Last month, Aiden and I decided to do a book giveaway for Transgender Day of Visibility. One response really stood out for us, and so I want to thank Suzanne Itami Hug for the work she and her husband are doing at Athoria Games to bring greater respect with their work, a wonderful business practice. Aiden and I have chosen Suzanne as the winner of our complimentary copy of “Two Spirits, One Heart” because of her work at Athoria Games.
Suzanne and her husband own a small game store in Mesa, Ariz. This is what she said in response to the topic of respect: “We consider Respect a founding principle of our business, as the nerd/geek community has often been bullied over the years, and many members also belong to other marginalized groups. Learning to use gender-neutral greetings and making that part of our regular business practice isn’t always perfect, but we know it shows our customers respect.”
She goes on to say: “I honestly didn’t know if anyone would really notice our efforts, but I feel that it creates a more welcoming space and is important. Over the past year, we’ve received feedback many times, and it is noticed and greatly appreciated. As we hire staff, I’ve added inclusion education to our training process as critical to good customer service and the goal of building long-term relationships. I know many in the AAPI community are also small business owners, and I hope our community can lead the way. Respect is such a long-standing tradition, and we must learn what that looks like in our beautiful, colorful world moving forward.”
Aiden and I applaud all small businesses like Athoria Games, which is doing its part to bring greater respect to all individuals. Here are a few ideas, if you are not doing these things already:
Should you have single-stall restrooms, rather than make one for males and one for females, make both of them gender neutral by putting up a gender-neutral sign. Before this was fashionable, my father, Aiden’s grandfather, did this at Ogino-Aizumi Insurance Agency. Little did Grandpa Tak know that he was supporting his grandchild in a very trailblazing way back in the 1980s.
Make sure you are using correct pronouns for your customers. If you are not certain what pronouns your customers use, share your pronouns first and then ask what pronouns they would like you to use. For example: Hi, my name is Marsha, and my pronouns are she, her, hers. Are you comfortable sharing your pronouns with me?
Train your staff like Athoria Games does to provide good service by making all your customers feel seen, heard and valued.
The Equality Act has been passed by the House and is now in the Senate. Call your senators and ask them to vote YES on HR1, so that LGBTQ+ individuals have the same rights as everyone else. I want both of my sons, Aiden and Stefen, to be treated equally. Your call, email or handwritten note could make a huge difference. I welcome any questions you may have about the Equality Act or how to counteract the numerous anti-transgender bills that are threatening the lives of our transgender children. You can contact me at email@example.com.
Besides being an owner of Athoria Games, Suzanne is the secretary for Arizona JACL. JACL has been such a supportive organization to our work and the work of Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ community.
Speaking in Minnesota in 2019 at the Twin Cities JACL Chrysanthemum Banquet and meeting with their book club that read our book was a very special moment for me. San Fernando Valley JACL is our home chapter, and I love all the work that they have done to further inclusion and acceptance, especially for LGBTQ+ individuals and families.
And every time we have an Okaeri conference, some of our greatest supporters come from the JACL community, such as Seattle JACL, Downtown Los Angeles JACL and so many other JACL chapters and members. We were also honored to have JACL Executive Director David Inoue as one of our plenary speakers in 2018, talking about resistance and resilience.
So, one last congratulations to Suzanne Itami Hug and Athoria Games. Aiden and I appreciate all of your efforts to make this a better world for each and every one of us.
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’
— Margaret Mead
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.”