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Congressman Mark Takano


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And I encourage you to continue the conversation in your own life and with your own community welcomed agree. Cami here this week. We've got a chat with congressman Mark Takano, Mark as well. First of all our first elected official on the show. I was pretty excited about that. And he is currently serving in congress. He's a represents. Riverside County here in California. He is also openly gay and Japanese-American which I say because he's the first ever openly gay person of Asian descent in in congress. I think it is this this conversation super interesting. We talk about his background his family his grandparents were intern in. Interment camps in California during World War Two. And Mark has a pretty interesting story at the end of the episode about when he ran for congress back in the nineties and anyway, just listen to the whole episode, really interesting. And hey, if you have if there is a queer elected official that you know of tell them to come on our show, as I think, this is a really cool next place for us to go looking at you, Kansas. All right. Have a great day. Enjoy the show. Beland still. No, no, no careless on the show. I always have folks, I always have guessed introduce themselves. Was you introduce yourself? So my name is Mark Takano. I am a United States Representative or people more common. The. A United States Representative as a congressman or congress person, and I represent the forty first district of California, which is not far from the studio. In actual distance. But drive time on. No justed freeways. It can vary anywhere from like an hour and fifteen minutes to like two or three hours. I my my district is. Basically, Riverside County western Riverside County, the city of riverside, Moreno valley of Paris, spelled P E R. I S not P A R. I S it's so it's Paris and Rupa valley and Paris's one of those is maybe the I can't remember which is smaller Pariser valley. But Paris's where they go parachuting. They will small airport over there were people parachute. There's a parachuting school and all that. So I grew up under beside for folks that are listening. They don't know like riverside to L A which direction is that that's east of here. It's if you think of that, Los Angeles riverside and Palm Springs are all sort of on the same, you know, latitude, right? If you drive in toward Palm Springs dependent which highway your taking your drive thru or side and. Riverside just to be mainly rural agricultural now. It's I would say urbanizing it's probably gone beyond suburban that's kind of more of an urban area. It's about a three hundred and fifty thousand person city and. In many states in the midwest. That's a that's a pretty big city. So don't you think? So. So I grew up there was born raise there and now represent that are in in in congress. And when you grew up that it was agricultural, what's the what is the main industry? They're now. Well, the maintenance street is there's not really a dominant industry. You know, we have a little bit aerospace. We have a lot of small manufacturers. We have three universities in community college. So there's there's a lot of government services in the area. The it's history is rooted in citrus. It was it was known as the place where the best naval oranges came from because the soil and the climate and all the intersections of the elements of what makes what makes great orange. They're still orange groves. They're and the city is very nostalgic and proud of that heritage of the riverside Moina valley used to be mostly our cultural and enduring the eighties. There was a big. A building. Boom. If there's, you know, it's it's very it's it's very residential at it. It is the source of a lot of affordable housing a four while riverside in the during the odds the tooth out early two thousands. It was attracting a lot of millennials because of that affordable housing, and it was one of the fastest one of the top five cities for attracting millennials. So it's it's a youthful district. I've got a university of California their universe, California riverside. It was originally founded as a citrus research station. I didn't know that. Yeah. Can I ask you follow up question on the on the citrus side of things in agricultural? How affected has riverside. Ben by the obviously this winter this winter is really different. We're having some role weird climate change, you weather right now. But. How did as riverside Ben in the last couple of years by the drought that we've been experiencing in California? Well, we've we've had the know strong concern by the water district's I have. You know to water district's that run through my district that are responsible for sourcing the water. There is a I think a maybe one or two private of water companies. But by and large the water is supplied by western municipal water district in eastern Minnesota district. And they were they come to my office, yearly sometimes twice-yearly they were discussing, you know, they're very very interested in making sure that governor Brown's intention to stabilize the water supply, and it was a controversy over these two tunnels that he wanted to build and governor Newsom as wanting to reduce it to one tunnel. So there's there's concern here in southern California in general were two thirds of the population lives that you know, are we going to have a stable water supply. So the drought was very concerning onto. All of us. No outs concern to all of them. We're no different than other southern California peacefully bringing it up because I thinking about the types of issues, you may have been dealing with in the last couple years that was one that came to mind as I bet this is something that's passed through his office. But also, you know, just as like a general scope, what are some of the other things that you've been really focusing on or hearing a lot about from constituents. Well. Right. This moment. My constituents are very very affected by President Trump's rhetoric about immigrants how each race minorities. How he talks about women how talks about LGBT Q people. I think anybody who thinks solves is vulnerable minority has I think very concerned about the climate that this president has created through his rhetoric through his policies in. I've got in the city of Paris and valley a lot of actually all my district or some know a large Latino immigrant population. It's a very diverse district. But you know, Latinos are predominantly, you know, the largest minority and. I was just out of town hall last night in the city of Paris, and one of the teachers who is not a Latino, you know, it was nearly interiors. And she said, you know, the families that my students come from they worked so hard, and I just noticed a change in that apparently very scared to come with their kids because