Matthew K. Asada, who was elected Vice President of the American Foreign Service Association largely on the strength of his diversity platform, does not identify himself as Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer. He does not speak publicly about his sexual orientation. He does not participate as a Gay man in Gay Pride events. He proudly touts his "fourth generation Japanese American" ethnic heritage in every biography he publishes, but never, ever, ever, mentions his sexual orientation. We will not "out" his orientation here. That is for him, not us, to do.
We will mention here, however, that as Asada begins his campaign to become the least experienced and least qualified President of AFSA, he has begun to frequent GLIFAA events, in the company of a nice Gay man who works at NPR, who seems to believe that he and Matthew Asada are planning to "move in together," something Asada has also asserted.
This may mean nothing at all with regard to Asada's sexual orientation. In response to social pressures, homosexual men often move in with and even marry heterosexual women in order to conceal their true orientation. The fact that Asada, who until now has lived alone with his Hello Kitty dolls is choosing now to move in with a Gay man may be nothing more than a similar response to social pressures, to conceal his true heterosexual orientation.
Besides, who cares if Matthew Asada is Gay or not?
AFSA voters should care.
Not because he is or is not Gay. His orientation itself is of no more relevance than his hair color.
But because people who are voting for an official who will represent their interests to their employer, to their Congress and to the American people have a right to know who they are voting for.
Matthew Asada is campaigning on two platforms: Diversity and Transparency.
The question of whether or not he is Gay, and whether or not he is honest and transparent about who, exactly, he is, as a person, are relevant to both of those platforms.
Mr. Asada is very, very vocal about his Japanese-American heritage, despite the fact that it is neither apparent from his appearance nor from any aspect of his comportment. In other words, although there is no reason on earth why the fact that his Japanese ancestors came to America four generations ago should affect Matthew Asada's career or social interactions, he chooses to make it an issue. He puts it in his biographies. He volunteers to represent Asian Americans during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. He talks about it in his campaign. He does not do the same with his sexual orientation.
Because it is inconvenient to his future political aspirations?
Because he wants the votes of older AFSA members who may not welcome an openly Gay AFSA President?
Because he thinks it will hurt his Foreign Service career?
A diversity candidate who hides a key aspect of his own identity, because he is afraid or ashamed to share who he is with the people he hopes will vote for him?!?
What does that tell us about Matthew Asada?
What does that tell us about his willingness to go out on a limb to protect and defend other AFSA members who share his orientation?
Or those who don't?
How far would he go to hide his orientation?
Does his secret make him vulnerable to coercion?
Supposing, for example, a Senate staffer with the ability to affect Foreign Service promotions were to threaten to expose his secrets if he did not provide derogatory information on Foreign Service nominees for tenure and promotion. How far would Mr. Asada go to avoid exposure?
Remember, this is the same Matthew Asada who, when he first assumed the position of AFSA Vice President, actively sought to change AFSA's rules to allow him, as AFSA's Vice President, access to the files of every member seeking AFSA assistance, so that he could personally decide whether assisting them was, in his opinion, in AFSA's institutional interest.
And, again, Mr. Asada is campaigning on a platform of ethics, transparency and good AFSA governance.
Transparency is important, and ethics and good governance cannot exist without it.
What could be less transparent than someone who refuses to tell you exactly who he is?
And how far does Mr. Asada's lack of transparency go?
We know, for example, from Mr. Asada's biographies that he joined the Foreign Service in 2003, twelve years ago. We know that he served for two years in AFSA, a year on the Hill, and spent at least two years in training at FSI. He allegedly served at four overseas locations, Kunduz, Kolkata, Lahore and Munich. He also allegedly has extensive experience in HR, as a staffer in M, and allegedly has served in every cone and in every regional bureau. Allegedly, in each of his posts, he also served on school boards, housing boards and employment boards. Really? In Kunduz, Kolkata and Lahore?
We wonder: during the twelve years he has been a Foreign Service Officer, of which at least five or six were in Washington, how long did Matthew Asada actually serve in each of his four overseas posts, or in an overseas position that has any relationship to the jobs most Foreign Service members perform?
When he represents us to Congress, to the American people, and to our employers - or when he tells Congress that ambassadors must have experience - what experience and gravitas does he himself bring to the table?
Matthew Asada has published very slick websites, lovely narrative biographies, beautifully meaningless homilies.
Why will he not simply share a resume - an ordinary garden variety resume with dates and places and job descriptions - with AFSA members, so they can know who they are voting for?
He was a CDO. We know that. We know that being a CDO is legally incompatible with representing AFSA members in collective bargaining unit. And we know that Mr. Asada served on such a unit, as a State Representative on AFSA's Board, while working as a CDO, and that he took personal credit for a number of key labor-management achievements of that Board.
In fact, we have strong reason to believe that Mr. Asada was unanimously asked to leave AFSA's Board to prevent a clear and illegal conflict of interest, but refused to do so. The issue, allegedly, damaged relations between the Department and AFSA, and required both sides to repeatedly certify that Mr. Asada had not participated in certain meetings.
Given that assertion, one might reasonably ask the Future Forward AFSA Slate's ethics-and-good-governance candidate for President, how exactly he managed to reconcile his service on AFSA's Board, and his alleged labor-management breakthroughs, with his CDO position, in light of Section 1017(e) of the Foreign Service Act (22 USC 4117(e).
Surely transparency would dictate that he clarify that point.
Did he break the law by participating in labor-management negotiations illegally? Or, if he did not participate in such discussions, on what basis does he take credit for the results?
A person who will not tell you the truth about who he is and what he has done, even to the point of clarifying his own professional experience to the voters, is probably not the very best possible spokesperson for ethics and good governance.
And probably not very trustworthy.
So when we hear comments about Mr. Asada's relationship with an equally closeted and secretive Conservative SFRC staffer, we wonder:
Could coercion, and the threat to expose one's closeted sexuality, work both ways?
And what does it mean if the Vice President of a union has a secret relationship with a Senate staffer willing to keep nominations off the agenda, or allow nominations to build up until Asada's "efforts" can "release" them, just in time for campaign soundbites?
Questions to think about as you watch Mr. Asada work the crowd.