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Old July 26 2012, 07:10 AM   #256
rfmcdpei
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Justified thread necromancy!

Christopher wrote: View Post
If a writer was good with using alien characters, would you assume the writer was an alien? You don't have to belong to a group in order to understand its members. You just have to pay attention and use your imagination.

Besides, I haven't included that many gay characters in my Trek books, not in sizeable roles. I've written for Keru a couple of times, but not in any romantic context where his orientation would be relevant. I included a lesbian couple in The Buried Age, but in a minor capacity. I've tried to be inclusive of everyone, but there are plenty of other Trek authors who've done more with GLBT characters than I have to date. So I honestly don't know what you're thinking of here.
I think I know what borgboy was picking up on.

For starters, very often the inclusion of GLBT characters in a particular work is itself a sign that the writer isn't heterosexual. It takes--or at least has taken--extra effort to portray characters of non-normative sexuality, via editirs/censors and the like, hence extra justification. Very often the justification for introducing story elements which could be controversial is the writer's own desire to see a sexual orientation traditionally neglected represented in prose.

Another element of your writing that might also hint that you weren't heterosexual is your positive portrayal of characters that are sexually active and not portrayed as necessarily doing anything wrong because of that. T'Ryssa Chen's pursuit of multiple male sexual partners did stand out to me as a relatively prominent element of her character, as did the lack of disapproval of her sexual activity. (Yes, Choudhury did want to know if she was going to get serious with Rennan Konya, but that concern relates to the effects of a pattern of sexual behaviour, not the pattern itself.) That sort of sex-positive writing is something that, again, is at least reputationally more common among non-heterosexual writers.

tl;dr? It's nice that GLBT rights have become mainstream enough that portraying non-heterosexuals in neutral or positive fashions is no longer a sure way of quietly signalling that you're non-heterosexual yourself.

Last edited by rfmcdpei; July 26 2012 at 07:12 AM. Reason: typos
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Old July 26 2012, 09:16 AM   #257
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Finally able to read Plagues of Night (thanks a lot for the spoilers in thread titles, folks, that was real nice of you ), and I note that, as you mention yourself in the other thread rfmcdpei, and as was discussed earlier in this thread I think, we now have an openly gay head of state, Gell Kamemor, and it's absolutely no big deal (at least to Romulans). We also haven't seen anyone else display a problem with it (although that doesn't necessarily mean they don't have a problem with it, only that either they don't know or are politic enough to keep their thoughts to themselves).

But I was also glad to see that John Candlewood has been promoted to Chief Science Officer of DS9. And since I made him gay in my fan fiction, I choose to count that as another gay senior officer in the Trek verse.

.
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Old July 26 2012, 12:57 PM   #258
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
Finally able to read Plagues of Night (thanks a lot for the spoilers in thread titles, folks, that was real nice of you ), and I note that, as you mention yourself in the other thread rfmcdpei, and as was discussed earlier in this thread I think, we now have an openly gay head of state, Gell Kamemor, and it's absolutely no big deal (at least to Romulans). We also haven't seen anyone else display a problem with it (although that doesn't necessarily mean they don't have a problem with it, only that either they don't know or are politic enough to keep their thoughts to themselves).

But I was also glad to see that John Candlewood has been promoted to Chief Science Officer of DS9. And since I made him gay in my fan fiction, I choose to count that as another gay senior officer in the Trek verse.

.
I could've sworn Kamemor was mentioned as being gay in Rough Beasts of Empire? I haven't read the latest books and knew she was gay.
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Old July 26 2012, 01:58 PM   #259
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Yes, she was, as far back as Serpents in the Ruins actually. It's just I'm reading it right now so it's fresh in my mind.

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Old July 26 2012, 02:29 PM   #260
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lvsxy808 wrote: View Post
Yes, she was, as far back as Serpents in the Ruins actually. It's just I'm reading it right now so it's fresh in my mind.

.
Just wanted to make sure my memory wasn't failing me.
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Old July 26 2012, 02:38 PM   #261
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
I think I know what borgboy was picking up on.

For starters, very often the inclusion of GLBT characters in a particular work is itself a sign that the writer isn't heterosexual. It takes--or at least has taken--extra effort to portray characters of non-normative sexuality, via editirs/censors and the like, hence extra justification. Very often the justification for introducing story elements which could be controversial is the writer's own desire to see a sexual orientation traditionally neglected represented in prose.
But that's just my point -- you don't have to belong to a group to desire to see it represented more. You just have to have a positive attitude toward that which is different.

