Make Orlando Victim Drew Leinonen the First LGBT 'Star Wars' Movie Character

01/07/2016 16:16 | Updated 01 July 2016

Dear Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm), Bob Iger (CEO of The Walt Disney Company), and all of those behind the Star Wars films:

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.

To be honest, we were actually pretty unbearable to be around when we got to talking about that galaxy far, far away.

I'm writing this letter to request that Drew's passing be honored by using him as inspiration for the first-ever LGBT Star Wars character to appear in a movie. How this is done - using his likeness, running his name through one of those Star Wars Name Generators, etc. - is totally up to you. You are all masters of your craft, so I know that whatever you come up with will be marvelous. This character will not only honor Drew but all of the other victims at Pulse in Orlando, including his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero, and every LGBT person to ever lose their life to hate.

Star Wars has never had a gay character appear on screen before, 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.

My favorite Star Wars memory with Drew was this past March when he came to visit me in LA. When I moved away from Orlando two years ago, Drew was the most excited for me that I got a new job and he was the first person to come visit me across the country. Obviously there's a lot of sights to see in LA, but the number one thing on our To Do List was to go see The Force Awakens together. To anyone questioning Drew's loyalty to Star Wars, know that he bought a Force Awakens popcorn tin to commemorate the occasion - but he didn't want it to get dirty so he didn't even put any popcorn in it.

While Star Wars is a sci-fi fantasy world with bizarre aliens and hulking monsters, it still features characters just like us. After A New Hope, steps were taken to expand and diversify the cast, giving us the smooth-talking Lando Calrissian and Rebel pilots played by people of color. The tradition of making Star Wars more inclusive continued with the casting of Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn, the main protagonists of The Force Awakens. It's my hope that Star Wars will take another step forward by introducing their first-ever LGBT character in a movie.

This is a universe with Wookies, Jawas, and Hutts, so why can't there be a visible LGBT character on screen? 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.

Drew was a beacon of positivity in Orlando, a force that brought people together. He loved Star Wars, yes, but he also loved his friends and his family, and he was warm and welcoming to everyone he ever met. He was obsessed with tech and gadgets, so it won't surprise you to hear his favorite characters were Darth Vader, General Grevious, and pretty much every droid. Simply put, Drew was a remarkable human being, and I can't think of a more perfect tribute to his legacy than this. Nothing would make him happier than for all the little gay nerds out there to have their own Star Wars character to look up to.

Thank you,

Joshua Yehl

To sign Joshua's petition, click here