‘My blood was boiling but I was still silent,’ the 77-year-old actor and activist recalls what propelled him to become a vocal proponent of gay rights in 2005
LGBT people in Japan need to fight for their own rights and they need to be a bit angry, George Takei said during his visit to Japan this week.
The California-born actor, who is of Japanese ancestry, recounted his own experiences as having felt both courage and anger when he publicly came out as gay and joined the equal rights movement for sexual minorities in the US.
Best known for his role as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu in the television series ‘Star Trek,’ the 77-year-old is also a prominent gay and civil rights activist.
On a speaking tour to Japan and Korea organized by the US Department of State this week, Takei said he has noticed a growing LGBT movement in Japan and that LGBT people in Japan need to be a bit angry to fight for their own rights and make their society more equal, the Associated Press reported.
Takei was the guest of honor at a reception hosted by US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy and was attended by about 160 people, including Japan’s first lady, Akie Abe, who wore a rainbow LGBT pride pin. Abe became the first Japanese first lady this year to participate in a LGBT march.
He said that he was silent for decades due to fear of hurting his acting career which began in Hollywood in the late 1950s, at a time when Asians were rarely cast in American television shows and movies.
At the reception, Takei compared future society with a miniature Starship Enterprise given to him by Kennedy. He said that it is the perfect description to the occasion they were celebrating, ‘That is our Utopian future. This Enterprise is a metaphor of Starship Earth with all of its diversity – not only diversity of race and culture and history but also the unseen diversity of orientation, all coming together working in concert for a better future. And that is what we are doing here tonight.’
In an interview with The Korea Times this week, Takei shared that he has been politically active, having marched with Martin Luther King Jr during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and had also protested against the Vietnam War.
The actor however remained tight-lipped about his sexuality although he was out to his closest friends.
‘The irony is, at the same time I have been an activist in the political arena… I was silent on the issue that was closest to me,’ Takei told the Times.
It was only when then-California Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in 2005 that propelled Takei to speak up.
‘My blood was boiling but I was still silent,’ Takei said.
‘That night, [my husband] Brad and I were watching the late evening news and we saw young people pouring out on to Santa Monica Boulevard venting their anger and rage… I felt I needed to participate in that. To do that, my voice had to be authentic. So I spoke to the press for the first time and I blasted Schwarzenegger’s veto.’
Takei and his husband Brad Altman, who accompanied him on the trip, were among California’s first gay couples to obtain a marriage license when California legalized same-sex marriage in 2008.