting to Seven suddenly attracted to a woman (also, suddenly not with Chakotay. Like . . . what happened?) We might say this was a flaw with writing a character arc for Seven. But then again . . . a person's sexuality doesn't have to be a character arc. How often, with your own friends or family, do you get an entire arc where you learn they're not straight? Or, does it kind of come out of nowhere? Like, whoa! You're attracted to this gender? Okay. Didn't know that. Now I do. Here's the thing: a sexual identity is just part of who a character is, it doesn't require fanfare or a big introduction.
I'm not watching Season 2 because of this ridiculous Seven and Raffi holding hands scene.
Look, if you were okay with Picard up until this point, or even if this is the straw that breaks the horse's back, then maybe you need to do a self assessment? If you find Seven's sexuality being different than you thought to be inappropriate, then that might be a sign of biphobia.
Look, I have lots of LGBTQ* friends and . . .
Anything starting with this—or any variation of this—needs to be shut down. Having friends in a particular demographic doesn't erase poor behaviour towards that demographic. Having a connection to a demographic doesn't give you the right to be a spokesperson for that demographic, and to say things that are, actually, kind of offensive towards them. If you think or believe something, speak for yourself, from your own perspective, and don't try to borrow your connections to make what you have to say sound more legitimate.
So, there you have it. A guide to critiquing Seven and Raffi's relationship. We unpacked homophobia vs. biphobia, we talked about how Seven's sexuality is constant and not determined by who she's with, and how to legitimately critique the hand holding.
Ultimately, whether you like Seven and Raffi together is up to you. Liking them doesn't make you a SJW, or instantly "woke," just like disliking them doesn't necessarily make you biphobic.
However, if you're going to critique the relationship, remember that Seven's whole story arc is about individuality. Critique her as an individual, and don't erase parts of her identity because of who she was with in the past.
It really is unfortunate that the writing of Picard Season 1 was not able to effectively bridge and explain the character differences between Voyager Seven and Picard Seven. It is also extremely unfortunate that this hand holding ending came out of nowhere.
It is unfortunate because, with these shortcomings in writing, it makes it difficult to critique the writing (in a perfectly legitimate way) in a form that doesn't invalidate Seven's sexuality—and, by extension, the sexual identities of bisexuals, pansexuals, and omnisexuals. Like, real people, and not a fictional character.
That's why I wrote this article. As audience members, it's perfectly legitimate to critique the writing of a series. But, I hope to give audience members the tools they need so that they do so in a way that doesn't invalidate the experiences of real life people.
Remember: Seven is fictional. Your friends and family members who, themselves, might be struggling with their sexual identity are not fictional. The things you say about Seven might actually negatively impact real life people.
So remember this important piece of information: Seven's sexual identity is a part of her individuality, not where she fits into a collective. The same goes for people in real life.