to bring their kids to school. We don't see the parents hanging around anymore because they're concerned that they're going to be picked up by ice and that sort of things happened. And so that sort of fear, you know, it's it's it's a emotional thinking about my constituents were affected by of these policies. And so I talked to open my presentation. The town hall was mostly question to answer. But I opened up with you know, you know. The government shutdown talked about the government shutdown, and you know, it's connection to President Trump's of determination to have his wall that he promised in his campaign and the congress didn't accommodate them. And he was mad and so he sat down the government. And you know that I'm going to vote next week on a resolution of disapproval on his national emergency. And no I start off by talking about that. And. So the other thing is, you know, my my district actually Riverside County, which has three congressional districts has the eighth largest population of veterans in the country. And so when I first got to congress in twenty thirteen actually selecting twenty twelve but we take office in twenty thirteen you know, we all we all vie the C which committees, we can get and we members usually choose committees that relate to their interests and there and the needs of their district isos, the veterans committee, and by dint of a lot of different factors. I'm now the chairman of that committee. Follow up questions on on all of the stops. Stop. So you can. And ask you a couple of things. This is an interview. I have like just everything you've said is. Is me my mind going to bunch of different places. You know, of course. Yeah. I I live here in L A. Of course, I see that folks in my community are talking about the need to work to make folks who have immigrated here feel safe because those are our neighbors like our neighbors. But I also know a little bit about in the reading I did about your specific background. I don't want to like make a direct connection, but I can imagine. You're extremely passionate about this issue. Because I know that they're that your grandparents. Are correct me if I'm wrong, they were your they were from California here out of my four grandparents they're all POWs, they're all they have all passed away now. But one of them wasn't immigrant three of them were born in this country. And my father's father was the immigrant, and he he he he arrived in America in the Puerto Tacoma, Washington, and my mother's parents. I'm not sure where they were born they were born here. They were born they were born born in California. But they they were before the World War Two were in the San Gabriel valley, and they were leasing land farming. But all, but my parents, my mother and father and all my grandparents they were in interment camps. They were removed from their homes. They could only take what they could carry. There's a very dramatic story about my my paternal grandfather who has you know, he came here in nineteen sixteen. I'm not really clear what it did to get by. But he did what immigrants do scraped enough money together. It wasn't until nineteen thirty seven thirty eight that he married. My grandmother who is twenty years younger. She was American born and many Americans are kind of. Surprised to know this. But birthright citizenship was not stable for women, regardless of race prior to like nineteen twenty two times that I know it's weird the same. We're the same generation American. Well, all of my grandparents were born here. But like barely kind of thing. And and I'm Italian. Okay. So it turns out that like in case we in case we ever need. And it seems like sometimes we do some further information about how maybe different some people are treated differently. My my grandparents who were telling were not placed in internment camps during World War Two and your grandparents who are his worse. So it didn't happen to the entire population of Italian immigrants here, it did happen to sometimes and actually. My think it's pretty sure on some Italians and German German immigrants were picked up actually didn't know that somewhere. And they actually were turned. In a place called tuna tuna canyon, which is here in LA county someplace there was a there was a detention center for that's not a well known story. Now, definitely but the Japanese immigrants and their children. This was what was putting the forest 'bout. This whole episode. A history was that it wasn't based on anything that they had done was based on the color of their skin based on the shape of their eyes. And they were wholesale ordered to relocate from these exclusion zones on the west coast and to these interment camps. There were no trials. There are no convictions. Believe it or not even the director of the FBI. Jacob Hoover who has its own sort of LGBTQ sharing. But I I was I was ready to demonize them when I had to give a speech on the day that FBI director Comey was actually going to result was fired. I after I finished the speech, but I looked up on my iphone and Wikipedia. And it turns out Jake Hoover actually advised against and turning Japanese Americans even think it was warranted. The attorney general Francis Biddle than was warranted. And here's how hers how your question sort of relates to what we're experiencing now. There was a Lieutenant. General DeWitt who falsified information or actually just lied and the government lied about how the danger that Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans posed, and that was what was provided to the supreme court in these in these you know, important cases that core Matsu or rebel sheet. The the men that challenged the interment order so on the pretext of a national emergency under national security, the court this record the furred to know, the political branches the president there was a failure of political leadership in the congress. Nobody really stood up for any kind of constitutional principles to protect equal rights of citizens in this case Japanese American citizens. But the, but the government, basically, you know, was lied and. You know, a hundred and twenty thousand immigrants and Japanese Americans were were imprisoned unjustly. At that echoes in what I see happening at the border. The president is. Wrongly saying of falsely saying that women and children that are fleeing violence and in northern triangle countries of Central America pose a threat to our country, and that's just wrong. He's characterizing all immigrants, especially from a lot of America. As being ill. A drug smugglers are rapists, or and you know, when all this link to violent crime like the everybody is a gang member. That's coming MS thirteen. They're gay men with its coming over. But that's also going to be gainfully employed in the job that you just had like that. It's it's even the sentence doesn't make sense that it's where everything is. It's all it's