Out, Loud, and Proud in Japan - CG Patrick J. Linehan

The Winter 2015 issue of Public Diplomacy Magazine will explore Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender (LGBT) and gender issues in the field of public diplomacy. 

Below is an advance excerpt from "Out, Loud, and Proud in Japan: An Interview with Patrick J. Linehan, U.S. Consul General in Osaka," conducted by Public Diplomacy Magazine Editor-in-Chief Shannon Haugh and incoming Editor-in-Chief Jocelyn Coffin for Public Diplomacy Magazine's 12th issue, "The Power of Non-State Actors." To read the interview in its entirety as well as the other articles in this issue later this month, please visit the magazine's website here.

Begin excerpt:

Throughout his life and career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Linehan has witnessed the LGBT movement increase in momentum, reach, and scale. Since joining the U.S. Foreign Service in 1984, he has been posted in Finland, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, and Canada. Linehan lives in Osaka, Japan with his husband, Emerson Kanegusuke. In the fall, Linehan will be joining USC as the U.S. Public Diplomat in Residence at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy.

Public Diplomacy Magazine: Can you speak about the LGBT movement and how it has progressed over the years?

Patrick Linehan: Start with my age. I am 61 years old, so I was born in 1953. The year I was born, the U.S. government fired 5,000 American citizens from government service because they were gay. That phenomenon was called the “Lavender Scare”...In the 1950s, when I was born, nobody was out. By the time I was graduating from high school in 1970, the time I started to come out myself, the time I was figuring myself out, there were no role models out there. There were no gay heroes. There was almost no public discussion and the [1969] Stonewall uprising really changed all of that. All of a sudden, it put it on the map. From Stonewall, we start to develop language: the use of the word gay, gay rights, the idea of a gay movement. The “LGBT” term comes later, but the whole concept of gay rights really stems from Stonewall…

Within one year from the Stonewall uprising, there were pride parades in many major American cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, but we did not have our first openly gay elected public figures until Harvey Milk in 1977. And then of course he was murdered in 1978, so this demonstrated how dangerous being an openly gay public figure could be. The advice Harvey gave is still the best advice out there. He told gay people, “Be out! You’ve got to come out. You got to stand up. You have to own it. If you are gay you have to say so.” He wasn’t into outing other people, but he was into encouraging other people to be themselves. After Harvey, it took almost another ten years for things to jump to the national stage. In the mid-1980s, we get the first openly gay member of Congress, Barney Frank. He wasn’t out when he first ran, but he was out by his second term. He continued to serve with dignity and honor for almost 30 years in the U.S. Congress. The movement gradually picked up steam as we got people who could speak up for it…

The next major event that led to a movement was the advent of AIDS. It gave gay people visibility in a negative way, but it also led to organized action by gay people in their own interest and defense. The next benchmark was when Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage in 2004...That led to a huge backlash—we had the Federal laws like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). It took us years to get rid of DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In June 2013, less than a year ago, the Supreme Court’s decision on Edie Windsor vs. the U.S. to end DOMA was huge…We went from just lonely Massachusetts in 2004 to now about 17 states that either have same-sex marriage, marriage equality, or at least recognize other states’ marriage equality. This has all come about through a combination of political actors, court decisions, and popular movements. But really what it all comes down to is what Harvey was talking about many years ago. The most important factor is gay people themselves—owning their own identity, being proud and standing up, and fighting for rights.  Visibility is crucial.   

PDM: Would you say that the LGBT movement has a public diplomacy strategy?

PL: Absolutely. I think the best example of this is the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Their very organized campaigns have been extremely effective. Of course, they could not mount the campaigns without real cases. It took the perfect case, like Edie Windsor who faced tax issues when her longtime partner and then wife Thea died. She was being taxed as if her partner, her wife, was a total stranger. It took having that ideal case to go through the court system to make that legal point. HRC helped her amplify that issue through their own network. HRC is doing things to community-build and raise awareness within the community, but at the same time, reaching out to dispel myths, and to tell truths, and to make the case. Because of groups like HRC, we have seen terminology and language use change from “gay marriage” to a more accurate or understandable term: “marriage equality.” Organized groups like HRC were able to educate the public about what the issues really were. They were also able to raise money. They were able to fight political candidates [who are] against equal rights, and support candidates who are for equal rights. There are many people using sophisticated tactics to promote our movement. 


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