It’s not really a secret that on-screen representation in the live-action Star Wars films is lacklustre, to say the least. To start, I’d like to point out that the five main female protagonists of the trilogies and anthology films have all been cis, white brunettes. And while some progress has been made regarding male representation, women of colour with significant speaking roles were nowhere to be found pre-Rose Tico. In a galaxy so big—and supposedly diverse—it’s like, statistically impossible at this point.
What makes this issue even more aggravating is the fact that the current canon outside the films is doing an incredible job at showcasing that Star Wars is indeed, for everyone. The books, comics, and animated series have some of the most diverse characters the franchise has ever seen, yet there is still a significant amount of work to be done with live-action.
The lack of representation is not just about race and/or ethnicity, either. It’s also about sexuality, body types, age, and disabilities. For example, before Star Wars: The Last Jedi, no two female characters over 50 years old, had spoken to one another in a Star Wars movie. And while Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) are both cis white women, it was still a nice reminder that not every heroine has to be a young woman in her twenties.
Now when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation specifically, the Disney-era Star Wars films have given fans nothing more than hope. Finn and Poe became a popular internet ship almost immediately after The Force Awakens premiered, but there has been no real indicator of either character being Queer.
Back in 2018, Solo: A Star Wars Story writer John Kasdan publicly stated that Lando Calrissian was, in fact, pansexual. Donald Glover, who portrayed Calrissian in the film, was also pretty enthusiastic about the character being sexually fluid. When asked about his thoughts on the matter, he replied by posing the question ‘how can you not be pansexual in space?’ He elaborated on the topic by explaining that he didn’t think it was a big deal anyway:
There are so many things to have sex with. I mean, seriously. I didn’t think that was that weird. Yeah, he’s coming on to everybody. I mean, yeah, whatever. He’s like having like a ’70s swing — yeah. It just didn’t seem that weird to me ’cause I feel like if you’re in space, it’s kind of like, the door is open! It’s like, no only guys or girls. No, it’s anything. This thing is literally a blob. Are you a man or a woman? Like, who cares? Have a good time out here.
These efforts seem genuinely well-intentioned, but they also feel somewhat invalidating, as real on-screen representation is a big deal. The writer not including anything about him being Queer in the actual film, but stating it after its release is nothing more than lazy–and almost disrespectful–queerbaiting. Headcanons only go so far–even when they are the headcanons of licensed, published Star Wars authors.
And while live-action LGBTQ+ characters are nowhere to be found on-screen, the expanded canon is making more of an effort to better represent everyone. The first canonically gay character was introduced in the 2015 novel Lords of the Sith. Written by Paul F. Kemp, the novel follows Moff Mors–an imperial who has made some serious mistakes and also happens to be a lesbian.
So in honour of Pride month, I would like to highlight a few of the amazing, canonically Queer and non-binary characters from all over the galaxy.
Sinjir Rath Velus
As a loyalty officer, Sinjir Rath Velus made sure to spot any weaknesses in his peers to ensure the stability of the Galactic Empire. He is one of the main characters in Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, which takes place during the time period immediately after the fall of the Empire. He defected after witnessing the horrors of the Battle of Endor, joining the Rebel Alliance and eventually becoming Mon Monthma’s advisor during her time as New Republic Chancellor. Sinjir’s partner, slicer Conder Kyl was appointed the chief of Digital Warfare for the New Republic, and they married after the Battle of Jakku.
Amilyn Holdo is a prominent character in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but what most don’t know is that her friendship with Leia goes back to when they were both teenagers. In Claudia Gray’s novel, Princess of Alderaan, Amilyn and Leia work together in the Apprentice Legislature while pursuing a career in galactic politics. Amilyn does not explicitly use any labels to describe herself, but when Leia says she is only interested in human males, her response is to call that ‘limiting,’ as there are so many types of people (and aliens) she could be attracted to. And while explicitly stating it in the film would have been much better than mere hints in the tie-in novel, it is still a step in the right direction.
Sabé was one of Queen Amidala’s most loyal handmaidens, serving as her decoy during her time ruling Naboo. In the canon novel Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston, Padmé sends her on a mission to help free slaves on Tatooine, years after the events of Episode I. It is revealed that Sabé has no regard for the gender of her partners and that she had developed complicated feelings for Padmé throughout all their years of friendship.
Chelli Lona Aphra was an archeologist recruited by Darth Vader after the Battle of Yavin. Although Aphra does not use any labels, the character’s creator Kieron Gillen has stated that she’s a lesbian. She has been romantically involved with other women in the comics, including Sana Starros and Magna Tolvan. She first appeared in Marvel’s Darth Vader comic but quickly became a fan favourite, getting her own series in 2016.
Sana Starros was a smuggler and bounty hunter who was briefly married to Han Solo in order to help with a mission. In Marvel’s Star Wars #18, it was revealed that she and Aphra had been romantically involved. It didn’t end well, and Sana has attempted to kill her more than once. She also has a small appearance in Daniel Jose Older’s novel Star Wars: Last Shot.
Taka Jamoreesa was a human pilot and aspiring scoundrel who joined Han Solo and Lando Calrissian on a mission about two years after the fall of the Empire. They are notably the second non-binary character in the new canon (the first being pirate Eleodie Maracavanya from the Aftermath trilogy). Taka lost both their parents in the destruction of Alderaan, which made them want to work as a New Republic agent under Leia Organa.
Yrica Quell defected from the Galactic Empire after the Battle of Endor and joined the New Republic Starfighter Corps as an X-Wing pilot. She makes her debut appearance in the upcoming Alphabet Squadron trilogy by Alexander Freed, in which it is explicitly established that she has been in relationships with men and women.
It’s is still a long way to go, but with two upcoming film trilogies, the live-action Mandalorian series, and the animated shows like Resistance, there might be some hope for an on-screen Queer character after all.