Published Jun 15, 2021
To All The Characters I’ve Been Before
A journey to identity through the stars.
This is a letter to all of the Star Trek characters I’ve been before. To the ones I looked up to, the ones I was inspired by, the ones I identified with, and the ones I still strive to be more like. To the characters who accompanied me through life, and especially to the ones who taught me to love who I am through my journey to discovering myself as a queer, nonbinary person. This is to all the characters who taught me that the universe was big enough for everyone, and that I had a place in it.
To Seven of Nine, who I first met in fourth grade. Seven was everything I thought I was and wanted so badly to be as a child who thought herself a small adult. Seven’s life revolved around being separate, aloof, and above her peers. She was brilliant, efficient, modest, and longed for perfection. As a little girl whose extracurricular was chess club, and who wore button-up blouses “for a casual look”, Seven made every kind of sense to me. With enough rules, enough walls, enough clear lines in the sand on every possible front, I could, like Seven, feel proud, smart, and most of all, safe.
To Captain Kathryn Janeway whose introduction of “Ma’am is acceptable in a crunch, but I prefer Captain” would resonate with me well over a decade before I would begin to realize why. A figure who didn’t fit into any ‘female lead’ tropes I knew of as a preteen, already beginning to realize the lifelong discomfort of ‘not being like other girls’. Bold, confident, but not harsh, and with a softness I didn’t think I was allowed to have, Captain Janeway was my first glimpse into the idea that someone could be confident while being human and complex. She earned respect as a fighter, a diplomat, and as a protector of her crew, and made me believe that maybe I could be more than one thing too.
To Julian Bashir, who I came to know as I grew a little older. A person who had always defined themselves by their achievements, by their work and goals and independence, I saw myself in Bashir’s struggle to find a place in a world where things were suddenly more complicated than exams. Together we came to learn that being wrong is both inevitable and human; that learning is essential; that humility is not weakness; and that your dearest friends can be the most unlikely ones. Academic honors and awards are wonderful, but learning to broaden your horizons and be truly willing to learn about the experiences of other people is the most invaluable education.
To Wesley Crusher, who taught me I was never too young to learn and to work hard and to grow, but also that it is never too late to find and explore new paths. That I could grow and change and leave roads I thought I would stay on forever, and take new ones that are less clear and less well-trodden. It doesn’t matter how much you have worked for something or how young you decided that particular thing would be the calling of your life; life is about change, and taking bold steps to see what is next for the person you are now.
To Tom Paris, who showed me that emotional walls and a tough exterior don’t really protect you if they keep you from getting to your own heart too. That sometimes the greatest bravery can be facing yourself, addressing the ways you need to grow and change, and to risk vulnerability to create friendships and find spaces where you can truly be you. That having unique hobbies and interests are what make you you, and that being emotionally aware, supportive, and there for your friends can create a sense of family and safety that can get you through so much and to places you’d never imagined you could be.
To Spock, for teaching me it is not broken to feel torn between two worlds, two selves, or two ways of being. That different people will expect different things of you, and expect you to be different things for them. It can be difficult to realize the many subtle ways you are trying to shape yourself to another person’s taste or wishes, and it can take time and many setbacks to sort out how well you might truly fit into a role or place or label you’ve always accepted and strove to fulfill. And though there are times when you must choose between two options, more often than not, you are a little of both, and more. Figuring out who you are can sometimes mean illogical contradictions in full and wonderful ways.
To Lwaxana Troi, who reminded me that you cannot be everything to everyone. You will not be to every person’s taste, and while it can be appropriate to a point to dress to the occasion, as it were, it’s also worth it to be yourself in big ways, and to not make yourself small or quiet or anything you are not, because that would be a disservice to you and to the people who care about you. Find the places and people with whom you flourish, and be yourself to the fullest extent you desire, celebrating the people around you doing the same.
To Miles O’Brien, who similarly taught me that you don’t need to be the main character to be the lead in your own life. There are places and people with whom you will feel free to be larger than life, and there are those with whom you want to be gentle and quiet. Not everyone is meant to be always on, always high energy, always in the spotlight with all eyes on them. You can spend your time alone in a transporter room or chest deep in a computer terminal with a hyperspanner, and be just as important, just as valid, and just as much deserving of respect and your identity as the captain is.
To Sylvia Tilly, who taught me that openness and enthusiasm are not childish. That bravery can be simply being yourself, and putting yourself out there to make friends and connections and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. That wearing your heart on your sleeve, that being anxious, that sometimes being unsure does not preclude you from being brilliant, being a valued friend, or from being captain one day. It’s not about overcoming the things that make you different; it’s about using them to be incredible in the ways only you can.
To Adira Tal, who gave me the confidence to realize that my identity deserved to be respected and shared with the people I trust, rather than it being something I should just keep inside and use privately. Adira’s found family — especially the moment where Stamets accompanies them musically — was a reminder for me of the importance of diverse, queer communities. Individual identities, experiences, needs, and desires create a beautiful melody on their own, but when played alongside others, that melody is contextualized and expanded into something even greater. Adira was a promise that life may not be easy, and adventures might be painful and difficult, but that being wholly who you are and opening your heart to those around you means having people guiding you and at your back, no matter what may come.
And, finally, to Seven again, who reentered my life in Picard as someone new: someone tougher; messier, and more human. I couldn’t help but to imagine Voyager Seven standing next to my fourth grade self, as we stared at our futures together with confusion, disappointment, and vehement judgment born out of fear of what we didn’t understand. We had plans for our futures built on rigorous boundaries, rules and labels, and I think younger Seven and I would look at the people we are now as failures by those standards. And, strange as it may sound, I think we would both be okay with that. Navigating identity is not a weekend project, a to-do list item, or a cohesive thesis that must be defended. It is a confusing and messy journey through a life that is rarely neat or organized, and you can spend years fighting tooth and nail to fit yourself into the boxes you’ve chosen, only to find that you’ve grown into someone new in the meantime. It’s not about firm, one-time decisions; it’s about listening to yourself and, in the words of Seven herself, learning to adapt.
To the characters who showed me new ways of being, and laid the groundwork for realizations I would not make for years. To the characters who showed me that there’s no one way to be anything, and no one single way to be yourself. That change and adventures and a whirlwind of emotions are the stuff of life. To the characters I will be, and the adventures I have yet to boldly embark on. To the characters new and old who will teach me new truths about myself, to the adventures both heroic and heartbreaking we will go on, and to the person I am, who will continue to grow and change, but who I’ve grown to love. (Though if the writers’ room wants to give me a peek at next season’s arc so I can prepare, I wouldn’t complain.) To every queer person who has seen themselves reflected in the stars, and to Star Trek, which taught me the best you can do is to be yourself, to surround yourself with a good crew, and to boldly face the adventures laid out before you.
Cassidy Rae Proctor (she/they) grew up in a small town in Ontario, before making the leap to a slightly less small town in Ontario, where she now resides with too many books and a number of struggling plants. She studied creative writing, and currently works in libraries, where she's made a career out of being overenthusiastic about all the things she loves. You can find her wandering the woods in anachronistic dress, or on Twitter at @Cassidy_Rae.
Star Trek: Picard streams on Paramount+ in the United States, in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave, and on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories.
Star Trek: Discovery streams on Paramount+ in the United States, airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave in Canada, and on Netflix in 190 countries.