I read a while back about a study suggesting that some people's brains are wired to react more positively to novelty and difference, while others are wired to react to it with more wariness and discomfort. So some people are predisposed to favor their own group, and so they assume that others think that way too, and that if someone is promoting the rights or inclusion of group X, then either they must belong to group X, or they feel reluctantly compelled to include them in service of "political correctness." What they're missing is that there are a lot of people whose affinities aren't limited to that which is similar to themselves -- people who relish and embrace diversity, people who like meeting and interacting with people who are different from themselves.

Star Trek is a series that was created by and for the latter category of people. It's about actively seeking out the new and different, embracing and understanding people who are unlike yourself. So naturally it tends to attract authors who think the same way. I don't think, therefore, that it makes sense to expect Trek novelists to be interested only in promoting the groups they themselves belong to.

I mean, look at Keith DeCandido, Dave Mack, and myself -- three white males born within a year or two of each other. Yet in the course of writing our respective post-Nemesis TNG novels, working independently, we populated the Enterprise command crew with Miranda Kadohata, Jasminder Choudhury, Dina Elfiki, T'Ryssa Chen, and Joanna Faur. Almost all the new core characters we three white men introduced were women, almost all of those nonwhite. (Although I'm not sure if Faur has ever been given a specific visual description, so she may not be Caucasian either.)


Another element of your writing that might also hint that you weren't heterosexual is your positive portrayal of characters that are sexually active and not portrayed as necessarily doing anything wrong because of that.
I'm sorry, I don't see how that follows. Plenty of heterosexuals are sexually active; the notion that there's some specific correlation between being gay and being promiscuous is just a stereotype, an attempt by people who perceive both homosexuality and promiscuity as immoral to lump them together.


T'Ryssa Chen's pursuit of multiple male sexual partners did stand out to me as a relatively prominent element of her character, as did the lack of disapproval of her sexual activity.
That's very, very strange to me. Why would you expect anyone to disapprove of someone being sexually active? This is the 21st century and we're writing about the 24th. The Victorian Era is back the other way. And did you ever see anyone disapprove of Kirk or Riker being sexually promiscuous? Frankly I'm hearing a double standard here.


That sort of sex-positive writing is something that, again, is at least reputationally more common among non-heterosexual writers.
Says who???? I've never heard anything like that before.

Here's why this is so laughable to me. Do you know why I portray T'Ryssa and other female characters in my work as sexually active? Because I like to imagine hot women getting naked and having sex. If I were gay, don't you think I'd be focusing on promiscuous male characters instead?


tl;dr? It's nice that GLBT rights have become mainstream enough that portraying non-heterosexuals in neutral or positive fashions is no longer a sure way of quietly signalling that you're non-heterosexual yourself.
Then why even bring it up?
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Old July 26 2012, 03:42 PM   #262
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
For starters, very often the inclusion of GLBT characters in a particular work is itself a sign that the writer isn't heterosexual.
I'm going to contest that. I have no numbers to prove my case, but it's my observation that it is very often heterosexuals who feel compelled to make use of their position of greater societal acceptance to champion the cause of the homosexual minority and that accordingly, the inclusion of badly-written, superficial homosexual characters as a form of activism is more likely to come from a heterosexual. An actual homosexual is more likely to write a more nuanced character that isn't defined by his or her sexuality.


rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
Another element of your writing that might also hint that you weren't heterosexual is your positive portrayal of characters that are sexually active and not portrayed as necessarily doing anything wrong because of that.
Sorry, but that sounds like a sterotype I can't match up with my own experiences. I'm heterosexual myself, but I know a fair number of homosexuals and call some friends, and on average they're not any more or less "sex-positive" than the heterosexuals I know. That all homosexuals are driven to be sexually outgoing is a bad cliché, your orientation doesn't correlate with your behavior when it comes to romance or sex drive.
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Old July 26 2012, 04:48 PM   #263
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Christopher wrote: View Post
rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
I think I know what borgboy was picking up on.

For starters, very often the inclusion of GLBT characters in a particular work is itself a sign that the writer isn't heterosexual. It takes--or at least has taken--extra effort to portray characters of non-normative sexuality, via editirs/censors and the like, hence extra justification. Very often the justification for introducing story elements which could be controversial is the writer's own desire to see a sexual orientation traditionally neglected represented in prose.
But that's just my point -- you don't have to belong to a group to desire to see it represented more. You just have to have a positive attitude toward that which is different.
Sure. What I'm trying to say is that the phenomenon of writers highlighting characters from traditionally stigmatized or neglected groups is a trait that, at the beginning of the acceptance curve, is most especially in evidence among writers from these groups. It's worth noting that in the current continuity, the first gay characters were introduced by a writing team including an out gay man.

