When Patrick Linehan, the U.S. consul general in Osaka and Kobe, attends a black-tie dinner party, like others he takes his spouse: in his case his husband, Emerson Kanegusuke, 40.
Linehan, 60, has been in his post, under the administration of Barack Obama, the first U.S. president to support gay marriage, since August 2011.
The couple attend official events and meetings with prefectural governors, encouraging those who are discriminated against for their sexual orientation, including gays and those with gender identity disorder.
Last September, Linehan uploaded a video message on YouTube revealing that he is gay. He talked about his childhood experiences of being picked on because of his sexual orientation.
“It gets better if you give life a chance,” Linehan said in his message of hope to sexual minorities.
On the second day of his career as a diplomat, which began in 1984, his supervisor told him something he will never forget: “There is no room in the government for gays. If they find out, you will be fired.”
When his colleagues talked about their wives and children, he fell silent.
But Linehan’s encounter with Kanegusuke changed his life.
In summer 2002, when he was working at the U.S Embassy in Tokyo, he met his future husband, a second-generation Brazilian-Japanese, as he excitedly watched, with his face painted yellow and green, a World Cup soccer match broadcast live at a local bar. Linehan immediately fell in love with his smile.
Five years into their relationship the couple got married when Linehan was posted to Canada, where same-sex marriage is legally recognized.
Linehan recalls that falling in love with Kanegusuke gave him the incentive to come out.
A native of Massachusetts, Linehan has lived in Yokohama and Sapporo for his work and language studies, becoming along the way a big fan of Japanese sake and traditional “enka” songs. He celebrated his 60th birthday at Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto.