Kenji Yoshino: How has being gay shaped your worldview?
Kenji Yoshino is the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the NYU School of Law. Prior to moving to NYU, he was the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor of Law and Deputy Dean of Intellectual Life at Yale Law School, where he taught from 1998 to 2008. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, took a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, and earned his law degree at Yale Law School. A specialist in constitutional law, antidiscrimination law, and law and literature, Yoshino has published in major academic journals such as the Columbia Law Review, the Stanford Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal. He has also written extensively in other popular venues, such as The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, Washington Journal, and The Tavis Smiley Show.
He is the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights (2006) and A Thousand Times More Fair: What Shakespeare's Plays Teach Us About Justice (2011).
Question: How has being gay shaped your worldview?
Kenji Yoshino: Well I think very similarly in the sense of it’s definitely put me on the American side of the Japanese-American divide in the sense that America is obviously light years ahead of Japan in terms of where we are in gay rights. But I think more deeply it’s given me a profound sense of how important it is to live in a society that honors difference and is able to see difference as a strength rather than as a weakness. One of the things that has always troubled me and continues to trouble me about Japan is how difficult it is to be different in any way whatsoever there. And that can range from being a woman; being of a different race; being of a different nationality even within the same race, if you look at the treatment of Koreans in Japan; obviously being gay. But even to very, very . . . things that we would think of as being completely within the discretion of the individual, sort of very personal things like hairstyle or dress. And if you are outside of the box in any way, you very quickly get driven back into line. The Japanese proverb is, “The protruding nail gets pummeled.” And I think that one of the things that I love about this country and really our constitutional tradition is that you can be quite different before you get pushed back into line in that way.
Is gay an identity? Yoshino believes it is.
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