A Yahoo!Messenger conversation:
Title: Chicken Soup for the Starfleet Soul
Chicken Soup for the Starfleet Soul
His name was Jared Seitz. He was one of the new yeomen, and he was a perfect picture of youth and flashiness. Even the stiff military design of the uniform couldn't harden his soft, fluid features. He was tall and slender, and his eyes were huge. It almost looked like he wore makeup on them, but he always denied it. He was gorgeous. And there was no mistaking his sexuality.
Naïvely, I had thought that in Starfleet it would be easy for me to ignore the direction my hormones urged me to take myself. As a technician first class, I'd be on my toes day and night with important duties. On a ship this big, there's always something breaking down, and if it's not, you'd better be checking, just to make sure. My mind would be on my career and on science, not on other men's backsides. Or on trying not to look at other men's--you get the idea.
But if any five-year mission was going to distract me from confronting my sexuality, this definitely wasn't the one. Almost from the beginning, my chances were sunk--turns out the captain was bisexual, and while that by itself would have been easy to ignore because he wasn't that obvious about it, circumstances beyond my control began to make the issue unavoidable. You see, he got married. To a man. To the first officer.
Long term space missions are full of people that love to gossip, and believe me, when your captain gets married, it's definitely more interesting than who showed up for work wearing their uniform backwards. The topic was unavoidable--everywhere I went, someone would bring it up. What did I think of serving under a married couple? How did I feel about bi-species relationships? Had I heard that Spock had left him and had only just now come back, and that was why the whole thing was such a big surprise?
I wanted to crawl into a Jeffries tube and tinker with my tools for the remainder of the five-year mission. It seemed to be the only way to avoid that kind of conversation.
I felt really bad for the captain, too. My problems seemed bad enough without the extra responsibility of the hundreds of lives under his command. And, after all, no matter how bad I felt about lying to myself when I visited gay websites or checked out my crewmates in the shower, I knew nobody else on board was gossiping about me. I was, after all, only a technician first class. Invisible, as long as I did my job well. That was the idea.
The lies sound so silly when I repeat them, now. Oh, I'm only looking at him because I'm curious about how his race looks naked. Purely curiosity. I'm only listening to the gossip about Kirk and Spock's wedding because I don't want to be the only one on board who doesn't have all the details. I'm only looking at these pictures so I can laugh at the silly expressions on the mens' faces. Why doesn't anyone smile in pornography?
Whatever part of my psychology that was responsible for generating those lies can't think that fast, though. When Jared beamed on board, flashed me his enormous smile, and told me, "Hey," I had no time to make up an excuse. This was it. I was toast. Okay.
Time to admit it, Alan. You're gay. Queer as a fourteen-credit chip.
I guess the next step of my denial's frantic attempt at self-preservation would have been for me to slowly start to hate Jared for what he was making me feel. Jared, however, had other plans. He couldn't see my inner turmoil--all he saw was a shy young man with what he called a "can't help myself" smile accidentally giving him the eye as he stepped off the transporter pad. He decided to shower me with some of his overflowing friendliness, and instead of hating him, I soaked it up like bread in a stew.
We became friends quickly. Everything else took time, and that was my fault. I was so far in the closet I probably smelled like mothballs, and not really for any good reason either. It had been centuries since the military had cared about that kind of thing, and I knew my shipmates would informally approve. But I'd grown up in a specific kind of world with a specific kind of structure, and no matter how cosmopolitan the human species has gotten, we still can't grow up prepared for everything. On a planet that made starships as big as small towns, there are still small towns.
Eventually, I could tell that my hesitation was beginning to irritate him. He was very comfortable with himself, and wished I could be the same way. But how could that be, when I wouldn't even talk about my feelings out loud? That would somehow break the spell. It was another bridge I was afraid to toe.
Was this even worth it? Could this lead to a family, or was it just a pointless diversion?
I guess that's why I was so intrigued by what was going on with my commanding officers' personal lives. Here they were, gay, or bisexual, or at least something other than hetero, and they were dealing with it and having successful careers and what seemed like a fulfilling relationship. How was I supposed to get from here--to there?
I remember what finally made it occur to me to speak with them. I was fixing the drain in Commander Uhura's cabin shower, and she was chatting with Pavel Chekov. I overheard her mention a conversation she had with an Admiral who had been her professor. Apparently, when she was a cadet at Starfleet Academy, she'd had the opportunity to sit in on a few ambassadorial meetings with species very new to the Federation. It was part of her training as a communications officer.