all things at once. It's it's MS MS thirteen. Alright. You know, it's like. It's like MS thirteen but they're all going to take the jobs that during your town. When when in fact, when in fact, the cry our own his own crime statistics, tell us that by large immigrants are less likely. It's gonna clams my experience of immigrants is that there's so trying to be careful not to have any trouble with the law. That's why they're they're far less likely to try and attract any law enforcement attention. So they're they're even more think trying to walk, you know, that line and. And it's such an unfair thing is still like wartime hysteria in nineteen forty one. The just hyperventilating of the process, they call it. The, you know, the Hearst newspaper chains created an atmosphere of just hysteria. And you know, politicians, you know, creative, you know, through their through their failure to stand up and look at facts. Brought us to this. Brought brought a spot our country that point there was one governor of Colorado. Ralph Carr who said this was wrong, and he lost his election. I like to point out that there are people who did that. There were there were private universities like religious universities that looked to relocate students to other universities in the midwest. So there was a little bit of that resistance going on. So those are the real heroes of the Republic, you know, at the time the Stanton other sort of stand up to all this. So. I'd love to ask you also. I mean, maybe this is maybe this isn't something that comes into your mind. I don't know. But having that history in your family. And then going into government. Does it ever feel weird to you to work for the same government that did that? Or do you feel like well, my presence here is is to stand in the way of that happening in the future or or like not now? But you know, the the revolt weird to me there were felt weird to me. It's something that I thought I want that I wanted to do ever since I was a little kid believe it or not. It's I had a great fourth grade teacher. Actually, it was a fifth grade teacher. Mrs Steele, just so was rather I wouldn't want to say the word stern. But she was like she taught me everything and no about grammar. Now. She really sure what she didn't beat it into me. But I for whatever reason she just gave me, you know, English grammar, you know, and. She has signed me a a report to do on Franklin Delano Roosevelt who ironically was the guy that signed executive order. I think that was a real rose about it's the biggest STAN on Roosevelt's record as a president. But I still admire him for the new deal the things he did to his the leadership that he exhibited otherwise. But there were you know, he he was far from perfect. He he made a huge mistake on on the internment of Japanese Americans. But that got me started. And then I had another teacher in sixth grade, Mr Stevens who was. Johanna had this beard, and he he was like this is like nineteen sixty eight seventy around there. And he was. He was very against the Vietnam war. He was he was one of those teachers that you know, was very passionate. And but I was smart kid. And he he liked talking to me about this stuff. And and and that after his sixth grade. I was a strange kid. I I sat in my grandfather's living room on his black and white look at it as black and white television looking at the public television stations gavel-to-gavel proceedings of the impeachment hearings with Peter. Oh, and I was struck by this. By the opening five minutes speech of Barbara Jordan from from Texas. We later we related to find out that she was a lesbian. But but we didn't know at the time. I might have been some vibe going on that I wasn't aware. Like that specific voice and everything. That's what it's like I kind of want to imitate or for a while. And I would like. The constitution. Yeah. Fair. Listen to Barbara, Jordan. Anyway. Yes. Thank you gentlemen, for a very warm reception. It was one hundred and forty four years ago. That members of the Democratic Party. I met in convention to select a presidential candidate versus of faith in the constitution. But what what struck me about her story was that. She said, it's it's amazing that I'm here. Right that right. That my forebear, you know, stop the legacy of slavery, and how the constitution through amendment and changes and all led to her being there as an inquisitor, and I just love the whole thing watching the whole process unfold and all the other I I remember the names of some I serve with a guy named Sarbanes whose father was a member of that committee. You know, so. The irony was that I was watching all of this with my grandfather who was smoking his pipe. He was a gardener. Who I don't know if he understood much of it, and he didn't stand. He could he could understand that all the votes seem to be kind of cooked that you know, like while you're while you're so interested in this, whatever. So I I long had an interest in in this sort of thing in in government and politics knights me try and speed this up a little bit. So I made a plan to go to an Ivy league school. I went to Harvard. I've heard of it have you. The harbor for undergrad other grad, and my plan was to go to law school, and you know, make connections, and you know. You know? I was a teenager. I studied all these things. This is how you do it. And but Harvard was you know, exhausting and. Airline to Harvard hasty high Sierra. Did you find it exhausting? Yeah. It's intense because everybody there is pretty intense and. So this is the early eighties that I graduated in eighty three and a lot of my classmates had better figured out. And I did they were like on Wall Street. This is like the time of like, Alex peak heat no-shirt family ties and people going off the Wall Street, and like after finishing college and making just been a little bit of money yet like. It's like. That was like feeling we're you know, what I mean? My tastes is always to go into like politics and the aids crisis starts to happen. And the the mood of the country just gets really more uncomfortable. And I have a lot of self doubt about whether the calling that I was answering with my life was really the calling I out to keep answering that could I succeed in politics as a gay person. I want to ask the question on that. So did you. Did you when did you? When did you know that you were gay? I knew when I was actually a little boy. I mean, it kind of noticed it. But maybe that's a lot of. Grownup me sort of looking at what it was like to be five or six years old. I definitely noticed more and more as I was in like fifth and sixth grade as I was going through my physical changes by you know, through puberty. I just thought that the intense attractions, I felt toward you know, males was something I was going to pass I thought, oh, I was I would be I would get real. I would know. Cover myself with the thought that sharing