In the other friend I'd made passing mention of Arthur C. Clarke. When I went back before his death to read some of his early books, I picked up his first novel, The Sands of Mars, and was struck by elements of the novel that hinted at a queer subtext. The protagonist is a happily single man without any heterosexual leanings, someone who in early adulthood suffered a nervous breakdown that coincided with the end of his most significant heterosexual relationship, father to a child raised without the protagonist's involvement?

(I've just realized that I haven't come out here. Was this a necessary but omitted subtext?)

Another element of your writing that might also hint that you weren't heterosexual is your positive portrayal of characters that are sexually active and not portrayed as necessarily doing anything wrong because of that.
I'm sorry, I don't see how that follows. Plenty of heterosexuals are sexually active; the notion that there's some specific correlation between being gay and being promiscuous is just a stereotype, an attempt by people who perceive both homosexuality and promiscuity as immoral to lump them together.[/QUOTE]

Well, yes.

What I'm trying to say that a writer's portrayal of one sort of sexual difference from the norm as something neutral or even positive is usually a sign that other sorts of sexual difference from the norm would likewise be treated well. It's a sort of transitive quality.

That's very, very strange to me. Why would you expect anyone to disapprove of someone being sexually active?
The Death by Sex trope reflects something deep-rooted in Western culture, at least. Going to the real world, in our lifetimes the trope has been very widely voiced, including phenomena as various as queer men deserving AIDS on account of their sexual orientation, opposition to HPV vaccines on the grounds that children vaccinated against this viral cancer might be disinhibited of the fear of sex ...

This is the 21st century and we're writing about the 24th. The Victorian Era is back the other way. And did you ever see anyone disapprove of Kirk or Riker being sexually promiscuous? Frankly I'm hearing a double standard here.
Exactly: there's a double standard. That's why your portrayal of a female character who has sex with multiple men, isn't looked on as morally flawed, and doesn't suffer a terrible fate anyway, might have been read as a signal.

Christopher wrote: View Post
rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
That sort of sex-positive writing is something that, again, is at least reputationally more common among non-heterosexual writers.
Says who???? I've never heard anything like that before.

Here's why this is so laughable to me. Do you know why I portray T'Ryssa and other female characters in my work as sexually active? Because I like to imagine hot women getting naked and having sex. If I were gay, don't you think I'd be focusing on promiscuous male characters instead?
Well, not necessarily. I mean, I appreciate T'Ryssa's enthusiastic heterosexuality without being heterosexual.

Christopher wrote: View Post
rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
tl;dr? It's nice that GLBT rights have become mainstream enough that portraying non-heterosexuals in neutral or positive fashions is no longer a sure way of quietly signalling that you're non-heterosexual yourself.
Then why even bring it up?
Because being GLBT friendly, while much more common than ever before, is still something that isn't normative, is still something worthy of appreciation and thanks, and is something that I find interesting.

Thank you.

Last edited by rfmcdpei; July 26 2012 at 04:49 PM. Reason: typos
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Old July 26 2012, 05:07 PM   #264
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Sho wrote: View Post
rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
For starters, very often the inclusion of GLBT characters in a particular work is itself a sign that the writer isn't heterosexual.
I'm going to contest that. I have no numbers to prove my case, but it's my observation that it is very often heterosexuals who feel compelled to make use of their position of greater societal acceptance to champion the cause of the homosexual minority and that accordingly, the inclusion of badly-written, superficial homosexual characters as a form of activism is more likely to come from a heterosexual. An actual homosexual is more likely to write a more nuanced character that isn't defined by his or her sexuality.
That's a fair observation, too. I'd suggest that there's no incompatibility between the two observations both being accurate, that--for whatever reason--writers traditionally have written about characters who just happen to be non-heterosexual for specific reasons, to make a point.

rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
Another element of your writing that might also hint that you weren't heterosexual is your positive portrayal of characters that are sexually active and not portrayed as necessarily doing anything wrong because of that.
Sorry, but that sounds like a sterotype I can't match up with my own experiences. I'm heterosexual myself, but I know a fair number of homosexuals and call some friends, and on average they're not any more or less "sex-positive" than the heterosexuals I know. That all homosexuals are driven to be sexually outgoing is a bad cliché, your orientation doesn't correlate with your behavior when it comes to romance or sex drive.
What I said about about the portrayal of one sort of sexual difference from the norm often hinting that other forms of sexual difference aren't objectionable.

