The Master of Public Diplomacy program at USC, in collaboration with the School of International Relations, coordinated the symposium “On the Right Side of History: Public Diplomacy & LGBT Rights Today.”The one-day event was organized by the Jocelyn Coffin, editor in chief of Public Diplomacy Magazine, Maria Portela, marketing editor of the magazine and Nicholas Cull, professor of public diplomacy and director of the master’s program in public diplomacy. The event was the magazine’s first-ever symposium at USC, centering on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and serves as a preamble to the Winter 2015 issue of Public Diplomacy Magazine.
The event met the magazine’s mission as stated on its website: to provide a common forum for the views of both scholars and practitioners from around the globe, in order to explore key concepts in the study and practice of public diplomacy.
A brainstorming session resulted in the creation of the event.
Speeches at the event covered a wide variety of LGBT political concerns, ranging from historical beliefs to a session on a gay diplomat’s experiences abroad. The keynote speaker was David Huebner, former United States Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
PD Magazine includes different topics, case studies and interviews in each issue. Though the winter edition of 2014 was on gastrodiplomacy, and the summer 2014 issue on non-state actors, the next issue planned will cover topics surrounding LGBT rights. Focused not only on the momentous progress of the LGBT movement, but also the challenges for public diplomacy efforts in environments that are hostile to LGBT individuals, the goal of this issue is to provide a forum for meaningful discussion of LGBT rights.
At the event, Laura Belmonte, department head and professor of history at Oklahoma State University, highlighted LGBT issues in history, and the steps taken to solve them. James Pamment, assistant professor of media and communication studies at Karlstad University, spoke about the need to improve conditions for the LGBT community and consider LGBT as a research topic.
Former Consul General of the U.S. Consulate General at Osaka-Japan Patrick Linehan, shared his personal experiences and struggles as a gay man in the diplomatic world. The session was titled ‘The Life of a Gay Diplomat.’ He started his speech by reading an excerpt from a book he and his husband wrote that depicted their life as a gay diplomatic couple abroad, and gave valuable insight into how the LGBT community was treated in Japan in the late ’80s.
“Different countries hated my husband and me for several reasons, but we had to fight for our own rights,” Linehan said during at the event.
Linehan emphasized that the situation has improved over the years, but there were issues and problems still happening in the early 2000s. He proposed a mantra: “Be visible.”
“Be visible, and realize the power of visibility and believing in yourself,” Linehan said.