U.S. Embassy Honors LGBT Pride

June 11 - In a reception held at his residence on June 4, Ambassador John V. Roos recognized the achievements of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights movement in the United States, Japan and around the world.

Consul General Patrick Linehan, International Woman of Courage Award nominee Aya Kamikawa, and Ambassador Roos

Ambassador Roos noted that despite progress in recent years, there is still a long way to go toward equality. President Obama has declared June to be LGBT Pride Month in the United States, and Ambassador Roos referenced the President's belief that "The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States' commitment to promoting human rights." The Ambassador also discussed Secretary Clinton's landmark speech on LGBT rights for International Human Rights Day in Geneva.

Around 150 people joined the Ambassador in celebrating LGBT Pride and recognizing the efforts of the equal rights movement. The guests included Diet members, representatives of LGBT rights and other human rights organizations, business leaders, government officials, religious leaders, academics, students and artists. The reception was one of numerous events held by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and the U.S. Consulate General in Osaka-Kobe to observe LGBT Pride Month. Other events included a study session with Diet members, a roundtable with LGBT rights activists, and media outreach. The Embassy also sponsored a speaker to speak to youth about the global campaign for equal rights.

During the reception, Ambassador Roos gave Setagaya Ward Assembly Member Aya Kamikawa a certificate recognizing her nomination for the Secretary of State's Women of Courage Award. For many years, in order to hide her transgender identity, Ms. Kamikawa turned down opportunities to advance professionally and refused to file for social and employment benefits. She considered accepting this life but came to the conclusion that a life in hiding was no way to live. She quit her job and began telling her story not just to her friends and family, but at the top of her voice, standing outside of train stations in Setagaya Ward and campaigning for a spot on the Ward Assembly. Elected, and since then twice re-elected, Ms. Kamikawa has used her position to push for better protections for LGBT youth. She has also helped to develop a sexual minority awareness curriculum for Setagaya schools and has advocated on the national level for an improved legal framework for transgender persons. The Embassy nominated Ms. Kamikawa for the global award earlier this year.

Osaka-Kobe Consul General Patrick Linehan spoke about the positive changes within the State Department since he became a Foreign Service Officer in 1984, when being gay was considered a security risk. "It made me feel unwelcome. But it but never made me want to give up and leave. I knew I had earned my place in our diplomatic service, and I was determined not to be removed by bigotry. So I kept my head down, and I kept quiet for many years, but I remained true to myself and to my identity." Today, he said, the State Department provides LGBT officers and their families the same respect and rights as all of their colleagues in the diplomatic service.