I Still Can’t Believe Anyone on “Battlestar Galactica” Was Straight

I Still Can’t Believe is a TV Team series where we remember the things happened on television that baffle us — in good and bad ways — to this very day.


I mean, especially Kara Thrace.

The first time we see Kara Thrace (Katee Sackhoff) — more commonly known by her callsign Starbuck — she’s lightly jogging. It’s enough to tingle the gay spidey senses. Her hair is slicked back. On her, the leisure uniform worn by the Battlestar Galactica crew — a tight tank top over a second tight tank top — evokes an unmistakable air of dyke-debonair. In  her next scene, when we truly meet Starbuck for the first time, the gay spidey senses are more than tingling. They’re practically quaking. Her hair is mussed now. Her dogtags are out. She clutches a cigar and cards, playing poker with her bunkmates and her asshole superior, who she eventually punches in the face after he pisses her off. Surely, we are looking at an erratic and cocky butch top.

Nope!!!!!!!! Instead, we’re supposed to fully invest in the sexual tension between Starbuck and Human Potato (slash her former ex-brother-in-law?!) Lee Adama?!?!

Katee Sackhoff as Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace

See also: Boomer?!

Boomer aka Number Eight (Grace Park) sports a low ponytail and what appear to be self-cut bangs when we initially meet her in the movie-length prologue episodes of BSG. I repeat: self-cut bangs. Scientifically, straight people do not know how to cut hair.

When I say I can’t believe Starbuck and Boomer are straight, what I really mean is I refuse to believe it. In fact, I have overwritten all my memories of Battlestar Galactica—which I’ve watched multiple times — to make pretty much all of the characters queer. Cylons? Gay. Humans? Gay. We all know everyone in space is gay. Battlestar Galactica’s suggestion otherwise? I simply refuse to accept it! You’re telling me the vast and mysterious expanse of the universe which is ever-expanding (a fact that never fails to break my brain) adheres to the same boring and unimaginative constraints of heteronormativity that much of our dumb bitch planet Earth does? No way. There’s no sound in space, but there’s absolutely an abundance of homosexuality.

Okay, so as far as explicit queerness goes, Battlestar Galactica does offer a little bit. Recurring character Felix Gaeta (played by Alessandro Juliani, one of genre television’s great underrated character actors) is gay, but it rarely comes up. And “sure,” gay characters do not “need” to be “defined” by their “gayness”…but…I’m not asking for some big rainbow moment. I’m just asking for queer characters to have the same fully realized and compelling relationship arcs and love interests as the straight characters do. On a show that features a lot of smooching, would it hurt to include a few more smooches of the queer variety?

We get another whisper of gay in the two-hour special “Razor,” which features Gina Inviere—one of the many aliases for Number Six (Tricia Helfer)—in a full-on relationship with Admiral Helena Cain (Michelle Forbes). To which I say: Could this not have been an arc more fully explored in the main series? Why is it relegated to the straight-to-DVD spin-off chapter?! (These are rhetorical questions. I know the answer is, broadly, homophobia.)

Tricia Helfer as Six, Lucy Lawless as D'Anna Biers, and Grace Park as Boomer

Ultimately, you’re far more likely to encounter relationships between robots and humans than you are to find lesbians in the BSG universe. And I do not say that to disparage robot-human relations. I’m very pro-robot-human relations, and you can feel free to quote that back to me whenever you like.

So Starbuck is one thing, but do you mean to honestly tell me most of the thirteen models of Cylon engage regularly in heterosexual activity? ALL thirteen models absolutely scream bisexual energy. Again, we do get a whisper of textual acknowledgement re:the inherent bisexuality of Cylons. There’s a brief love triangle between Gaius, Caprica Six (Helfer), and D’Anna Biers (queen of Sapphic subtext, Lucy Lawless). But considering all the chaotic bisexual energy these sexy robots are giving, there’s a shocking dearth of bisexual chaos occurring on this show.