relate to that. I also I actually thought I was like everybody that I know feels this way like all of my friends like kind of want their boyfriends to go home, but would really prefer their best friends. Yeah. That's how I felt so. But then if when you were in college were you well number one where you dating anybody. I started to see I started to see people. I never seem that they people for an extent along period of time. In fact, I. I grew disenchanted with the gay dating scene by the time. I was finishing college around age twenty four twenty five it was sort of convenient. Because it also was by nineteen eighty five. The aids crisis was coming to a boil. I I wouldn't say that the aids crisis made me stop dating I was also just sort of disenchanted with the possibility of having a relationship at that time of my life in as I look back on it. I think I think try and have a relationship as a gay person or lesbian was difficult. Just period. I'm amazed at people like any a Windsor. Who found that significant other that person or live and that she got married, and I mean, I think. Actually got the beater, and it was like I like eating. She was like she was a coder programmer. And she was like one of the first employee's of IBM, right, really IBM stuff. And it's like. To think about that see was brave enough in New York City to go to a place where she can meet, you know, other women I found that to be astound. And it's he was really kind of a determin activist. You know, it's so to to have that sense of self about who she was I was more by twenty-five feeling doubt about myself. And I thought well, maybe I'm not really gay. And maybe no I, and I this was not I had other friends who are gone to that the same thing. And and I think the the aids crisis kind of even reinforced that mood, you know, that's something that for all the guests that I've had on. I don't think anybody has said that yet. And I don't know that I've heard that anywhere else. The idea that because I think a lot about just the, you know, going to a bar or like or. Meeting up with someone or hooking up with somebody like that those things would be brave, but you're really right that, you know, having like a full on relationship with somebody. Because then then that person is you're sharing things with them. And that's like so many more options to sort of get get caught or to have to explain things to people around you like that is a really like continually brave thing. At this point in my life. I'm sort of in and out, I kind of rain, it's kind of an easy place to sort of be out, and whatever, but still the, you know, senior senior administrator who met with the gay straight. Not wasn't K straight was the LGBT. I've heard what we called. It was the group of gaze at and I was so scared to go that meeting at Harvard at first the with a. Actually, the president was going to in Ben shots who is like the the ringleader for this this drag acapella group called the Kenzi six have you heard of the. That sounds great. You gotta check. Okay. So you know, he was a. Dropout Harvard lawyer who decided he wanted to dress in drag and like sounds great actually sing and not lip sync. Right. So. An historic member the decisions that we're making early on. It's like while we're going to be going to be strategic like there was this point about being strategically life. Meaning to not be so out because you couldn't risk your career and the administrator sorted advising everybody. They're like, you know, that's kind of a realistic. You know, point of view think about the consequences of what you're doing. So that's kind of the mood in the early eighties. Right. That's why I'm so impressed with people like like e Windsor who is just like from a time in the fifties where she's rockstar hero like furniture. I mean, really truly. But what also when I think about somebody like you. There's also this the specificity of a lot of people are going to go into careers where like maybe you'll meet the person's partner spouse like especially the time, especially with the men world. It's like I'm like working so hard, and you don't. But if you're a politician. Mission as a part of it a little bit. So if I look back at the. I wanted to give you the sense of how I look at the challenges. I went through in the eighties. So there's always thing in my mind that I'm going to go in the public life. I go through a period of doubt in the eighties about whether I in fact, I get depressed, and there's a point at which I just, you know, just kind of bombing around the house eating a lot of pizza. Brother relatable, my brother's. Like, what's the whole family is worried about you like he didn't move on with your life that that's like, you know, I I actually have worked David Michener all. David who is this person? So there are each school him great. I mean, okay. You should actually have him on your show at because he he was like missed. He was a big organizer of like, the Vietnam war student protests. He was like, but then you know, he sort of comes out themselves and comes out out of that sort of sixties experience, and they've mixed their here on L A was trying to organize this. Great peace March of like five thousand people in this movable city to like protest Ronald Reagan's like escalation of arms building. And so I I was my first one of my first jobs out of school was to work for home. And that that program it was very quick sonic, and it didn't really match the moods of the eighties. David was more kind of a mindset of the late sixties? And it it that sort of organizing and building events this wasn't catching onto the. And so the whole thing kind of flopped. And that's what it added to my, you know. I didn't get a paycheck. And so this is kind of the things that twenty year olds do, you know? And so I said I I need to settle down figure mean I'm not going to go to law school. I want to be a teacher. But. Do I really want to be a teacher because it's not enough money? And all my friends are like Walter making lots of money, and is that the right thing to do. And so I'm caught up between, you know, the image that a Harvard graduate oughta be an what's a Harvard graduate doing teaching in school is that that doesn't seem right. And so have to work through all this nonsense my head, and so I finally committed myself to becoming a teacher I decided that living in LA was gonna be too expensive. So I moved back, and when my parents in riverside in of course, riverside's not necessarily the most easy place to meet other people. It's like, it's. So. Just by a certain twist of fate. I'm in situations where? Meeting people is not so easy. But you know, what it also? It also forced me to kind of focus on other things. Like, maybe folks under on on relationship was not. Necessarily. You know, my maturity at the time, I don't know that I would have that was a smart USA time. This week's episode of query is sponsored by packed apparel. What if influencing change was as easy is changing your underwear packed apparel? An eco conscious clothing company believes it can be packed make stylish super soft close out of one hundred percent organic cotton. I mean, no gross chemicals, which totally make my skin peels. Do not like those to my clothes and no excessive amounts of water needed to grow. The cotton packed uses Fairtrade, certified factories, and that means workers are treated with dignity and given additional wages to improve their lives and communities, but somehow packed still manages to price their clothing fairly that means fifteen bucks for teas or thirty dollars for leggings seven dollars for underwear. 