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The Consul General

Ehime Shimbun: Changes in American Society Regarding Sexual Minorities

February 9, 2013 - p. 23

U.S. Consul General for Osaka-Kobe Patrick Linehan, 60, who is gay, recently gave a speech at COMS (6-chome, Sanbancho, Matsuyama City). He talked about his early life and his present life with Japanese-Brazilian Emerson Kanegusuku, 40, whom he married in Canada in 2007 in a same-sex ceremony. He said that what is important for the realization of an equal society is “to change people’s thinking.” Here’s a report in two parts on his speech and the ensuing Q&A session.

I am gay. Emerson is my husband. He is also gay. We have worked as a couple for one year now at the Osaka-Kobe Consulate General. Emerson and I met in Tokyo ten years ago. We have lived together in Japan, Brazil, Canada, and South Korea.

Actually, I have an identical twin brother. We went to the same high school, college, and graduate school. We were together all the time until we were 25 years old. I have been aware that I am gay since I was young, but my brother does not think he is not gay. Why? For me, the question “why” is not important. Both my brother and I do not really know why I am gay and he is not.

I was born in 1953. During those times, there were no well-known people who came out and declared they were gay, and gay youth did not have any role models at all. I first came to realize that I might be gay when I felt that I had no role model.

At that time, homosexual relationships were illegal. That is why it was very difficult to come out then. The message from society and the government had always been “homosexuality is bad.” One could not find gay individuals, and they were not supposed to exist. The reality 50 years ago was that gay people were “invisible,” “illegal,” and “sick.” Since then, however, the thinking has changed at various levels. First, it was at the personal level. I came to understand my own feelings.

Society has also changed. For example, Harvey Milk was the first politician who declared that he was gay. He became a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. The first politician to come out at the national level was Congressman Barney Frank from my home state of Massachusetts. There were an increasing number of politicians who also came out.

Famous athletes, Hollywood stars, singers, and others also followed suit. The thinking on gay people changed. Gay characters were gradually featured on TV programs in the 1970s-1980s. From the 1970s to the 1990s, society came to understand gay people better.

The most important event in terms of human rights was probably the Stonewall Incident in 1969. The police attacked gay people at the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Before that, gay people did nothing and simply ran away when they were bullied by the police. However, they resisted for the first time during this incident.

After that event, the mentality about gay people changed. It is no longer illegal for us to assemble. We have human rights. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of assembly. Why would it be illegal for homosexuals, if it is allowed for other U.S. citizens?

At the government level, same-sex marriage began in Massachusetts in 2004. There are ten states now which allow same-sex marriage. While this is an improvement from the past, we are still not satisfied. There is no full equality, and same-sex marriage is not allowed in certain states. While I believe that equal human rights can be realized throughout America, it will probably take a little more time.

Part 2 - Ehime Shimbun: February 10, 2013 - p. 20

Patrick Linehan, 60, U.S. Consul General for Osaka-Kobe, who has made public his same-sex marriage with Japanese-Brazilian Emerson Kanegusuku, 40, replied to questions from citizens of Matsuyama City following his speech on changes in American society regarding sexual minorities.

Q: Why did you marry in Canada?

Linehan: I was working in Canada then. We met in 2002. In the U.S., Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004, so I proposed to Emerson. However, we were living in Brazil at that time, and same-sex marriage was not possible. The first opportunity came in Canada in 2007.

Q: At that time, same-sex marriage was already recognized in the U.S.

Linehan: In the case of Massachusetts, only same-sex marriage between U.S. citizens was recognized at that time, but in Canada, anybody could do so.

Q: Is a same-sex marriage performed in Canada also recognized in the U.S.?

Linehan: It is recognized in states allowing same-sex marriage. Rules on marriage are different from state to state. It is very complicated.

Q: Tell us about your job.

Linehan: I became a Foreign Service officer in 1984. On my second day on the job, a security officer told me: “The U.S. government does not have any room for homosexuals. If you are homosexual, quit your job.”

It was really difficult to become a Foreign Service officer. The test was tough and a background check was required, but I passed. I thought such discrimination was a violation of the Constitution, but during the first ten years I could not come out and declare that I was gay.

Q: Have you ever felt awkward being a gay couple?

Linehan: Practically never in America today. When I first came to Japan 25 years ago, a Japanese person told me that there were no gay people in this country. Japan has also changed a lot.

We attend various functions as the Consul General and his spouse. Emerson is the honorary chair of the Japan America Women of Kansai (JAWK) because since the society was founded in 1977 by the wife of the consul general at that time, the CG’s spouse has traditionally been the honorary chair. It is quite interesting that JAWK members were very happy when they learned that Emerson was my partner. They welcomed him as the honorary chairperson.

The Japanese people have always welcomed Emerson and me as a couple wherever we have gone. Although some people are sometimes surprised, most young people and women accept us. Some older men find it difficult to understand. They look puzzled and ask: “You mean business partner?” When I say: “He is my husband,” they ask: “Who is the wife?” My answer is: “Since ours is a same-sex marriage, we are both husbands.” Sometimes, it takes a while for people to understand, but we have never been discriminated against in Japan.

Q: In Japan, many men work outside while women take care of housework. What is the division of labor like between the two of you?

Linehan: We split the work 50-50. I am a morning person while Emerson is a night person. The two of us together make us the perfect couple. We both have likes and dislikes. He cooks well. I am not interested in cooking, but I like eating very much. I am better at cleaning and other stuff.

Q: What do you think can be done to make Japanese society friendlier to sexual minorities?

Linehan: Social change comes gradually and takes time. Unlike the U.S. and other countries, there is no religion-based discrimination or hatred of sexual minorities in Japan. However, there is insufficient knowledge and awareness. The most difficult thing is to change people’s thinking. Sexual minorities who are able to should come out, for one thing.