George Hosato Takei Altman is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu in TV’s Star Trek. He is lesser known for his human rights activism which includes championing gay rights and Japanese American relations. In 2005 Takei came out in Frontiers magazine revealing that he had been in a committed relationship for 18 years with partner Brad Altman. Takei’s sexuality had apparently been an open secret amongst Star Trek fans since the 1970s, and Takei did not conceal his active membership in LGBT organisations including Frontrunners where he met his partner Brad. Since the 70s he has been active in state and local politics where he has pushed equality and human rights agendas. In 2006 he embarked upon on an ‘Equality Trek’, a tour across America, where he shared his life experiences as a Japanese American and gay man. The intention of the ‘Trek’ was to break down barriers with honesty and openness.
In 2007, NBA basket ball player Tim Hardaway caused controversy by making homophobic comments on a Miami sports radio show, saying: “Well, you know I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.” He even went on to say that if he knew that team mates were gay, he would try and get them sacked. In response, George Takei recorded a now infamous ‘fake’ public service announcement telling Tim Hardaway that, “despite your ugly words, we don’t hate you. As a matter of fact, we like you… we like you very much. We particularly like your large powerful legs and your smooth chocolatey head…” The delivery of these words was lascivious and hilarious. Comedy can be a powerful weapon in the fight against bigotry and Takei wields it like a master. His ‘public service announcement’ memorably finishes with the words, “And let it be known, that one day, when you least expect it, I will have sex with you!”.
In 2008, Takei announced that he and Brad Altman would marry and they were the first same sex couple to apply for a marriage license in West Hollywood. They were wed on September 14, at the Democracy Forum at the Japanese American National Museum, of which George Takei is a founding member. Despite the passing of Proposition 8, his marriage (along with 18,000 other same sex couples that had wed prior to the passing of the amendment) remains entirely legal.
His work for human rights has been acknowledged with various awards including Order of the Rising Sun (conferred by the Japanese Government, 2004) and the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Award (2007) to name just two. Such is the awesomeness of George Takei he even has an asteroid named after him: Asteroid 7307 Takei. And rightly so. The world is a better place with George Takei in it, and if you are in any doubt, sign up to his facebook page where he will have you laughing in the face of stupidity and the bigotry it spawns.