A Mother’s Take: ‘Okage Sama De’

February 22, 2019 • Aizumi, Columnists

Marsha Aizumi

By Marsha Aizumi

February stands out as a month of love for me because of Valentine’s Day. Although it is not the only month I think of love, I wanted to share a couple of things that happened recently that highlight this theme.

I received a video from a young gay man named Brandon Ishikata. He gave me permission to share his story and his name.

I have never met Brandon in person, but we are Facebook friends, and from his posts, I can see he is passionate and free to be all of who he is. He is currently a ballroom, Latin and swing dance instructor in training at May I Have This Dance studio in Chicago.

In a studio winter showcase, Brandon chose to dance the rumba, which is the dance of love, and he titled his performance “Okage Sama De,” which he says translates to “I am what I am because of you.” The dance was choreographed by Stephanie Hinterschied, and his dance partner was Anna Jattkowski.

Brandon Ishikata, right, with dance partner Anna Jattkowski.

Brandon explained that the dance depicted his coming out process. At first, he said, “I was scared to come out of the closet, but in return, I was showered with the gift of unconditional love and support from BOTH my mom and dad. As a sign of their love, my mom played this famous Jackson 5 song, ‘I’ll Be There,’ as a reminder that they will always love me, no matter what.”

You will see an emotional ending, as Brandon takes his bow in the video link I have posted below. He dedicated this performance to his parents, and they were in the audience to support him. What an unforgettable moment that must have been for all of them. Here is the link below. Please consider sharing.

Brandon’s performance: Click here .

Also, this month I have been very involved in a launch of a short documentary that my family is a part of. “A Love Letter” is a short film about two Asian American families’ journeys to stay together with love and acceptance. Through love letters, we shared our profound love for one another and vulnerably told the story of how having a transgender family member has powerfully transformed our lives.

Here is the link to the video, which, as of this writing, has been viewed close to 30,000 times. Please consider sharing it.

The short film is commissioned by the GAPA Foundation, produced by PFLAG San Gabriel Valley API and directed by filmmaker Barney Cheng.

One of the most extraordinary parts of my family’s journey is the opportunity to hear the often-unspoken thoughts of my husband, Stefen and Aiden. How frequently do we actually have those kinds of vulnerable moments, whether spoken to each other in person, on film or at a presentation.

One of my relatives once said, “I knew my parents loved me, but they never really said the words.”

Saying the words is important. Saying that I will stand by you no matter what is important.

Saying that I love you no matter who you love or how you identify is important. And saying that you are loved for all of who you are has brought validation to the hearts of those who feel marginalized and judged.

I applaud Brandon’s parents, who have said the words in more than one way. I applaud my husband, who was willing to go on camera and share his most personal thoughts in the most vulnerable of ways.

It is unrehearsed, unscripted and whole-hearted moments like these that are the precious gifts of our journeys.

Brandon shared with me that on the day he gets married and has that special dance with his mom, he already knows the song they will be dancing to “I’ll Be There.”

Just imagining that moment makes me emotional, hopeful and oh so grateful.

I’ll be there with a love so strong,
I’ll be your strength,
You know I’ll keep holdin’ on.
Let me fill your heart with joy and laughter,
Togetherness, well it’s all I’m after,
Just call my name, and I’ll be there.

(Written by Berry Gordy, Hal Davis, Bob West, and Willie Hutch/Performed by the Jackson 5)

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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