Star Trek Guide

Star Trek DS9: How Dax Became A Trans Icon

Ezri Dax's (Nicole de Boer) introduction in the seventh and final season ofDeep Space Ninewas not universally welcomed; however, Ezri Dax's unique character arc resonated with some fans in the LGBTQ+ community. Ezri was the successor of Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), who died at the end of season 6. This version of Dax became an icon for transgender viewers because her struggles with identity — not to mention her "transition" —  are familiar to those who have transitioned genders.

Like Jadzia, Ezri Dax belongs to an alien species known as the Trill. Trill were first seen in the Star Trekuniverse in the Star Trek: The Next Generationseason 4episode "The Host." A humanoid species, the Trill are characterized by their cultural practice of "joining" multi-generational "symbiont" creatures to hosts through a surgical implantation. The worm-like symbionts have a symbiotic relationship with their host, and their personalities fuse as a result of the process. When the the Trill host is near death, the symbiont is removed and implanted into another host, retaining its memories and aspects of its previous personalities.

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After Jadzia was killed in the Deep Space 9 season 6 finale, her symbiont "Dax" was removed so that it could be returned to the Trill homeworld and placed in another host. The season 7 premiere continued this storyline, but added a twist: Dax's health took a turn for the worse en route, so it had to be placed into an emergency host. Being the only Trill onboard the ship, Ezri Tigan receives Dax, despite not having undertaken any of the training or emotional and psychological preparations usually done before the joining process. As a result, Ezri — now known as Ezri Dax — is understandably unhinged by the experience. Her struggle to cope with this new personality and identity can be read as a transgender allegory — not just because of her gender dysphoria, but also because of the effects her transition had on her personal life and relationships.

While Jadzia Dax 's character toyed with concepts of gender as well — most notably with Sisko referring to her as "old man" because of his friendship with her predecessor, Curzon Dax — Jadzia never struggled with her identity as a joined Trill. Ezri, on the other hand, was a freshly-joined Trill and had immense difficulty separating herself from the memories of her symbiont. Ezri was unsure what pronouns to use for herself, was frustrated and confused about who she was and how she fit into Star Fleet, and even expressed sadness that she had lost relationships due to the transition — which was never really her choice. Not only is Ezri's experience both sad and relatable, but it is particularly pertinent for those who are transitioning genders. As Elissa Harris wrote in a blog post for Women at Warp"Dax, the symbiont who has lived numerous lives in various humanoid bodies… is trans. She may not be explicitly trans, but in terms of the stories that get told through her – about gender, personal change, social discomfort and assumptions based on appearances… she is very much trans."

Star Trek has never shied away from controversial (and progressive) topics. The show has a long history of pushing boundaries, whether it be Gene Roddenberry's early attempts to make a female character the Number One in the unaired pilot "The Cage," or the original series featuring T.V.'s first interracial kiss. Ezri Dax joins the long list of important Star Trek characters who serve as inspiration for marginalized viewers. The TNG season 5episode "The Outcast" previously dealt with gender politics, but it wasn't until DS9that the franchise really offered a fully-realized character that trans viewers could look to. With the Trill set to return in Star Trek: Discovery season 3, there could be further such storylines in the franchise's future — and perhaps viewers will even learn how Ezri Dax's story ended.