Kenji Yoshino

Civil Rights legal scholar, Kenji Yoshino, faced a conundrum: He was advised by a colleague to “be gay, but not too gay.” His sexual orientation was not a secret, but his colleague suggested he suppress, or “background” part of his identity. Yoshino discovered the term “covering” which is the external demand to downplay a disfavored identity. “Racial minorities are pressed to ‘act white’ by changing their names, languages, or cultural practices. Women are told to ‘play like men’ at work. Gays are asked not to engage in public displays of same-sex affection. The devout are instructed to minimize expressions of faith, and individuals with disabilities are urged to conceal the paraphernalia that permit them to function.” 

Yoshino shares his experiences of covering as a gay Asian American, helping others to understand the costs of covering to individuals as well as to organziations and society, and the importance of creating spaces where people can be their authentic selves.

“This idea that assimilation is the path toward leadership is wrong. To the contrary what we’re finding with a surprising amount of research is that authenticity is the path toward leadership.”

Submitted by Lori Nishiura Mackenzie;