During one meeting, one of the aliens expressed confusion and then contempt for the color of Uhura's skin. Chekov's eyes widened when he heard this, and as for me, I was so surprised that my tool nearly slipped from my hand. The alien was not humanoid, and he had no way of knowing that he'd accidentally mirrored centuries-old racist sentiment. He was simply so new to humans as a species that he'd never seen a dark-skinned person before.
Upset, she'd gone to speak with her favorite professor, who was also of African descent (although not actually from Africa like she was.) She told him how she thought she'd never have to face that kind of nonsense in this day and age, and how she was never expecting to suddenly feel different from her shipmates.
She and Chekov left the room before I could find out what sage words of wisdom Admiral Maddon had bestowed upon her, but she had given me an idea. Admiral Kirk seemed like a friendly man, and I was confident he'd be able to answer my questions.
I asked a yeoman when Admiral Kirk would be available. I was glad it wasn't Jared, because he'd have asked what I wanted to talk to the captain about, and I couldn't lie to those big beautiful eyes. No way. And of course, I didn't want Jared to know how insecure I was. Confidence is sexy.
As it was, the captain was just finishing his shift on the bridge and was heading for his cabin to take care of paperwork just then. The yeoman said I could wait by the door.
I let the yeoman hand him the PADDs in her hand and explain a few things to him before approaching him. "Admiral Kirk? I was wondering if I could speak with you for a few minutes, if you're not busy. It's personal."
"Personal, technician.... Simko?"
"Yes, sir. Alan Simko. I was actually wondering if you could give me some advice."
"Yes, I... suppose I have a few minutes." He palmed open his door. "Come in. Sit."
I sat nervously, and waited for him to put his things down and take the seat behind his desk. "Well, Mr. Simko. What's on your mind?"
I sat there for a few seconds before a voice inside my mouth blurted out, "I'm.... gay...." It sounded idiotic, ringing in my ears, and my sweat glands burst into blossom. It was the first time I'd ever said it out loud.
Somehow, he could tell. "This the first time you've told anyone?" Kirk asked me gently, sympathetically.
I took a deep breath and let it out noisily. "Yeah."
"So tell me some other things about yourself," Kirk said smoothly.
"Your name is Alan Simko, you're a technician on board my ship, and you're gay. That's a start. What's beyond that?"
This, I hadn't been expecting. And as I sat there in his cabin, trying to think of answers, I realized that I'd been obsessing so much about my sexual orientation lately that I hadn't really spent time on any of my hobbies. Chess, for example. And I'd been trying to teach myself Slovakian, the language of my ancestors, and back on Earth, I'd played volleyball...
I started to tell him about all of that. He just sat back and listened, and watched me rediscover myself *beyond* Alan Simko the Gay Technician, and beyond Jared. I mentioned chess last, because it had always seemed so intellectual and, well, nerdy, and I'd gotten used to not wanting to be teased about it. Jared certainly didn't know I played chess.
"Chess? You play chess?"
I nodded. I hadn't expected him to react like this, his face brightening.
"Spock and I play chess all the time," he said, his face a nostalgic smile. Then he told me which rec room had the chess sets.
We sat there and continued talking for at least another twenty minutes. When I left, I felt more cheerful than I had for weeks. He'd gotten me all fired up about the rest of my life, reminding me that there was so much more to my personality than just to whom I was attracted. He made me understand that the key to dealing with and accepting my orientation was refusing to let it dominate my identity. The reason he could be married to another man and yet so understated and casual about the issue was that he married Spock, not "another man". He saw his alternative orientation as merely just another preference in life, the way he also, as he told me, liked his coffee black and was fascinated by historical fiction. Yes, I was different from some of my crewmates in that the person I chose to love might not be their choice in my position, but the important thing was that I loved.
He also made me understand that Jared and I would have a lot more fun together if I'd share some of my hobbies with him, instead of obsessing about what he was thinking of me and who looked more openly gay.
I wish I could write that Jared and I are still together, but we were, after all, young, and it was my first same-sex relationship. We did have a lot of fun, though, thanks to my newfound confidence in the rest of my identity. I did, eventually, meet the wonderful man I married, and so I did find that success that I had long ago wondered about--all because Admiral Kirk had shown me the way out of the cage I thought I was in, a cage that turned out not to exist at all.