The Importance of Mark Hamill’s Statement on Luke Skywalker’s Sexuality

Normally, I don’t take to my blog to discuss current events or pop culture — I typically reserve this blog just for book topics.  However, there was a recent “trending topic” on Facebook that caught my attention, one that only served to highlight the ignorance and stupidity of homophobic people.  I wanted to take some time to pick apart the angry statements on Facebook and then explore the significance of what Hamill said.

In recent news, JJ Abrams, who is taking the Star Wars film franchise in a new direction, has stated that there is room for LGBT characters in the Star Wars universe.  Coming out of that story was a question as to whether Luke Skywalker was gay.

Actor Mark Hamill, who portrays Luke Skywalker, had this to say:

I just read online that JJ is very much open to that. In the old days, you would get fan mail. But now fans are writing and asking all these questions: ‘I’m bullied in school … I’m afraid to come out.’ They say to me: ‘Could Luke be gay?’ I’d say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer. If you think Luke is gay, of course he is. You should not be ashamed of it. Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.

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Considering I personally identify as gay, I write gay erotica and gay erotic romance, and I have a day-job in an LGBTTQ community resource centre, this quote from Hamill strikes me as immensely important.

Hamill has captured something that many writers of fiction and movies (and fans of Star Wars movies) just don’t seem to understand.  Being LGBT is not the defining trait of a character.

To back up just a little bit — before Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, the expanded universe for the series, as portrayed in the books, had Luke Skywalker happily married to a woman and fathering a child.  There are many Star Wars fans who are infuriated that Disney has chosen to ignore this expanded universe that’s been established for decades now, and instead chart their own direction.  So, many of them are pissed off that the expanded universe is treated as if it never existed.  Some of these people are upset with the prospect that Skywalker could be gay because the books have him married to a woman — I am not speaking of these people as I feel they are upset more about the expanded universe being disregarded than they are of the idea of Skywalker being gay.

When I foolishly clicked on the Star Wars link on Facebook’s trending topics, I was confronted with an endless stream of homophobia.  About ten percent of negative comments were the expanded universe fans who, as I’ve just mentioned, I’m not viewing as homophobic, but rather as angry at Disney’s choices.  About forty percent were angry “Christians” who feel that gay sex is being “shoved down our throats” and will boycott Star Wars.  (For the record, I put Christians in quotation marks not as a criticism of the faith, but as a criticism of those who proclaim to follow the ways of Christ, but instead spew hatred wherever and whenever they can.)  And the remaining fifty percent of angry comments stated that Luke can’t be gay because he kissed Leia and was interested in her before he found out she was his sister.

First, the “Christians.”  Christianity and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive.  You can be both gay and Christian.  Many churches correctly preach that these two are compatible.  End of story.

Second, and perhaps almost as disturbing, the people who claim Luke can’t be gay because he kissed Leia.  I am baffled by the sheer ignorance of this statement.  Closeted LGBTTQ people will do their best to fit into a straight society, in order to avoid and evade hatred from people like these angry Facebook commenters.  Many closeted LGBTTQ people will date the opposite gender, have relationships, have sex, get married, have children, and, in some cases, live the “straight life” for their whole life.  Some LGBTTQ people don’t “realize” they are LGBTTQ until later in life.  I don’t normally talk about my own journey, but I’ll say right here and now that I did not know I was gay until my mid-twenties.  There was no lying to myself, no hiding in the closet, I just flat-out didn’t know.

Luke kissing a girl means absolutely nothing for his sexuality.  (Indeed, if he’d kissed a guy, that would still mean absolutely nothing for his sexuality — a straight person can kiss someone of the same gender, either in a friendly manner or as a form of experimentation, and still be straight.)  I noticed one commenter who added that Luke looked smug when Leia kissed him and Han Solo (Luke’s competition for Leia) saw it happen — and that this smugness is also an indication of Luke being straight.

I’m sorry, but that’s also not a valid point.  If Luke is gay (and notice I’m still saying “if”), and he kisses Leia because either he’s closeted or doesn’t even know he’s gay, then of course he’s going to be smug to Han.  If he’s closeted, he’s proven his “heterosexuality” to his main competitor.  If he hasn’t come to understand his sexuality yet, then he’s feeling victorious for winning a kiss from the woman he’s pursuing.

So now that we’ve trashed the ludicrous arguments against Luke’s sexuality, let’s have an actual conversation about what his statement means.

Did Hamill come out and say that Luke is gay?  No, he didn’t.  He said that’s up for the viewer to decide — if the viewer wants him to be gay, then he’s gay, and if the viewer wants him to be straight, then he’s straight.  Until we see him enter into an actual committed relationship, we are given no details about his sexuality.  His kiss with Leia only proves that he is not an out and proud gay man — which could mean he’s straight, bi, pan, poly, queer, questioning, closeted gay, or literally anything else.

Hamill says we should “Judge Luke by his character, not by who he loves.”  This is an immensely important statement.  Far too often, we judge a straight person by their character and we judge an LGBTTQ person by who they love.  There is a double standard here that is unfair and harmful to LGBTTQ people, especially young LGBTTQ people who are most in need of support and encouragement.

Indeed, Mark Hamill is, in my mind, an incredible ally of the LGBTTQ community by making this statement about the character he portrays.  He’s saying that, to him, it doesn’t matter what his sexuality is, but if it matters to you, then his sexuality can be whatever you want it to be.  Thus, a bullied young gay or lesbian teen can look up to him and see a Jedi Knight who has literally saved the galaxy, and see him as an LGBTTQ role model that they can live up to.  How incredibly empowering is that?  I know I’ve mentioned this before either on my own blog or on the Oh Get a Grip! blog, but the LGBTTQ community, particularly young gay men, seem to have little more than porn stars as “role models.”  We are given icons of sex to look up to — and how harmful is that?

As I mentioned, I have a day-job in an LGBTTQ community resource centre.  For LGBTTQ history month, I made sure to highlight profiles of athletes, scientists, writers, politicians, and activists, including people from across the LGBTTQ spectrum, across racial and cultural lines, and across political borders.  The LGBTTQ community is in dire need of role models of substance.  Mark Hamill and Luke Skywalker are now two of those role models — Hamill for being an ally and taking a risk by making a statement like this (and it baffles me that this is still a risky thing to do), and Skywalker for being a potentially gay character who overcomes the forces of evil to save the galaxy.

So, did Mark Hamill say that Luke Skywalker is gay?  No, not exactly.

Was there any significance to his statement?  You better believe it.

Mark Hamill recognizes the importance of strong role models for young LGBTTQ people.  Whether or not it is ultimately revealed as to whether Luke Skywalker is gay or not is of no importance.  Luke Skywalker is now an empowering figure for LGBTTQ youth to look up to.  If Skywalker could possibly be gay and save the galaxy, then a young LGBTTQ teen can overcome bullying and defy evil (the bullies) by living a happy, loving, successful, and joy-filled life.  And maybe, just maybe, Hamill’s statement and support will make the world just a little bit safer for LGBTTQ youth.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Importance of Mark Hamill’s Statement on Luke Skywalker’s Sexuality

  1. This is a very comprehensive and reasonable post. It’s generally hard to address homophobic people without wanting to shake your fists at them and silently mouth curse words, but you’ve managed to create an intelligent counterargument to one of the most difficult issues currently being being debated: sexuality.

    Well done. This is a very well-written post.

    • Thanks, Yicheng — and thanks again for your own post on LGBTTQ characters. I’ve been meaning to write this one up for a couple days now and it was your wonderful post that kicked me into gear.

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