I'm not saying that these are reliable cues. They're clearly not. They are textual clues that people like myself have picked up on, incidental details that might well have a greater meaning, and often do. Lieutenant Sean Hawk's non-heterosexual orientation was first developed in detail by a writing team that included an out gay man, so it's not necessarily that unreliable

I have to admit, when I read Serpents Among the Ruins back in the day and came across a passing mention of Kamemor's mate being female, I briefly wondered if DRGIII himself was gay. Then, I read more of the current continuity and happily realized that explicitly non-heterosexual content--not just characters, but their relationships--was normal in this continuity and for these writers.
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Old July 26 2012, 07:29 PM   #265
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
Sure. What I'm trying to say is that the phenomenon of writers highlighting characters from traditionally stigmatized or neglected groups is a trait that, at the beginning of the acceptance curve, is most especially in evidence among writers from these groups. It's worth noting that in the current continuity, the first gay characters were introduced by a writing team including an out gay man.
No, they weren't. That's a common misconception that's already been debunked in this thread. You're presumably referring to Ranul Keru and Sean Hawk from Section 31: Rogue in 2001, but they were predated by Bart Faulwell in SCE, debuting in 2000. If you're referring to Etana and Richter, they may have been introduced earlier in the comics, but weren't added to the novelverse -- or "outed" -- until 2002.

Not to mention that Messrs. Mangels & Martin have frequently debunked the assumption that the desire to include gay characters came specifically from the gay member of the duo. Andy has said many times that Mike has just as often been the one who had the idea, and that they're both equally dedicated to including characters of all types. Their work as a whole is populated with characters who are ethnically and religiously diverse as well as sexually diverse. It's not just about the gay writer wanting to write about gays, and it's unfair to both members of the duo to assume it is. It's about both of them wanting to live up to Star Trek's message of inclusion in general.

And for the record, I didn't need to catch up with any sort of "acceptance curve" before including LGBT characters. I've been including non-heterosexual characters in my fiction (most of it unpublished, admittedly) since I first started writing seriously in 1990.


What I'm trying to say that a writer's portrayal of one sort of sexual difference from the norm as something neutral or even positive is usually a sign that other sorts of sexual difference from the norm would likewise be treated well. It's a sort of transitive quality.
But what "difference from the norm" are you talking about? Being sexually active? How the hell is that abnormal? T'Ryssa Chen, in the course of a novel spanning three and a half months, is shown having a casual relationship with a crewmate on one ship, then a single one-night stand during her subsequent time between ships, and then a fairly steady relationship which develops in the ensuing months aboard her new posting. That does not strike me as being in any way abnormal for an attractive, outgoing, 26-year-old person of either sex.


Exactly: there's a double standard. That's why your portrayal of a female character who has sex with multiple men, isn't looked on as morally flawed, and doesn't suffer a terrible fate anyway, might have been read as a signal.
And that's a sad, foolish notion that we really should've left on the dustheap by now.



rfmcdpei wrote: View Post
I'd suggest that there's no incompatibility between the two observations both being accurate, that--for whatever reason--writers traditionally have written about characters who just happen to be non-heterosexual for specific reasons, to make a point.
Why dwell on tradition? We're not relics from the past. We're here now, writing according to what we believe now. And as people who've grown up with Star Trek's message of inclusion, we believe in being inclusive. I think that for most of us, the only "point" to including non-heterosexual people is that there shouldn't be any specific point to make -- that they're simply part of everyday life and it would be unrealistic not to include them and treat them the same way we treat any other character. In this day and age, I'd say it's the people who go out of their way to exclude LGBT characters, to pretend they don't exist, who are the ones trying to make a point. The rest of us are just accepting reality.


What I said about about the portrayal of one sort of sexual difference from the norm often hinting that other forms of sexual difference aren't objectionable.
I still don't see how being sexually active is a difference from the norm. Even in nominally prudish cultures like the Victorian age or 1950s America, people had a lot more sex than they would ever have acknowledged publicly.

It's been said by a famous psychiatrist (Freud? Masters? somebody like that) that if you look at the full range of human sexual behavior, the only thing that's actually an aberration is abstinence.
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Old July 20 2013, 04:44 AM   #266
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Hi all, David Greven here.

