Renaissance Man

The name George Takei brings several words to mind: actor, speaker, writer, civil and GLBT rights activist, not to mention humanitarian extraordinaire. Most widely known as having played Mr. Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the Starship Enterprise on the original “Star Trek” series, Takei is also beloved for the part he plays in the pursuance of GLBT and civil rights in general.

Takei will be appearing at Schermerhorn Symphony Center here in Nashville in Harmonic Convergence, as he narrates Schoenberg's “A Survivor from Warsaw,” which promises to be an emotionally astounding tribute to victims of the Holocaust.

Takei takes special interest in this project, having spent four years of his young life, for the duration of World War II, imprisoned in an internment camp with his family, behind barbed wire fences, “simply because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor.”

I an exclusive interview with Out & About Newspaper, Takei, a most enlightened and inspirational person, talks about his involvement in and support of GLBT rights.

Linda Brewer: Would you share with us your publicly “coming out”?

George Takei: “The press called my talking to the press (in 2005) as my ‘coming out’, but coming out doesn't happen with one conversation, it happens over a period of time. You first come out to your immediate family and some very close friends. Then you feel a little bit more comfortable sharing with a little bit larger circle.”

Takei said his coming out, as the press deemed it, was prompted by a political event that happened in California when “Our California legislature, both houses, did an extraordinary thing; both houses passed same sex marriage. No other state legislature, anywhere in the United States, had done this. (…) And we celebrated that.

“But that law required the signature of our governor, (who) at that time was Arnold Schwarzenegger. When he ran for governor, Schwarzenegger advertised, saying, ‘I'm from Hollywood, I've worked with gays and lesbians, I'm comfortable with gays and lesbians and some of my best friends are gays and lesbians.’ But when that bill came to his desk (proposing same sex marriage) he vetoed it (and) that made me really angry. But for me to speak out on it, my voice had to be authentic, so I spoke to the press (about being gay) for the first time. And that's what the press has called my ‘coming out.’”

LB: You have always been active in politics, which prompts the question of whether you ever thought of making politics your career?

Takei: “No, actually. I've been active in the political arena since before I could even vote. My father was a big admirer of Adlai Stevenson and so he took me (to the Stevenson for President headquarters). I was all of 16 or 17; he volunteered me, I didn't have to. I found it exciting and fun and thrilling, and very theatrical.”

LB: What advice would you give young people in the GLBT community if they want to be politically active?

Takei: “I think it's very important for all Americans to be actively involved. Just to be a good citizen you have to cast an informed vote. Also know the issues for the candidate. Informed, that’s step number one. Step number two is if you have some time you can offer, volunteer if you can, and if you have money that you could contribute to an issue or to a candidate, contribute to the campaign if you can. Then you may be asked to serve on a commission or board, that means giving up a lot of your time. Then the final step is when you offer yourself for elective office. Whether you are LGBT, or whatever you are, it’s very important in a democracy, for all our voices to be heard and certainly our votes to be counted. There are a lot of LGBT issues, and tremendous barriers to the LGBT community.”

Takei went on to tell the story of a same-sex male couple he knew who had spent their lives together and when one of them died, the estranged brother of the deceased partner, an attorney, swooped down and took everything, which left the surviving partner not only bereaved and alone, but without any rights to the physical attributes they had built together. “So here he was (the surviving partner),” Takei said, “mourning, and having lost everything they'd built together. These are (some of the) reasons why LGBT people need to be active in the (political) process.”

Takei proudly talks of what he calls his “legacy project,” the Broadway bound musical “Allegiance, A New American Musical,” an epic story of love, family and heroism during the Japanese American internment. Allegiance's world premiere was in 2012 and got rave reviews. The always-busy actor also stars in the action-comedy series Supah Ninjas, which premiered in 2011 on Nickelodeon. Takei also has a book coming out entitled, “Oh My!”

LB: Last question, if you had to describe yourself in two words, what would they be?

Takei: “Renaissance Man.”

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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