And GET THIS: BSG creator Ronald D. Moore once said the following: “We sort of always talked about the Cylons being basically bisexual in all formats.” So the things I’m picking up were “sort of” put down in the BSG writers room. But the commitment to this “all Cylons are bisexual” ethos seems to have wavered somewhere between conception and execution. Because, again, the show simply is not bursting at the seams with textual bisexual chaos, even though it should be?????? Even though in my heart it is?

If you have not seen Battlestar Galactica and think I’m telling you to stay away, oh no! That’s not what I’m saying at all! It’s a very good show! One of my top favorites! But when we love something deeply, we are also keenly aware of its imperfections. I love Battlestar Galactica, and I wish it were gayer. I wish it were gayer, because I love Battlestar Galactica. You get it.

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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a lesbian writer of essays, short stories, and pop culture criticism living in Miami. She is the assistant managing editor of TriQuarterly, and her short stories appear or are forthcoming in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Joyland, Catapult, The Offing, and more. Some of her pop culture writing can be found at The A.V. Club, Vulture, The Cut, and others. You can follow her on Twitter or Instagram and learn more about her work on her website.

Kayla has written 300 articles for us.

84 Comments

  1. Starbuck is an avatar of my most fatal attraction: “butch straight women” who are always dog-tag-jogging-to-the-cigar-fight and never ever ever having-simulant-fueled-barrack-sex-with-Boomer.

    • Gay people looking for representation who just want “queer characters to have the same fully realized and compelling relationship arcs and love interests as the straight characters do”. I’m one of them, and annoyed that Gaeta is the closest we get to that in BSG. We know there are plenty of gay people among those ~40K survivors, just disapointing that none of their romances were highlighted while there were plenty of nuanced and complex straight romances.

  2. HOLY CRAP YES THANK YOU. Even as a wee baby bi, I was so deeply confused that we as the audience were supposed to be on board with Starbuck engaging in physical contact with men that was anything other than:

    a) a fistfight
    b) a brusque, perfunctory bro-hug

    Like. What? LOOK AT HER.

  3. I feel like this article is a, gift to me personally lol. I was thinking just yesterday that Autostraddle should do a list of TV characters who are inexplicably canonically straight despite their obvious, overwhelming queer energy — and that Kara Thrace should be #1 on that list!

    Now I am imagining a BSG with not only a canonically-gay Kara, but also chaotic bi Cylons! That sounds like literal TV perfection.

  4. “ALL thirteen models absolutely scream bisexual energy.”

    Slight quibble: Tigh is so straight. Even his very loving relationship with Adama is so little-bro-hero-worships-big-bro energy.

    The other 11? RAGING chaotic bi.

  5. I love that all these years later BSG is still mainstream. I just finished watching through BSG last night for my first time. Easily one of my top shows of all time, but definitely wish we had gotten to see the obvious and abundant queerness played out in those characters. Maybe we’ll get a little reprieve with the new BSG series coming to Peacock next year?

  6. The good news about fiction is you can read into it whatever you like.

    As a straight person, it never occurred to me for a moment any of the characters were anything but straight. I certainly didn’t assume short hair and cigars implied anything about Starbuck’s sexual preferences. It did say a lot about her arrogance, confidence, and self image as a warrior.

  7. This comment section… Seems like a lot of BSG google alerts went off when AS posted this, and instead of finding long-awaited news of Caprica coming out of cancellationz, a bunch of fragile fanboys are having to process the idea that for a sizable portion of BSG fandom, Starbuck radiated with big dyke energy. For me, well, my girlfriend’s BFF/ex-girlfriend introduced me to BSG when we were becoming friends ourselves, so the show has always been associated with supreme queerness for me.

  8. Omg, yes! I refuse to believe that Starbuck isn’t queer. No matter how many tumultuous relationships with dudes the show gave her, I don’t buy it.

