A trumpet sound signals a text showing up on my phone. It was Wednesday morning, July 15, 2015.
Emergency Resolution 2 had passed at the JACL National Convention. ER2 is the resolution advocating for transgender equality and pledging that JACL will be a “vibrant ally to the transgender community.” When the notification came through, my son, Aiden, and I were on the phone discussing how he could go down to the convention to lend his support. He was in Las Vegas with his wife, Mary, for a few days of vacation.
They both felt that this was an important issue and were prepared to be a visible face and voice in any way possible.
I actually first heard what was happening at the convention the day before when a Local Leader intern from the Selanoco Chapter sent me a photo of ER2. Later that night, Harold Kameya, president of the San Fernando JACL, included me on an email with Jacce Mikulanec, president of the Honolulu chapter. The Honolulu chapter was the driving force behind ER2 and also the progressive chapter that over 20 years before had introduced the resolution to support marriage equality. The San Fernando Valley was also a progressive chapter that was doing a lot of work to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community in Southern California. Harold and his wife, Ellen had been doing this work for over 25 years, so it was fitting that he as SFV president seconded the motion to have Honolulu’s resolution be brought before the delegation for discussion and voting.When I saw the emails, I asked Harold if it would help the resolution if I flew in the following day. He said that he felt there was enough support. And so I went to bed hoping that my good thoughts and the support of other JACL chapters, who had sponsored LGBTQ events or were planning on doing work on this subject, would bring a positive result in the passage of this resolution.
For me, ER2 was deeply personal. Having JACL, a national API organization, bring this resolution to a positive vote would be a declaration to my family and all API LGBT families that our children are not second-class citizens. It symbolized to me that an organization that I belong to is ready to embrace and be a voice for the transgender community on a national and local level. But most of all, it would send a message to my son and so many other transgender individuals that who they are matters, and JACL will not sit silently while others may push them down, stripping them of their rights.
ER2 on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriages are legal in all 50 states would be such a wonderful affirmation that our country and the API community is moving in the right direction.
During the early years when I was in the closet, I was so afraid for my child. I feared that Aiden would be a target for something that was neither a choice or what others call a lifestyle. I also feared that Aiden would lose hope that he could ever live truthfully and authentically. For years, I saw the light in his eyes growing dimmer each day. When our children lose hope, the pain of that hopelessness drives them to take their own lives. Our family was lucky. . . . Through all his struggles, Aiden chose to live. I believe ER2 will help not only API transgender families and their children but also lesbian, gay and bisexual families, as well,
knowing that JACL will be an organization that will fight for them.
After I received the news that ER2 had passed,I got a call from the Local Leader intern, Staci Lu-Nguyen, who originally texted me a copy of ER2. She said, “There is someone you might want to talk to standing by me.” It was Jacce Mikulanec. As I started to thank Jacce for his determination, his perseverance and his leadership on ER2, a sudden wave of emotion rushed over me. Here was a person I had only met briefly a year ago, who stood up and spoke out for my son and all transgender individuals and their families. Here was a person when initially turned down by the resolution committee due to a procedural concern, found another way for his voice and his chapter’s voice to be heard with the support of other JACL chapters and Chip Larouche, who suggested that the resolution be brought to the floor for consideration. As I thanked Jacce, I was choking on my words because I felt so much gratitude for his heart that didn’t give up and his voice that didn’t stop speaking.
To all the chapters and individuals that rallied together for this resolution, I hope you know the message you sent to families like ours and children like my son. I hope you will continue your work on LGBT issues and call upon me if I can help in any way. I am now filled with more passion and determination to show up and be a voice for all of our families and children. What you have done through ER2 will inspire my work for years to come. I am so grateful for each of you. . . .
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.”