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I didn't watch it like I only watched it once, but it really hit me hard. It's beautiful. Yeah. I started to cry. When I would I would play the soundtrack my car driving to work teaching and what I what I realized from that. What the movie kind of taught me about these two guys in Wyoming in the early sixties. And the tragedy of them of voice of not working. They couldn't manage this attraction that they had to each other. Was that all of my inability to connect wasn't completely my own fault. Right. That some of it was my fault. But but but there's other things going on that make it very difficult. And that these guys were doing the best they could have let they new and that's part of the tragedy. So your point for them. But you knew you knew it at at a bigger level. They just they were relatively simple guys. They didn't have the benefit of cavalry. And and self knowledge to be able to make this work. Right. So anyway, that's the that's what I was trying to say about the struggle of being a young person place. Oppose are still it's still hard right for people especially in parts of our country. Right. I think it's still hard for lots of folks. And I also think. That. What you're talking about the? I mean, you can go to you can go to like you said it wasn't so hard to be out at Harvard. But then the end of that story is like, but it was also. But also, I was when I said, I would probably be careful about when I was out people were like good idea. So just mean like, there's all there's all sorts of ways, which as people we are like taught to kind of round out, our edges and stay within certain parameters. And I think that that's really still true for a lot of folks. Even if you're like, you you come out and your thirteen or whenever age people are now, it still doesn't mean that that kids that you go to school with are fine with you wearing whatever close feel good on you. And that's a that's amazing to me now is to see. What what trans kids are doing or intersex kids are doing and just how how. That there since is that they're not. When they're not being erased or or there, there's. They're asserting themselves in school environments. And that I see is a huge issue across the country is that there is a greater awareness of trans people and trans youth and trans youth, and actually, you know, the whole LGBT. I mean that gay kid or that lesbian girl in some. You know, less urban part of the country where there's not as many there's not really LGBT services eligible, you know, that that they're aware of who they are. And they're showing up in classrooms with teachers who may not know or understand how to. You know? Include them into a classroom and so- principals and teachers, and you know communities, so what's what's what's what is what does I think brought that on this amazing change of of same sex marriage and how in all fifty states? Territories that that's the lawn and reality and. But for a young people. There's still a lot of institutional catch up to do. Right. Sure. I also I'm curious. I wonder because I'm not like a young person going to school with someone else. I, but I would I would hope that some of the feelings that are actually happening on the ground. Are you know that other kids who maybe don't fit perfectly into whatever is cooler? Whatever is expected have like some flexibility by being around kids who like you said asserting themselves more. I love thinking about that. Because I think we talked so much about like like focusing on bathrooms, and I love thinking about the kids who like are going to have a trans transportation in their class. And so like they don't have to wear thou at that. They hate you know, like, I just think about how strict everything was and tight end like exhausting in my youth. And I just I would hope for kids the opportunity to just be freed from some of that like we don't need to be so domineering. The well, Mississippi I've met recently with parents of trans kids. In a congressional office building Joe Kennedy, congressman Joe Kennedy, Massachusetts leads that trans task force. What's his task force of the of the LGBT equality caucus, which I'm a co chair of and he had invited in a number transparence through the human rights campaign. And it was very touching to see how much the transparent the parents of trans kids. Just so love their kids. And they're so. They shared their struggles. And their stories about the schools that you know, weren't as accommodating, and or that there may be, you know, maybe parents are have jobs in the military and are in the military, and that sometimes the the the department of defense schools could be good and sometimes having to move around that if they fear that they're going to be another place. And so this this trans military ban has had a I'm so I was literally I was gonna together based on your experience working with federal and your experience in the caucus. I was like, oh, those things are kind of in both interesting things to have in in one person's call sheet, or whatever, you know, because there is a huge overlap. There is in. So this transmitter rebound is has had a profound effect on. In ways that people won't think me what if you're what if you're a servicemember, and you have like a trans chuckled. How's that going to affect your your military service? So, you know, it's it's it. I think there's a great need for us as a country and as Americans to. Understand trans people as human beings. I was just at the thrive conference this. I think last weekend they HRC puts a puts a conference together of educators social workers on the final day the conference ahead. A a lot of LGBT you there, and I met an intersex teenager and. I was really impressed with the level of self possession that these young people had, but one of the things I said there is I said. First of all, I legitimate is the word Gaijin, I sent him the first openly gay person of color to serve in congress. That's kind of too long. So we can compress it down until I I'm the first Gaijin the ban congress, right? I mean congress, but openly gay person of like, that's a huge. That's huge huge huge. I'm not the only one what's even