In a galaxy far, far away lived a Cathar Jedi Knight who fought alongside the Order during the Jedi Civil War. She grew up on the planet Taris, sold into slavery by her own parents to pay off family debts that weren’t here own. However, she used her abilities with the force to be freed from her servitude. Her name? Juhani. She is the first LGBTQ character written for the Star Wars Universe.
Juhani first appeared in the fan favorite Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (abbreviated as KOTOR). Gaming fans were elated when the long-rumored KOTOR Remake was confirmed during Playstations Showcase Event earlier this year. While not much is known about the game outside of the brief trailer shown at the event, games are already wondering what kind of changes will be implemented in the remake. The game is beloved for its incredible storytelling and memorable characters, and what’s more memorable than the first gay character in Star Wars?
As far as the remake goes, no release date has been confirmed for the project, meaning we could be waiting several years before even playing the game. Having trouble waiting? Let’s talk a little bit about why KOTOR is so beloved and who this incredible character is.
What is Kotor and
WHO IS JUHANI?
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is a role-playing video game set in the Star Wars universe. Developed by BioWare and published by LucasArts, the game was released for the Xbox on July 19, 2003. The story of Knights of the Old Republic takes place almost 4,000 years before the formation of the Galactic Empire, where Darth Malak, a Dark Lord of the Sith, has unleashed a Sith armada against the Galactic Republic. You play as a Jedi, venturing to different planets in the galaxy to defeat Malak. You may choose from three character classes, Scout, Soldier or Scoundrel and through interacting with other characters and making plot decisions, you earn Light Side and Dark Side Points. Depending on your amount of points, the alignment system will determine whether the player’s character aligns with the light or dark side of the Force.
Juhani is one of the many beloved characters living in the world of KOTOR. Though, her life hasn’t exactly been easy. Her home world was raided twice, her father was brutally murdered, her mother withered away, she was sold into slavery (but used her powers with the Force to free herself). After making her escape, she sought out Jedi training to master her skills. Training with the great Jedi Quatra, she began to master not only the Force but the way of the lightsaber as well. Unfortunately, during a lightsaber duel, Juhani lost control of her anger and struck master Quatra, believing at the time that she had killed her. Fueled with anger over her tattered past and consumed with fear that the Jedi Council would not accept her back after what she had done, she fell to the Dark Side and into seclusion on Dantooine, where KOTOR takes place. That’s where the player comes in!
Juhani’s fate is dependent on the player’s choice as Revan during their initial encounter, where the Dark Side influences Juhani to initiate an attack. If Juhani is spared, she will attempt to atone for her momentary lapse of judgment by joining the player’s party. While she isn’t a huge key part of the game’s overall plot, you can actually get justice for her and her parents by tracking down the slaver who murdered them as part of an epic side plot. Though, her affinity for the Dark Side may return depending on if the player embraces their character’s original position as the Dark Lord of the Sith later in the game….
Juhani’s story fades away after KOTOR. She is shown as a hologram within one scene in the 2008 release of Star Wars: The Old Republic and has been mentioned in several Star Wars reference books, such as Jedi vs Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. While a smaller part of the Star Wars Universe, Juhani made such an impact that Wizards of The Coast created a miniature of her. The impact she made was deeper than even she could imagine at the time.
Giving Star Wars
the LGBTQ “Bug”
Soon after the game’s release, BioWare announced they were releasing KOTOR v1.01 to fix some “bugs” that were relevant to the game. However, after the patch was released, gamers noticed that not much had been fixed or improved. Later came v1.03, which fixed major gameplay bugs, skins not loading correctly on enemy NPCs and more. So what was changed in the first update? It didn’t seem like a lot at first but it was a fix that would change the landscape of diversity in gaming forever.
In the initial release of the game, Juhani had romantic dialogue for both male and female player characters, leading to players to believe that she identified as bisexual. BioWare later released a patch which they claim “corrected” Juhani’s romance arc and restricted it for female player characters only. Not only did this restrict her romance to just female characters, but actually gave Juhani more dialogue to romance players with.
Let’s go back to that initial encounter with Juhani. After your battle, you have the choice to either spare her life or slay her as soon as you meet her. If you choose to kill her, another female Jedi Knight, Belaya, will swear vengeance against you. She confronts you in the city and tells you that she and Juhani were dear companions for many years, spending many nights alone together under the stars. If you go down this path, Belaya later reappears as a fallen Dark Jedi and attacks Revan’s party out of vengeance. Romantic! However, if you do spare her life, you can romance her (if you’re a female character) and ride off into the sunset in lesbian love.
This made Juhani not only the first lesbian character in the entire Star Wars franchise, but she was actually the first character created and written to be LGBTQ in the Star Wars Universe. If that wasn’t enough, she was also the first gay character in a video game produced by BioWare. It is truly remarkable that this character had such a big influence on so many different games and franchises. Bioware is known for bringing diversity into their games, giving characters lots of romance options of varying genders, regardless of the player’s gender choices.
After sneaking Juhani into KOTOR, openly gay Bioware developer David Gaider was inspired to write more homosexual narratives for his characters. This gave us games like Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, which are heralded within the LGBTQ community for their inclusive romance options, giving gay, lesbian, and bisexual players a chance to play video games as themselves. These games opened the door for games like The Last of Us 2 and Hades to become mainstream and give a new audience to the gaming industry.
The Excitement for the Remake
is Out Of The Closet!
KOTOR’s exciting and epic story of Jedi’s from long ago got players to not only play the original release, but they are over the moon about the future remake coming to the PlayStation 5, PC and Nintendo Switch consoles. Now, Bioware isn’t a part of this game as development company Aspyr Media (known for its work on reviving classic games for consoles like Star Wars Republic Commando) will be handling the new release. However, LucasArts did announce that the game was being “rebuilt from the ground up.” Little is known about this remake, but let’s hope the characters and story still hold up.
Juhani is such an important lesbian character that inspired generations of characters and an entire game developers.Not only did she allow the LGBTQ Communtiy to connect deeper to the Star Wars World, but she also inspired champions of diversity within the gaming community to push themselves harder. Thank you, Juhani. And thank you, David Gaider and Bioware, for taking a chance that changed both Star Wars and the trajectory of video games to be more inclusive.