A Mother’s Take: 25 Years Later

May 31, 2019 • Aizumi, Columnists

Marsha Aizumi

This year, the JACL National Convention will be hosted in Salt Lake City … the same city that 25 years ago JACL made the decision to support same-sex marriage. JACL was the second national organization after the ACLU to declare its support. In 1994, this historic moment was not even on my radar. Aiden was 6 years old and in elementary school. He was a little, happy tomboy who had many friends.

Twenty-five years ago, my ties to the Japanese American community were not that strong. Many of Aiden’s friends were not Asian, and since my parents did not talk about the internment camps, I did not have a connection to that piece of our JA history.

Today with the camp pilgrimages, DORs and my work with Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering, I have circled back to my JA roots in a way that has helped me to understand more of my history and more of my connection to the work that has been done on my behalf for so many years, even though I had little knowledge of it.

Today, I know that JACL also approved a transgender resolution in 2015. This directly affects me because of Aiden, but I also have another son who is adopted from Japan, and so the visibility that the JACL brings to injustices, discrimination and hatred are making the world safer for both of my sons.

It was also a heartwarming connection when I realized that the redress money that my parents received and gave me part of helped to pay for the adoption of both of my sons.

And so today, the work that JACL has done and is doing has become more and more important to me and my family because it is fighting to secure and safeguard the civil and human rights of not only the API community, but also all communities that are affected by injustice and bigotry.

JACL is sending a message of acceptance to those individuals like my sons and the LGBTQ+ community. The work of the JACL continues to be a blessing to me and my family.

In August, I will be attending the JACL National Convention from Aug. 1-4 and participating in a workshop with Stan Yogi and Sarah Baker, where we will share our journeys as Nikkei LGBTQ individuals or, for me, as a parent of a transgender son. Moderating our panel will be Michael Iwasaki, co-president of the Salt Lake City JACL chapter.

My work with Stan in the LGBTQ community is focused on Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering in Los Angeles. Stan and I were co-chairs of Okaeri 2016 and ’18. He is also the co-author of a book called “Fred Korematsu Speaks Up.”

(From left) Sarah Baker, Marsha Aizumi and Bill Tashima at Okaeri 2016. (Photo: Courtesy of Marsha Aizumi)

Sarah has attended all three Okaeri events, starting in 2014, and has been the driving force behind Seattle’s Family 1.0: An API LGBTQ Gathering and Family 2.0. She is currently a JACL National Board VP and Seattle JACL president.

Stan, Sarah and Michael are all amazing voices for our Nikkei community, and I am so grateful for their work through JACL, Okaeri, Family and numerous other organizations.

I hope that I will see many of you at the JACL National Convention. And I hope that if you have a chance to attend our workshop called “Intersecting Identities: Nikkei LGBTQ Stories,” you’ll stop by, even to say hello.

Some of my most heartfelt moments are when I meet readers of “A Mother’s Take,” and they share with me the connection I have made with them through my writing. I always feel it is such an honor when people read my words, and it speaks to them in a personal way.

Coming together with the Nikkei/API community has brought to me a greater sense of belonging, a deeper feeling of being part of something greater than who 
I am as an individual and a better understanding of the power of our visibility and voice.

I look forward to being with many of you in Salt Lake City and hope that we will have a chance to meet if we haven’t met before or catch up if we have met in the past.

It will also give me a chance to thank you for all your work in person, and perhaps we take a selfie, which 
I am still working on getting better at.

To register for convention, visit https://www.
convention2019.jacl.org/register.

See you soon in SLC.

Marsha Aizumi is an advocate in the LGBT community and author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”

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