Driving home from his best friend’s funeral, Joshua Yehl thought of a way to memorialize one of the “most passionate Star Wars fans.” Why not petition Lucasfilm and the Walt Disney Company to create a gay character using his likeness to honor those killed in the horrific mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub earlier this month?
“On June 12, 2016, the world lost one of its most passionate Star Wars fans. On that day, 49 voices cried out and were silenced by hate. One of them was my best friend, Christopher Andrew “Drew” Leinonen. He and I bonded over many things, but nothing brought us together like Star Wars,” Yehl writes in the petition. “To be honest, we were actually pretty unbearable to be around when we got to talking about that galaxy far, far away.”
“Star Wars has never had a gay character appear on screen before,” he continues. “But as The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams recently said on the topic, ‘The fun of Star Wars is the glory of possibility. So it seems insanely narrow-minded and counterintuitive to say that there wouldn’t be a homosexual character in that world.’ I can’t put it any better than that. Now is the time to act. Trust your feelings.”
Leinonen’s fate drew the eyes of the nation as the tragedy unfolded when his mother appeared on television repeatedly talking about not being able to reach her son on his cell phone. Leinonen’s partner, Juan Ramon Guerrero, was also killed in the massacre.
The two were engaged to be married and while Guerroro’s family suggested they might have a joint funeral, the two ceremonies were held separately. Guardian angels blocked the view of protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church during Leinonen’s memorial.
“They were honestly so in love. They were soul mates. You can tell by how they looked at each other,”Aryam Guerrero told Time magazine after the tragedy. “It’s a little comforting that they died together.”
“This is a universe with Wookies, Jawas, and Hutts, so why can’t there be a visible LGBT character on screen?” Yehl asks in his petition. “This tragedy happened because of hate, but Star Wars is something that unites people, so fulfilling this request would only serve to bring more love into the world, and that’s what Drew was all about. It’s vitally important that LGBT people are included in mainstream media because it will show that we don’t need to be feared or hated or hidden. We can be part of the rebellion and we can fight evil, and we can do it while being who we are with pride.”
You can sign the petition here. It has almost 2800 signatures currently.