Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to appoint a new foreign service officer to act as a chief diplomat for the LGBT community overseas, both to strengthen consular support for LGBT American expatriates, and to advocate for LGBT rights overseas.
A spokeswoman for the State Department, Marie Harf, said the department is currently vetting openly gay candidates (no mention if trans individuals are in the running, or if bisexual individuals are being considered) according to a report from CBS in San Francisco. This would preempt, and indeed satisfy, legislation from Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey and California Rep. Alan Lowenthal which would have created a special LGBT rights envoy.
While there are currently openly gay diplomats (including my own consular official, Patrick Linehan, who is active in some of the same circles I am) from the United States, none specifically have been appointed for dealing with the LGBT community. James Hormel, an LGBT activist, was the first openly gay individual to represent the United States after he was appointed as Ambassador to Luxembourg by Bill Clinton in 1999.
The U.S. State Department has a long history of supporting LGBT rights.
In 2010, under then-Secretary Hillary Clinton, the department changed its gender marker policy in regards to transgender passport applicants. No longer would sex reassignment surgery be necessary, only a letter from a qualified physician indicating that the transgender individual was in the process of completing or had completed gender transition. I took advantage of this very change in policy, and had the extra task of explaining it to Japanese authorities so that Japan would recognise the change. Starting in August 2013, the State Department treated same-sex visa applications just like different-sex visa applications as soon as SCOTUS struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. And in 2014, Secretary Kerry issued a statement lambasting Uganda's anti-gay laws and aided LGBT groups in Eastern Europe to discourage media outlets in those countries from engaging in homophobic and transphobic reporting.
In my personal experiences an expatriate American, I have found consular officials in Japan to be in tune with what the State Department website reads about traveling or residing abroad as an LGBT+ U.S. national:
If you experience difficulties, don't be afraid to contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Seriously, there are consular officers available 24/7 at every embassy who provide emergency assistance to Americans. It's what we do. We won't pass judgment on you, and we will protect your privacy.
They were professional, friendly, cheerful, and discreet. You go, State Department.
Image via AP.