    And somehow I hadn’t seen that RDM quote before. Arggh, why couldn’t they have actually followed thru with that idea? Why must tv writers have so many characters who seem sooo gay, except they never make them canonically gay??

    Caprica at least had more canonically queer characters. If only it had lasted longer…

  9. Only gay people want and see this. In their world, everyone is bi. Hint: there are plenty of truly straight people, even in fiction. For gods sake, move on. (See what I did there?)

  10. Starbuck and Apollo are clearly a soft butch 4 soft butch couple. I know this in my heart to be true. I dont care what their genders are. Yearning for your ex’s sibling?? Your best friend?? Gay.

  11. Starbuck/Roslin anyone? Also tbh on the guy side, I always thought Gaius should have been bi. Same with Apollo (like seriously? sad guy can’t live up to his brother’s memory and is always fighting with his dad?)

  12. Well aren’t you just toxic as shit. “Boomer” and “dyke” (which I get it kinda was but I’d never use the phrase). Then “human potato” really? You felt the need to make an effort to be both ageist and misandric in 20 something did words? Plus you decide to stereotype gender roles as if you make the rules on what should be portrayed on screen in regards to sexuality.

    To be fair – I am the only straight male in a family that includes a gay father, gay mother and gay twin brothers. While I haven’t lived their particular nightmares you can bet I’ve witnessed them. (Yes that’s weird)

    They’re just fucking people… do they have to be categorized even in a series about a fictional future?

    • this is a weird comment because it’s pretty well known that kayla does in fact make the rules on what should be portrayed on screen in regards to sexuality. she ran for that office and won fair and square. it’s literally her job???! so like, the disrespect… is palpable

    • I don’t really understand why you posted this comment but here’s the truth: The beauty of queerness is finding it and seeing yourself (and your community) in it, even if it’s not explicitly there. Doing so does NOT erase or diminish the actual identities of (fictional) characters but rather enriches our experience as a viewer.

    • While I would never defend the tripe that constitutes this disaster of an article, your ignorance is only adding to the pile.

      “Boomer” is the name of the character in the series. The only one on this page using it as a derogatory term is you.

      Please educate yourself before speaking in the future.

  13. Thanks for the new view into BSG. I had never viewed BSG from this point of view until stumbling across this piece when it came up in my news feed. I do envy that the gay community can still judge people based on how they dress and act; I wish this was still a thing in the straight world. The cross over is fun. I always found the woman of BSG to be hot, and certainly Starbuck is right up there.

    • it’s always weird when straight folks say they envy marginalization. as if understanding how to recognize each other wasn’t a queer survival skill; where getting it wrong historically had consequences, and often still does. similar to when straight friends say ‘next time around i’m going gay…’ as if it was a choice. i think the intention is to be open minded, but it never feels like understanding.

  14. i think another interesting element is that Starbuck was a womanizer male character in the original BSG, and they decided to make her a female character but like, you can’t just transpose womanizer into manizer it doesn’t work, make her gay you cowards

    that said boomer is my #1 bsg crush 4ever

  15. I feel like Battlestar Galactica is gay first and foremost because I had zero straight thoughts about it, including towards the dudes?! So much queer swagger.
    But if that’s not enough, Gaius Baltar has big “bisexual toff in a m/m Victorian romance novel” vibes, regardless of who he’s in love with.
    AND, I also confuse Mary McDonnal, the woman who plays Laura Roslin on Battlestar, with Noted Lesbian Cherry Jones.
    Also also, discussing it endlessly is practically the definition of queering a text.
    The Gay Agenda rests, your honor.

  16. Wow. What utter, drizzling rubbish. I’d hate to be so small that my sexuality defined me in any way. “Blah blah queer blah blah”. Personally, I watch television for compelling characters, irrespective of race, gender sexuality.Furthermore, I don’t need people to resemble me to feel representation as, funnily, I am represented: by other human beings. Get over it. Its boring, passe, and serves only to highlight difference not commonality.

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