Al and Jane Nakatani are friends of ours. They live on the island of Maui. Marion and I became acquainted with them when they came to our church about 12 years ago to tell our congregation about their family.
Their story is tragic. They lived in San Jose, where Al was employed as a licensed clinical social worker and Jane an elementary school teacher. When he was 15, their eldest son, Glen, came out to them as gay. Al and Jane were shocked, and Al, in the presence of Jane and the brothers, ordered Glen out of the house. Glen contracted AIDS and, after 10 years, Al and Jane took him back into the house to care for him before his death.
When their youngest son, Guy, came out to them as gay, things were different. Guy bravely decided to tell his story to thousands of teens, as the family took him to high schools across the country.
During this time, middle son Greg, who was straight, had an encounter with a Mexican man in a San Diego restaurant parking lot. Greg used a phrase Al warned him never to use when arguing with a Mexican person. In the heat of the dispute he used the phrase, whereupon the man took out a gun and shot him. Greg died shortly after.
Since these tragedies, Al and Jane have spent countless hours touring the country telling their story at various gatherings. They were greatly impressed by Guy’s courage and selflessness in his last days. Al says he realizes, too, his error in raising his boys to never back down in a argument.
They have won numerous awards, including one from the National Education Association (the Ellison S. Onizuka Award) and the JACL (National Youth Council). Their story is told in the book “Honor Thy Children,” as told to author Molly Fumia.
They founded Honor Thy Children Inc., a non-profit corporation designed to help promote “safe passage to adulthood of all children.” In addition, two DVDs and a documentary have been produced to tell their stories.
In 2010, following the much publicized incidents of bullying and suicides involving LGBT young people, Al and Jane were commissioned by the State of Hawaii to present their educational seminars at various venues throughout the state.
Harold and Ellen Kameya have a lesbian daughter and know the Nakatanis. I have been working with them to bring the Nakatanis to the mainland with their seminar.
The seminar will be sponsored by the JA National Museum and co-sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Chapter JACL, JACL Pacific Southwest District Council, NCRR, and Chatsworth West United Methodist Church.
Plan to attend. Mark your calendars: Saturday, Sept. 24, 9 a.m., Japanese American National Museum, 369 E. First St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. For more information, contact me by email or (818) 893 1581, or Harold Kameya or (818) 368 2008.
Phil Shigekuni can be reached by email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.