Star Trek: Why I’m a Fan By Gail Gerard
When you love something, really really love something, it’s hard to define… especially to those who aren’t particularly familiar with the thing you love, why you love it… or how you came to love it in the first place.
I’m a Trekkie. I’ll say it loud. I’ll say it proud. And if you ask my mother, I was born to be one. Her first husband (my biological father, who I call my “real” dad) has always been a huge fan. In fact, on the day I was born he missed out on my mother shoving my oversized noggin out of her undersized birth canal because a Star Trek re-run was on the television, out in the waiting room. My dad always told me I came out looking a bit like something the make-up designers for the show might have dreamed up, because I was a lovely shade of lemon (yay jaundice!) with large knots on my head where I’d decided to ram my face into my mom’s hip bones as she tried to eject me from the womb.
When I was growing up, there was a local channel which ran a lot of re-runs from the 50s and 60s. Because we didn’t have cable, our choices were limited, and I wound up watching that channel A LOT because there was little else to do. I was familiar, through those re-runs and through reading TOS novels my dad had around wherever he was living (he and my mom divorced when I was five and he moved around quite a bit), with Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew. But at that time, I wouldn’t have called myself a fan. I was more like a casual watcher… somebody who watched the show because there was nothing else good on TV.
When I was around ten years old, however, I started watching TNG. I wasn’t watching it, however, for the same reasons my girlfriends were (they were drooling over Riker and Wesley). I was watching it because I was genuinely interested in the story of each episode… I wanted to see how Picard would pull their collective asses out of the fire each week. I fell head-over-heels, butt-crazy-stupid tweenagerly in love with Data because I felt he was like me… an outsider who didn’t quite GET human behavioral norms.
Growing up, I was picked on. A lot. We didn’t have a lot of money and I had a very odd idea of what was ‘cool’. From the time I was in about third grade until high school, I was bullied nearly every day and beat up more times than I can count. I would come home, looking like I’d been pulled through a knothole backwards, and depressed because I was sick and tired of having the crap beat out of me for reasons I still to this day do not understand. Trek became my refuge because that was the kind of world I wanted to live in. Nobody got the shit beat out of them for not being “cool”. Geeks like myself were, in fact, celebrated. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, short or tall, or smart or even blind. Everybody had a chance to find out what they were really good at and then go do it. Nobody was held back or left behind because they didn’t have the money to accomplish what they wanted to do in life, because MONEY was irrelevant (unless you were a Ferengi, of course).
When I finally made it to high school, I was put on what I guess you might call the “Loser” track because we didn’t have a lot of money, I had a learning disorder that was yet to be diagnosed that was affecting my grades, and pretty much nobody expected much of anything from me. I was
not expected to pass “Go” or collect $200. The staff at my school expected me to go and do what the other poor, struggling kids did when they graduated: go straight to trade school, a dead end retail job or get married. It irritated the crap out of me that I felt I had all this potential, but nobody seemed to care. And because they didn’t care, eventually I stopped caring too. The only time I was ever really happy, or felt like there was any hope for the future at all, was when I watched Star Trek or read one of the many TOS novels I’d managed to collect by that time.
Five years after I graduated came 9/11… one of the worst days not only of my life, but in the lives of so many people in this country. I remember going home that night, turning on the TV… and watching the footage of the towers in flame, tumbling to the ground for the very first time (I’d been working that day with no access to a TV set). I sat there and bawled and said to myself, “Holy shit. How did this happen? This isn’t fair… what did we ever do to them? And is Dallas (which is near where I live) next?” My birthday was a week later… I didn’t know if it was even appropriate to celebrate with the nation in mourning.
The only things I wanted to watch for the next several months were Star Trek re-runs. I wanted to forget what had happened for a little while, as I’m sure so many others did also. Star Trek reminded me that there is a future waiting for us, perhaps one where war no longer happens, where greed and hate don’t exist anymore. I wanted then – and still want now – to believe that one day, maybe not in my life time, but someday… it will be like that.
Just a few years after 9/11, my son Bubba J was born. We didn’t know when he was born what the future would hold, but we hoped (as I’m sure all parents do) that everything would turn out perfectly for him. We didn’t know then what lay in store for him… or us.
When he was about two years old, Bubba J was diagnosed with sensory integration issues, motor skills delays, and a speech delay. I said, “Ok. No problem, I got this,” and we scheduled therapists to come and work with him and I did what I do best, which is research. I threw myself into finding out why my son had these issues and how I could help him. As he got older and attended preschool, however, more problems presented themselves.
We discovered his motor skills and speech issues were caused by a chronic condition known as Hypotonia (low muscle tone). Around the time he entered first grade, he was diagnosed with ADHD, which explained his constant high energy, amongst other things. Bubba J was and is a quirky kid… the teachers didn’t know quite what to make of him. By the time he entered second grade however, another monster had decided to rear its ugly head, the dreaded A word: Asperger’s.
When Bubba J was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I wanted to scream and kick and throw a tantrum because this just wasn’t fair. He already had enough to deal with… heaping an autism spectrum disorder on top of it was just too much. Again, when I was at my most stressed, I turned to Trek. I told my husband that sometimes I wished we lived in the Star Trek universe so that we would have access to all the therapy our son needed, without having to worry about the cost. So that school could be tailored to his needs, without us having to fight for everything he needed to be successful in an environment that was unintentionally hostile.
It’s too soon yet to tell whether or not Bubba J will turn out to be a Trek fan. A lot of times I’ll click on an episode to watch on Netflix streaming and he’ll say “MOOOM! You’re watching Star Trek
AGAIN?!” I hope he will come to love Trek as much as I have, to be honest. Whenever I’m down, whenever I’m having a bad day, Trek is always there for me. I get to see people I’ve considered old friends for most of my life, and go on adventures with them… one more time. I get to imagine a future that, while not exactly perfect, is vastly better than the world I live in right now.
You wanna know why I’m a fan? Because I love it… it’s the simplest reason of all. There is something about Trek that just caught my imagination and my heart and keeps me coming back. I can’t really define it. I can’t really put it in words, though I’ve tried. Trek is just something that has always been a part of my life, and always will be. It’s kind of like opera: if you love it, you will always love it; If you don’t love it, you may learn to appreciate it… but it will never become a part of your soul.