Ezri Dax and the experience of queer questioning

Ezri in "Prodigal Daughter"

There has already been work written on how trans people see themselves and find comfort in the characters of Jadzia and Ezri Dax. But this essay looks at how Ezri also hits a lot of the same milestones as people who are questioning their gender or sexuality. In broad terms, Ezri follows a path of finding herself, finding her community, a path very familiar to queer folks.

Generally, the process of queer questioning is straightforward: a person learns a new term, a new way of expressing an attraction or gender. This new knowledge causes them to seek further knowledge, to explore themselves, both internally (feeling) and externally (expression). In seeking further knowledge, they incidentally or purposefully find new peers, people with more knowledge and experience with the identity/ies they’re learning about. The questioning person will likely be excited about their newfound knowledge, but their family may not be excited. The questioning person will eventually settle into an identity that they feel fits them, and the peer group will sometimes become closer, forming a ‘found family’.

Ezri Dax is the second host to the Dax symbiont on the station Deep Space Nine (she is the ninth host to Dax in total), after Jadzia, who lived and worked there before her death. Ezri was joined with Dax prior to her introduction in the show, gaining access to the memories of Jadzia, and all previous Dax hosts. Since we did not know Ezri before Dax, it is sometimes difficult to determine which actions Ezri takes may be due to Dax’s influence.

Ezri in Sisko's Creole Kitchen in "Image in the Sand"

When we first meet Ezri at Joseph Sisko’s restaurant, she’s gained new knowledge and is actively seeking out new peers, whom she hopes will be able to help her with her confusion about herself. This directly correlates with people questioning their gender and/or sexuality who go searching for more information about others like them. They may search the internet for information, or join specific groups in their area or on social media geared towards the identity/ies they want to know more about. They actively seek information from those with experience.

We later learn that before we met Ezri she had a boyfriend whom she broke up with amidst her confusion. Her new information caused her to see him in a different light, challenging her initial perception that their relationship would work out. She also previously had longer hair that she cut, a decision which is heavily implied to be related to her confusion and new information. This is similar to the questioning person becoming more in-tune with themselves, throwing away parts of themself that do not make them happy, things that they do simply because they are expected. The new information they’ve gained causes them to view the world and themselves differently, and affects their interactions.

Through interactions with her new peers, Ezri learns more about herself, becomes more comfortable in her new knowledge of herself. She jokes about her confusion, about the new things she’s learning, about how she used to be. Among those who accept her for who she is now, Ezri becomes more relaxed than when we first met her. She becomes more than the next host to Dax, similar to how those questioning their gender or sexuality move beyond that being the sole defining feature of themselves. While Ezri is the next host to Dax after Jadzia, she learns that that is not necessarily the most interesting or relevant facet of herself.

When Ezri returns home to visit her family (Season 7, Episode 11 “Prodigal Daughter”), tensions are strained. Ezri didn’t want to return home, and was forced there by outside influences. Her mother doesn’t approve of Ezri’s new look and tells her “I hate your hair” first thing, though she says so in a joking manner. Ezri is excited to share her newfound knowledge about herself, until her mother pointedly changes the topic. Ezri’s family doesn’t know how to relate to her in this new manner of being, and her mother is reluctant to try. This family reaction is a clear parallel to the experience of many who question their sexuality/gender. Some families are vocally against queer identities, some vocally embrace queer identities, and some, like Ezri’s family, would rather not talk about it and just pretend it doesn’t exist.

Ezri and her mother

By the end of the season, Ezri has been fully welcomed into the group of her new peers, creating her own found family as many queer folks do. One character, Worf, even tells her that she can consider herself part of his family if she wishes, mirroring how queer friends tend to form tighter, closer bonds with each other in the absence of biological family.

More specifically and literally, Ezri can easily be read as one questioning her gender. She cuts her hair short, and gets confused about her pronouns on more than one occasion. In 7.03 “Afterimage” Ezri frustratedly tells her close friend Ben Sisko, “These pronouns are driving me crazy!” when trying to confide in him and repeatedly stumbling over her own pronouns. Later, in 7.11 “Prodigal Daughter” Ezri half-apologetically half- jokingly tells her family “I’m still sorting out my pronouns” after she slips up. Using the wrong pronouns for oneself is a common occurrence in those questioning their gender as they try out and get used to new pronouns. Ezri is also shown to have a very distant relationship with her family, unfortunately common for transgender folks. Taken separately, these examples may not mean a lot. Together, they are definite hints that Ezri can be read as someone other than a cisgender person.

To those who would rebut me with Watsonian (in-universe) claims that Ezri acts this way due to the symbiont Dax, I argue from a Doylist (out-of-story) perspective that Dax symbolizes knowledge*. Dax canonically gives Ezri access to eight lifetimes worth of memories, eight other ways of being. It is this influx of knowledge, the knowledge that there are other ways to be, that causes Ezri to make these changes. Those questioning their gender/sexuality are statistically more likely to do so after gaining knowledge of those of another gender/sexuality.

While no allegory is perfect, and while Ezri’s may not be intentional, her storyline matches quite nicely with a common queer experience. The process of finding oneself is not unique to queer people, but the specifics of gaining knowledge and new peers, changing presentation along the way, and meeting resistance from old friends and family, are incredibly common to queer folks.

*For more on Watsonian and Doylist perspectives, check out fanlore.org/wiki/Watsonian_vs._Doylist

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