Sulu is the fictional helmsman aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series. The character is played by actor George Takai.¹
Takai was one of very few Japanese Americans to hold a significant role in 1960s American television and his character was devoid of all the usual stereotypes present of that era.
With the inclusion of an international crew, Star Trek’s creators directly challenged racism.
In 2005 Takai made public that he had been and still was gay. In the very first episode of the first season, “The Man Trap” (1966), we find an interesting, perhaps, prefigurative dialogue between Sulu and Yeoman Janice Rand in the Botany department of the starship about the gender of a plant called Beauregard (traditionally male) / Gertrude (traditionally female).
RAND: Where are you, Sulu?
SULU: In here feeding the weepers, Janice.
RAND: I’ve got your tray.
SULU: May the Great Bird of the Galaxy bless your planet.
RAND: Thank you. Hello, Beauregard. How are you today, darling?
SULU: Her name’s Gertrude.
RAND: No, it’s a he plant. A girl can tell.
SULU: Why do people have to call inanimate objects she, like she’s a fast ship.
RAND: He is not an inanimate object. He’s so animate he makes me nervous. In fact, I keep expecting one of these plants of yours to grab me [italics added]. ²
¹ Sulu was originally known only by his last name. The full details at Wikipedia:
Hikaru Sulu is a character in the Star Trek media franchise. Originally known simply as ‘Sulu’, he was portrayed by George Takei in the original Star Trek series. Sulu also appears in the animated Star Trek series, the first six Star Trek movies, one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and in numerous books, comics, and video games. Sulu’s first name, ‘Hikaru,’ appeared in a 1981 novel well over a decade after the original series had ended. John Cho assumed the role of the character in both the 2009 film Star Trek and its sequels, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. See » https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikaru_Sulu
Related » Gene Roddenberry