Mating rituals are complicated in any society. For example: Female black widow spiders notoriously devour their mates after copulation. When it came time for Star Trek: The Next Generation to elaborate on Klingon culture, the series provided insight into how aliens might mate. In the Season 2 episode “The Dauphin,” Worf explains that Klingon mating is particularly unlike human mating. In Klingon culture, women violently roar, claw and throw objects at their mates, while the men stand back and recite poetry.
Despite being one of the more diverse sci-fi shows of its time, Star Trek never elaborated on how a same-sex couple might breech the matter of mating. This of course led to fans taking matters into their own hands, to speculate how gay Klingons might mate.
An old Tumblr thread outlined the main theories about what a same-sex relationship would look like in Klingon Culture. A same-sex relationship between women would consist of two female Klingons violently beating one another, clawing and fighting, while two male Klingons would sit back and recite poetry to one another.
So far, this seems straight forward enough. However, soon people began to wonder if there was any ambiguity or confusion that could occur in a society with such rigid gender roles. After all, if men are raised to expect violence being issued to them, would they be disappointed if either partner doesn’t at the very least attempt to break their clavicle?
Furthermore, Klingons might not even recognize courtship from a potential same-sex partner. As Tumblr user ernmark suggests, “Do questioning Klingons ever show their crush their poetry, only to have their crush assume that he’s helping them proofread or something?”
Further posts suggest there could be a whole series of homophobic slurs based around how LGBTQ Klingons might not fit into the binary courtship model. However, the Tumblr thread never contemplates what might happen in a non-binary relationship, despite the fact that non-binary aliens exist in Star Trek: The Next Generation — as seen in the Season 5 episode “The Outcast.”
It might seem odd to some modern viewers how gender-constrictive the Klingon mating patterns are, especially compared to more flexible mating patterns shown both in humanity and other alien races in Star Trek. However, there are two reasons major reasons behind the Klingon structure.
The first and most obvious is that Klingon culture is rigidly traditional in its beliefs. The warrior race often emphasizes pride and culture. Worf joining Star Fleet at all is seen as a highly controversial decision that liberally ignores the traditional status of Klingon lifestyle.
Another meta-textual reason is that producer Rick Berman often vetoed scripts referencing homosexuality at all. Very famously, the unaired episode “Blood and Fire” was cancelled thanks to Berman. The closest Star Trek: The Next Generation ever came to featuring LGBTQ characters is in the Season 5 episode “The Outcast,” which introduces a race of aliens without gender identity called the J’naii. The episode has many problematic elements that were pointed out even at the time of its release, even from cast members like Jonathan Frakes.
However, as Berman put it, “Having Riker engaged in passionate kisses with a male actor might have been a little unpalatable to viewers.” Berman reinforced heteronormative narratives in Star Trek: The Next Generation, leaving it to fans to contemplate the ambiguity in Klingon relationships.
Star Trek fans are confused how gay Klingons court one another. Do they both read poetry or both clobber one another?