huger is that we have a lesbian native American. I know we have a caucus of two now. So it's like, that's awesome. Just mckenzie's. I know I got elected from riverside. But she went up means you got elected Kansas like. All right. You're. I say you're a badass is that what you're gonna say. I don't know. But that's. But that's very mindful because you know, speaker Pelosi is like. Should never come. No, saying the word, bats. So. Yes, she did. She's she teaches me good things. So anyway, going what I want to start with. I wanna go back. Just a second to the t-. You talking about the trains military Bannon. And and then like the work that you do with veterans because I do think. I don't think it's any mystery to probably us or anybody listening that that one. Very odd way about the way the band seems to be positioned like when spoken about it's almost it's like as if. Is if it's getting ahead of an issue, like we'll ban transpeople from serving in the military in the future seems to be the way it's being positioned or sold to the American people as if like transphobic haven't been serving in the military entire time as if there aren't currently enlisted transports. And also, I mean when I think about gay folks who or anybody that lived under don't ask don't tell. And that now is a veteran in the US and how we kind of have never squared like every Veterans Day. I was trying to talk about that on my social media like the number of folks that served in maybe were dishonorably discharged, or like, I don't even know if those people people can collect services like I don't know really if so squared. So so me talk about my what a call via twenty thirty as the chairman of the committee. I. Am tasking committee with coming up with a plan for how for? Establishing how is the VA going to meet the evermore diversifying veterans population? So more women are serving never more and more Richmond orders are serving in the military than ever. And you know, we overturned on s don't tell back in two thousand ten so it's been close to eight years eight nine years that people know that they can serve in the military openly. And so obviously, we're going to have people who identify as al-jahbi t eligible LGBT is at least, but people have served as as trans as well. So. I I wanna position the VA to I want to prepare the I want the VA to prepare itself for how you're going to serve these the ever more diverse veteran population. Don't assume it's going to be how was also as a look back on that. Look back issue. Mike, my colleague, Mark PO can of Wisconsin. I assume he's got to reintroduce this Bill. It's actually not a veterans bow. But it's a it's a it's a department. I think it's department defense Bill, but it is it is a a look back at people who might have been discharged, not just disarmingly, but who might have been say forced to take a medical discharge. So the skies. The real reason why were being discharged military and to to do this to restore their ability to get benefits to restore their ability to get a burial and a national cemetery to honor their service. Because so there there's a whole pre don't ask don't tell group of military, service members and veterans I'll I'm sure have a deep hurt inside them for they serve their country. But because of who they are mainly for who they are there. They were forced out of the military through a variety of different discharge procedures. And so my colleague Mark can was a hit has legislation trying to rectify that. And I that's that's that's kind of an under the radar thing. But it's. Yeah. I mean, the that matters to me a lot. And I also think it's very smart to to think about the way in which the VA would need to pivot. I mean, of course, that's true. Even just even if it was just on the issue of being more women like I think about well. I think about the way that that like mothers would need to be supported women who served in decided to enter motherhood, and it's like that's like that that is such a different world support. We just we just passed to our first veterans Bill that we passed. Was access to childcare. Hey, leave me. I'm a genius. -ticipant in the bills he pass. Well, it was I chose it. Or I Bill my colleague, Julia Brownlee who represents Ventura County, and she used to kind of I think she has part of Santa Monica. I'm not sure she introduced a Bill and I managed on the floor, and it has to what it does is it for women who are seeking. But actually, it's not just women. It's either it's either gender of servicemember veteran to go into a VA medical center our facility, and they're getting treatment, especially mental health treatment, orien- tents a medical treatment that you know. At certain VA sites. We already we've had a pilot program where they can get free childcare. So that's not an impediment to getting European de treated, right? So right. Oh, helpful. So there's no you don't have to choose between caring for your kid and your mental health. Highly highly popular Bill passed the house representatives by four hundred votes. I expect it to pass the Senate and be signed into law. But that's an example of but you can see that applies. It plies. I think more intensively to women, by the way, we've established the this year, we've established at the veterans affairs committee under my leadership a woman a woman's veterans task force. We have the first woman veterans serving on the committee. Elaine, Luria of Virginia amazing, which is a captain of like a surface aircraft carrier with a nuclear nuclear nuclear scientists some kind. I'm press of impressive career in the military in the navy. So you know, Julia Brownlee is going to his tasked with identifying the barriers for women veterans in terms of their access to healthcare accessing their educational benefits. What one woman veteran has told me in a recent interview is that a lot of women might have had some bad experiences in the military. Just the way people are socialized that they that they when they leave some of them. It's not so much something that they often celebrate or even one identify with. And so we're trying to understand why women are not. You know, seeking their benefit using at the same rate men are. Oh, wow. I mean that you know, that's how that's how I not to like take this completely much more serious direction. But I think I think that everything that you're saying there make sense when we talk about like the statistics that we know about like folks who are salted while they're serve and things like that. You know, then we think about well, why wouldn't somebody want to do center? And you're like, there's probably a million think. Well, look, well, some of them are. No, you're no, no. I should have said that. I believe the numbers thirty percent screen three percent of women's screen positive for military, sexual assault or trauma. It's a really it's a high number. It's a high number and that may even be