I wasn't alone. As I found out later, Malcolm Reed was originally intended to be a gay character who would've been outed sometime in the first season. Someone (UPN?) decided that wasn't a good idea and they ended up making Reed a weird, sort of lady's man with twenty-four ex-girlfriends who was simultaneously, inexplicably shy around women. But, I just feel like that's a missed opportunity. How many lady's men with twenty-four ex-girlfriends have there been? Four, actually. Four main characters have been lady-killers with a line of exes behind them and lots and lots of one-episode stands that all ended badly.
So, if that's just a Trek trope, why am I so worked up about Malcolm being gay? Well, because it's this show. In this time. That's what this culture needed. And that's what Star Trek does. Trek is a show that breaks barriers and does firsts. It's a show that courageously leads people to better cultural understanding and maturely holds their hand all the while entertaining with high concept story-lines.
As I watched Seasons One and Two, I felt over and over again what a missed opportunity they'd had with Malcolm. But, in Season Three, my feelings became even stronger. Especially when Major Hayes showed up.
Right from the get-go, Hayes and Reed are at each other's throats (though not literally--that would've been dreamy) over who should have control over Enterprise's tactical operations. They argue for a full twenty-three episodes over territory and personnel and training exercises. Their relationship has all the makings of cinematic romance. In fact, it almost perfectly mirrors that of T'Pol and Tucker's romantic relationship. Arguments. Denial. Bitching to their friends about each other. Until, finally, they passionately come together.
In fact, in the episode, Harbinger, T'Pol and Tucker spend the whole time arguing and sniping at each other until they finally, passionately crash into each other--kissing all naked-like. It's a big moment. You know it's been a long time coming but it's still a big deal when it happens so it's satisfying. Meanwhile, Reed and Hayes spend their half of the episode arguing and sniping at each other until they finally, passionately crash into each other--throwing punches until they both look like this:
How much more surprising, satisfying, and Star Trek would it have been if, once they started fighting, Reed and Hayes fell into the same kind of romantic embrace that T'Pol and Tucker were afforded? It could have been the beginning of an important Star Trek first.
And, this would've been the end:
Only a few episodes later, Hayes is mortally wounded and (surprise, surprise) it's Malcolm Reed who comes to his deathbed. This scene is already touching because of their antagonistic past and their ability to reconcile here but it could've been amazing had they had a deeper relationship--had they been the first LGBT Star Trek couple.
I'm apparently not the first person to think this. When searching for pictures of these two I came across A LOT of Reed/Hayes fan fiction and quite a lot of it (like the Kirk/Spock fanfic of yesteryear) is NC-17. People have made delightful romantic videos about these two and posted romantic fan-art on DeviantArt.
But, Star Trek, why leave it up to the adoring public? Why, for that matter, leave it up to people like Joss Whedon and Russell T. Davis? I'm SO glad those other things exist but you are the one who's supposed to be pushing buttons and boundaries--going where no TV show has dared to go before. You were fearlessly running episodes that blatantly opposed the oppression of minorities during the most heated years of America's Civil Rights movement. You featured American TV's first interracial kiss. You influenced generations of people to be braver, wiser, kinder and more courageous about standing up for the persecuted.
Why have you never featured an openly gay main character?
What happened to your original, bold nature?