It has been 12 years since our family started our journey to support Aiden’s transition. During these 12 years, our lives have been filled with increased awareness and understanding, which has all led us to this place of advocacy and purpose.
And so in this month of International Transgender Visibility, I wanted to share some of the ways that my awareness has been lifted because more and more transgender individuals are visibly sharing their stories.
Our transgender community is very diverse. Some people want to have surgeries and take hormones to bring them into alignment with how they feel and see themselves. Others choose to only change their names and pronouns. Still, others do something in between. Initially, it was confusing for me, but now I understand transitioning is an individual choice, and the most important thing that I can do is honor the choices that they are making for their lives.
I have had to learn about the many ways transgender people identify. When Aiden transitioned and fell in love with Mary, some people questioned why he could not stay a girl and just be a lesbian.
But who you love and how you see yourself are two different things. Who you love is your sexual orientation, but how you see yourself is your gender identity.
I have met people assigned male at birth who transitioned to be female, but still loved women. And so instantly, they became lesbian. And then there are individuals like Aiden who transitioned, but are still attracted to women.
In today’s society, he is seen as heterosexual or straight, but he sees himself as a transgender man.
He doesn’t go up to people and introduce himself that way, just like I wouldn’t go up to a person and say, “Hi, my name is Marsha, and I am straight.” But he doesn’t try to hide that part of himself, unless he is in an unsafe place.
Today, I am aware of the difference between our gender identity and sexual orientation. My eyes have been opened to the spectrum of identities and orientations that exist, and it has made my life more full.
Just like there is not only one shade of blue, but all different shades of that color, my world of color has expanded.
Today, my life is filled with more diversity and vibrancy because I have been able to embrace all these differences not only in color, but identity and orientation as well.
My awareness has also been lifted to what true respect is. Even though I did not understand things in the beginning, true respect was listening to my son and educating myself along the way. I made a lot of mistakes … more than I would like to admit, but recognizing mistakes and apologizing was and is still part of my journey of respect.
This morning, I received an email from a person I misgendered. They use they, them, their pronouns, and I used “her” in an email I wrote. Yes, it is hard for me, an English major, to wrap my mind around using a plural pronoun in a singular way, but that is just an excuse centered on me and not respecting them. I replied that I was sorry, and I would do better in the future. I was respecting them.
Another place my awareness has been lifted is when I would use the wrong pronoun in the past, especially talking to a person face to face.
I remember feeling horrible and over apologizing.
This made the transgender person feel so uncomfortable that they deflected and said it was OK. Today, when I make a mistake like I did in that email, I just apologize and move on. Not over apologizing is also about respecting them.
Our book, “Two Spirits, One Heart,” has been reissued as a second edition. If you would like to raise your awareness and understand more deeply through the journey of one family that has navigated this unknown path, I would love for you to read our book.
Not every family has taken the same path as we have or experienced the same challenges and amazing moments, but we can provide a glimpse into some of the ways we have had to change how we think, act and speak to be more respectful, supportive and loving.
Our book is on Amazon in paperback and digital on many devices. Look for the cover with the rainbow, as the other covers are previous editions.
In honor of celebrating International Transgender Visibility, Aiden and I would love to do a book giveaway. If you send me a few sentences on ways you have changed how you think, act or speak about the LGBTQ+ community, we will select one or two submissions and send you an autographed book as a gift from us.
My email address is email@example.com. I would LOVE to hear from you!! You will be notified at the end of the month if you have been chosen for our book giveaway. Thank you everyone.
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.”