low, right? Maybe low. You know, I have I have. Two women who live near my district who formed a group called veterans sisters, which is all about a network of women who suffered military sexual trauma, and you know, one barrier that we know is that, you know. Even congressional office. If they don't have a veteran, a male female veterans that they can talk to they may not want to talk to the male veteran about how how can you navigate the barriers to getting your benefits, you know, congressional office their job the job of congressional offices to advocate for you. Well, if we don't have an advocate on staff, you know, that they feel comfortable talking to or we can't refer them to a female. You know advocate. That's a problem. So. If we don't have a separate entrance for women to go to the VA hospital or via medical center, that's also an impediment. And so some of our medical centers do have a separate entrance. So that they're not having to necessarily walk in front of central. Series of issues to navigate and try to deal with. I mean, I'm glad that you've had like response in care and thought on everything that I've been so we're only we're this new congress. This is a change in this new congress. Right. And so we're we're stopping we're giving special staff to this task force being led by congresswoman, congresswoman Brownlee. She's she's an impressive advocate for women veterans and. I am and we've hired some impressive staff. This woman to to be the staffer, and I'm excited about what this committee is going going to uncovering what it's going to do to help women veterans to to improve the way in which we reach out to women veterans, and the way we serve them. So it's all part of VA twenty thirty. Now, how do we how do we really? In the military is going to reflect more and more America who who all had includes women LGBT people people of color, you know, one of my strong connections to the military. I never served but out of a brother was served. I had an uncle who served in Vietnam. And I remember him coming back and committing suicide, but I had three grand uncles served in World War Two in the segregated all Japanese American fighting unit the four hundred and forty second infantry battalion. You know, what war to before? It was you know, that was that's how they did things. They had segregated fighting units by race. And he had the what did the, you know, Puerto Rican? You know, battalion the Tuskegee airman. Abajo kotok. There's you know, I wonder my chairmanship, I hope to highlight and bring to the fore the contributions of of of all Americans are women veterans. There's a proud history of women veterans. So, you know, my my three great uncles served. One of them actually, never came back. He he died at age twenty three even as his family was intern and interment camps. And he's serving even as his family was interred. That's right. That's right. So that sounds that sounds very to me that sounds very American. Actually, I think there's a lot of people I think still living now life today. Well, here's the thing. There's been a backlash against I think the progress that was made under the Obama administration elected the first African American president the way in which she was beginning to push afford way, trans rights, and this very deliberate, you know, reversal and the targeting of trans people, you know, the the trans band in the military, the revision of the the guidelines on the part of education for trans students. This is all very deliberate. And so what people? I guess I guess the experience of I mean that that whole image of of a twenty three year old Japanese American fighting for his country, dying on the battlefield, even as his family is unjustly and turned an internment camp. Why that's such an important thing. Important part of history to remember is as you say. People suffer the humiliation today of loving their country of wanting the fight for the country one in the surf for the serve their country and. Still being salted for who. They are right by a president who with a broad sweep of his rhetoric says that, you know, a Mexican American judge can't treat them fairly in a court because he's Mexican he's Mexican American this this is in so look to your young listeners. I'm gonna. Two young listeners your. We're not fighting World War Two right now. But we're we're fighting for a Republic, we're fighting for the government of the people for the people in by the people and making sure it doesn't perish earth. Making sure that demagogic person in the White House who has this d- monarch sort of hold on a certain segment of the population and has told falsehoods. That that we don't let him, you know. 'cause this precious thing of our of our Republic to the disappear, and it's not his it's not his it's awesome. Sits everyone's and you've got to. You have a role to play no less than my migrate ankle. Who who made a bet, you know, that you know, that the motto of the four forty second was go for broke, which means you're going to bet at all if you're gonna go for broken a poker game, you're putting all your chips in and he did that. And I challenged my say, look, if you are a if you're a dreamer, and you're wondering whether or not you should, you know, still get good grades. And you're wondering about whether or not you have a future in this country. You know, just think about, you know, people who came before you like, my grand uncle or even my grandfather who spent his whole lifetime not really having ever a pathway to citizenship and his his grandson today as a congressman, right? I mean, so bringing Mexico for. Broke. My my great uncle Monceau. His name was Monaco, uncle mon-. He. He he made a bet that our country. How to better was that this that the America was a better about the Nazi Germany. It was a better bet than imperialist Japan or fascist Italy. And that our country is worth fighting for night. I submit to you know, young people today that's still the case may not be a gun on a battlefield that you're carrying. But it's it's it's a mind that you've got on prove it's it's your activism. It's your woke nece. Woke nece that's going to save our country. Right. So I feel like that was a great call to arms to reveal arms. I also I guess I just want to ask you before two final questions. I'll say back into your day to me the way in which you've incorporated your personal stories everything we've talked about today. I think I am happy that you are in congress. And that you are gay. I think we offload global. I think we often talk about our especially in like last couple of years. We talk about the specifics of our experiences as being things like identity politics is too much. And it's it's wrong. When we bring our identity into things, but I I actually think if if know we're not in the room the decisions get made without our input. So I just wonder if like do you see your your sexuality as a