Every even-numbered year, a group of volunteers comes together to plan Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering. Okaeri means “welcome home,” and once again, we are welcoming Nikkei LGBTQ individuals and their families, friends and allies to the Japanese American National Museum on Nov. 16 for a minifilm festival in the evening and on Nov. 17 for a full day of workshops, two plenaries and a block of time to meet up with people who have similar interests.
This year, we are excited to have eight wonderful workshops, with one even being held in Japanese, as well as an interest group for Japanese-speaking individuals. After the conference, there will be an optional space for people to hang out, connect informally with others and enjoy a photo booth to take home memories with some of their new and old friends.
Okaeri: A Nikkei LGBTQ Gathering began in 2014 after a group of LGBTQ Nikkei, parents of LGBTQ Nikkei and allies of LGBTQ people organized the inaugural event, which was the first-ever conference focused on LGBTQ Nikkei. It was a huge success.
More than 200 people from across the U.S., Hawaii and Canada were in attendance. It also inspired Nikkei in Seattle, Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area to organize similar gatherings.
In the past, we have seen families begin to have heart-felt conversations and make a connection with each other in an authentic and open way. We have seen Nikkei individuals come out to their families and be accepted. And we have seen hundreds of people come together to support each other, share their stories and no longer feel invisible, alone and unloved. I believe Okaeri is a space to show the LGBTQ community that we see you, we hear you and we value you.
If you are interested in being a part of this event, please visit www.okaeri-losangeles.org to get more information and register. We have kept our registration fees low, thanks to the generous support of the Aratani Foundation, and we will not turn anyone away for lack of funds. However, space is limited, so please register early to guarantee your space.
Last year, we did a survey and found that only 30 percent of our Nikkei community believes that the Nikkei Community is open and welcoming to LGBTQ individuals. It is our hope that Okaeri will raise awareness, open hearts and bring greater acceptance, so that more in our community feel that we are open and welcoming. The whole Aizumi family will be at Okaeri … Papa, me, Aiden, Mary, Stefen and Lois. Please join us as we grow together to make our world more just, more kind and more loving to all. I hope to see you there.
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.”