By Marsha Aizumi
As many of you might be aware already, I have been appointed to the Biden Foundation’s LGBTQ Equality Advisory Council. When I first got the call, I was both surprised and honored to even be considered. Then, I saw the list of council members, and I was also very intimidated because many of the names are amazing activists for the LGBTQ community.
Some people see me as an activist as well, but I still consider myself, first, as a mother who loves her sons. And though the work I do most visibly is for the LGBTQ community, I always feel that my voice is also supporting the Nikkei and API communities. Therefore, I am working to make the world safer for both Aiden and Stefen.
My first conference call as an official member of the Biden Foundation was a short one … 15 minutes. It was basically a welcome call from former Vice President Joe Biden. Listening to him, I felt so motivated to go out and do more, not afraid of what others are saying, but lifting my vision higher and believing I have the power to make a difference.
As I listened, I realized that some people use fear and scarcity to motivate others; then there is Joe Biden, who uses abundance, hope and compassion to cause us to feel empowered and confident that we can change the way things are.
He is the kind of leader that I can look up to. He is the kind of leader I aspire to be.
Joe Biden has always been known for his love of family and country. Six weeks after he was elected to the U.S. Senate back in 1972, his first wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident while they were out buying a Christmas tree. His two young sons were badly injured as well, and he considered resigning from the Senate to be with his boys, Beau and Hunter. Joe was convinced to stay on, and he was sworn into office from his sons’ hospital room.
Once the boys were well, the newly elected senator rode a train from Wilmington, Del., to Washington, D.C., and home again, which was an average commute of three hours every day, in order to be a senator and also a father, home to tuck his sons in at night. I admired him over 40 years ago, and my respect for him has only grown over the years.
I often wonder what our country would look like today if he had become our 45th president. But while reading his book, “Promise Me, Dad,” I could feel how it would have taken an emotional strength to campaign for president that he needed to reserve for his family in order to heal from Beau’s death from cancer in 2015. But through his foundation, he is still helping our country. He could have just retreated to a well-deserved private life of rest after over 40 years of service, but that was not what he has chosen.
The week after being welcomed to the Biden Foundation by the vice president, I returned to Denver to speak with Aiden at an event called “Living in Hope,” sponsored by the Sakura Foundation, Mile High JACL and the Tri-State Denver Buddhist Temple.
Looking around the room as we spoke, I saw people who loved their LGBTQ children, people who wanted to raise their awareness about the LGBTQ community, but most of all, I saw people who are looking for greater hope and humanity, so that they and their children — whether LGBTQ or not — can live in a society free from discrimination, hatred and hurt.
By being part of this LGBTQ Advisory Council, I seek to bring the perspective of an Asian American parent who loves her LGBTQ child and also a person who is working every day to make the world safer for my children and, I hope, your children as well.
Our children need to believe that they are beautiful, worthy and loved for all of who they are, but they also need to live in a world where schools, universities, workplaces and homes are free from violence. I may not have all the answers on how to create this world I envision, but I will never stop believing that this world is possible. This is how I live in hope …
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate in the LGBT community and the author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”