selling point for you being a Representative for you being a congressman? The same way that was told her story, I can tell it fast enough. So my first time I was elected to congress nineteen Ninety-two was not. I would I was I was I was I mean, my family knew that I was but I wasn't really out. I really won that election in nineteen eighty two thirty two years old of the become a member of congress. What incurs me run again in nineteen ninety four. They it was all the top races. And the country was like, you know, targeted as, you know, the top priority for the democratic national campaign committee mrS Gore came out and campaign for y'all course, wife, I would lose it election and be outed me and people they was a legitimate tactic to out me. And there was even a a Mailer that said, you know, at a target on me and says, you know, it was pink and lavender colored Mailer. And it said ask the question is marked Ikano. A member of is going to be a member of congress riverside or from San Francisco, and he supports the radical radical agenda, the homosexual human rights campaign fund. Right. They they were so flash forward fast forward, you know, eighteen years to twenty two two thousand twelve twenty twelve I I'm in a different time and Ceylon election. I tell you four by by seventeen points of there are a lot of stories about. So we were we all saw I didn't play it police straight so to speak and four and when the press came to me and said, well is it true? What that state Senator said about you, are you are you gay? And I says I'll was my opponents way to distract from the fact that he was you know, I won't go into the whole story. But he was it was an allured situation. So I didn't I didn't really answer the question that I was gay. But the funny thing two thousand twelve is that we were actually trying to get stories out there about that. I was gay because we were trying to raise money from the community and trying to like excite people saying, oh, look, you know, the guy has a real shot. You know, gay guys really gotta shot to get the congress and the stories that were being written was, well, what's the difference between then and today in the difference was well back then we were trying to like kind of maybe keep it on the cover and today, we're actually trying we're frustrated they were trying to get it out there. That I'm gay. So let me say that that the intersection of being a racial minority with a history personal history of knowing what it's like to be vulnerable having parents that were in internment camps, and knowing that the government lied, and knowing that sort of injustice happens to people and knowing what it's like to be gay and just be treated unfairly. Because of who you are it it certainly gives me I think more passion when I go to the Florida defend Syrian refugees that are being treated unfairly. And so no, even after the San Bernadino shootings happen in my community and candidate president candidate Trump is I- enflaming the situation and say, I don't believe the mother and the family they knew it was going on. And like just. You know, stirring, you know, in the midst of that still knowing that that my own community sort of knows my story, they they know my value orientation, and that ultimately, I can rely on them to have my back when I stand up and congress for the right things to be you know, that Ralph Carr the gum. Ralph Carr who stood up for Japanese Americans. Never again, do I wanna see there to be of political a failure of political leadership that we have to learn from this history. And so I I know a lot of your listeners are learning some things for the very first time. And that's what I mean. It's like, you gotta go and learn this history, and you got to arm yourself with this knowledge and. That's that's how we're gonna fight the same our Republican in. Finally, let me say that. I talked about a thrive conference the importance of of reading novels and. And fiction, and I used to be an English teacher. I was a teacher for twenty two years. And I told you I told the honest, they started laughing I said, you know, because novels help us to be less egotistical. They help us. Imagine the lives of others. And you you understand the problem of egocentrism in political leaders and. To mention the name. I don't know who I'm talking about. I said it begins. It starts to peak in a peek a curiosity in your fellow citizen. And you need to ask yourself. The question you have your dreams and your fantasies? But can you start to understand the dreams and fantasies of other people? And I said, you know, you're like I said you're all coming to this conference because you want to understand you came here because you were curious, and you want to understand the struggles of trans kids, and that curiosity is what is going to save us as well. Right. So absolutely. Anyway, I I love everything that you just said there before I send you back. This is the final question. Okay. And it's just to shout out Queiro, which is a queer heroes. So it's all a quarrel. So it's like a person or it could be a place made you feel like you can be who you. Today. Oh, my. Torch. That's. George Takei, George the k my oh my. Well. Let's say a Queiro for me would be like, Barbara, Jordan. Barbara jordan's. Jordan's a good one. Don't you think? I do. I think constitution. Yeah. I think everybody should go look up for her contributions to our country. Also, congressman I really appreciate you making time for us today. I think that there's a lot of a lot of things here that we talked about that. I don't hear talked about enough. So your time. Well, you know, I so much. Appreciate that. You've created what you've done with, you know, your comedy, and and your performance in that you have this following and. You know, you're you're one of the people on the front lines, man. Yeah. We're all. We're all doing. Awesome. Thank you. Everybody's Paul Scheer Nicholson from this show where we watched the greatest American films of all time, according to the this whole month, we have been talking about the best films of twenty teen the films that we think are likely to stand the test of time and even make it onto a future AFI list. But as for the president this week, we are getting ready for the Academy Awards with two special episodes. That's right on Thursday. We want to hear from you. What are your favorite films of twenty eighteen we have a few of our celebrity friends calling which will be a lot of fun. People have actually even been nominated for kademi awards. Yeah, we have important friends and then check the feet on Monday after the Oscars for a bonus episode. We recap the ceremony and talk about the winners. Tune in to the twenty eighteen movie celebration that has not just zero hosts. But who yes? So listen to subscribe to unspoiled on Stitcher, apple podcast, or wherever you listen.

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