I am wondering what folks have made of STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS from a queer perspective?

I admire much of J. J Abrams TV work--ALIAS, FRINGE--but I don't think he has a queer sensibility. As I discussed in Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek, I felt that his first Trek film completely distorted the Kirk/Spock relationship. I would argue that the second film goes the opposite direction and weirdly enough distorts it even more--the reprise, with reversed roles, of the Spock death scene from STTWOK feels like unearned intimacy to me. The original scene has much more poignancy and, potentially, queer feeling.

I think that one of the unsatisfying dimensions of the Abrams Trek is the distortion of Kirk and Spock's characters--Kirk is a an impulsive and rather mindless guy pure and simple, Spock is an aggressive and rather militaristic hothead. The complexities and ambiguities of these characters in TOS gave the queer dimensions in their relationship more resonance.
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Old July 20 2013, 12:49 PM   #267
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^Gene Roddenberry's comments over the years made it quite clear that Kirk and Spock's relationship was never intended to be anything more than a strictly platonic friendship. So it is absolutely not a "distortion" to portray it that way; it is truthful and accurate. The distortion is to interpret it as "queer" when it really isn't, to mistake the deliberately subversive reading of slash fiction for the original intent. Slash can be an entertaining fantasy, and it's understandable why readers in the past seeking LGBT themes would've latched onto close heterosexual friendships between fictional characters of the same sex and projected sexual attraction onto them for lack of genuine LGBT characters on TV and film; but it should be recognized for the alternative take that it is.

If anything, the idea of a loving platonic friendship between heterosexual men is something that should be embraced and celebrated, since it's a good counterpoint to the way Western culture conditions men to be aloof and detached from one another. I've always admired the way Gene L. Coon in particular wrote male friendships in ST and The Questor Tapes.

And the new films haven't "distorted" the characters so much as created alternate versions of them. The films are explicitly in an alternate history in which events have shaped their lives differently. Kirk grew up very differently because he never knew his father, and Spock was profoundly changed by the destruction of his planet and the death of his mother.
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Old July 20 2013, 07:18 PM   #268
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

Actually, Christopher, you're adding your own agenda to what I said. Saying that Abrams distorted the Kirk/Spock relationship is not at all some kind of statement to the effect that he should have represented them as lovers. The friendship between Kirk and Spock--the respect they have for each other as well as the love--is precisely what Abrams mishandled profoundly in the first film and continues to mishandle in the second. To say that there are queer potentialities, resonances, suggestive aspects to this friendship is not at all, again, to say that they should be shown as being involved in a sexual relationship with one another. I felt that the second film made a mockery of the devastating, because so well-earned and enriched by our long associations with the characters, Spock death scene in STWOK.
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Old July 20 2013, 07:30 PM   #269
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

david g wrote: View Post
I felt that the second film made a mockery of the devastating, because so well-earned and enriched by our long associations with the characters, Spock death scene in STWOK.
I think people allow their own long associations with the characters to color their judgement. If this had been a sequel of a film without a huge back catalog of material and a similar scene had happened, I doubt anyone would have honestly cared.

I like how the scene was done in The Wrath of Khan and I like how the scene was done in Star Trek Into Darkness.
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Old July 20 2013, 07:54 PM   #270
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Re: LGBT Characters in Trek (Help and no flames Please)

david g wrote: View Post
I think that one of the unsatisfying dimensions of the Abrams Trek is the distortion of Kirk and Spock's characters--Kirk is a an impulsive and rather mindless guy pure and simple, Spock is an aggressive and rather militaristic hothead.
I don't agree with this at all, and I don't see how you could reasonably make this argument.

To say that Kirk is mindless is just not fair. It is reasonable to say that he is a rogue and sometimes impulsive, but his arc in STID is very much one of an arrogant man being humbled, learning to accept his own fallibility and to make sacrifices for others.

And it's positively absurd to call Spock aggressive and militaristic. It was Spock who objected to the mission to kill Harrison in Star Trek Into Darkness, who stood up against the idea that the militaristic response is the right response and for the idea that no government can just sign a man's death warrant without a trial. (A lesson not well-learned by our real government, by the way -- I loved that part of STID was a criticism of the U.S.'s drone/targeted assassination policy.)

As for giving STID a queer reading...

I think there's a definite subtext to Pine!Kirk and Quinto!Spock's relationship. At least one reviewer did note that Spock's reaction to Dr. Marcus's first appearance was like that of a jealous girlfriend.
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