In a seminar, many years ago, I heard this concept. It has been a very effective way to handle a challenging situation while expressing my point of view. In the past, without this concept, I struggled to know what to say when someone voiced a viewpoint that I didn’t agree with, especially when it came to LGBTQ+ issues.
I didn’t want to say to people, “You are wrong,” or “That is not the right way to look at that situation.” I believe that anything that does not create open dialogue or intentionally makes others feel defensive is not helpful.
I believe that communicating in a way that can expand the perspective of an individual and change their heart can be a teachable moment.
Recently, I was faced with a challenge like this, and here is how it went.
I was at a neighborhood gathering. We had come together to support someone whose husband had just passed away. After my husband and I expressed our condolences, we chatted one on one with our neighbor. The widow started talking about her daughter, who had come down during this difficult time and was a teacher. She expressed how hard it was for teachers, like her daughter, who not only had to educate but also deal with issues like pronouns. My mind froze for a minute. I had to take a moment to assess the situation … this person was grieving, this person was not really close to me and was this the most appropriate moment to say something to her?
After taking a deep breath, I told her, “I completely understand your daughter’s challenge, since I am the mother of a transgender child, and it was hard for me in the beginning to use the correct pronouns.” I continued to share, “But I understand how important pronouns are for transgender students to feel respected for the gender they are.” No lecture, but two sentences. The widow was taken aback because she probably would not have made the comment if she knew I had a transgender son. She slowly moved away from me and the discussion. It was awkward.
Afterwards, I realized that I used the “Feel, Felt, Found” concept with this widow. I expressed that I understand her daughter’s feelings because I had gone through the same experience myself (feel, felt), but I shared what I learned (found). I didn’t judge her daughter because I had struggled myself. I spoke with compassion and kindness … with empathy and understanding.
Even after 15 years from Aiden’s transition, I still had to take a moment to muster up my courage to come out. It made me realize how scary it can still be after all these years for those in the LGBTQ+ community. So, this was a teachable moment for me as well.
Brene Brown says at the end of her podcasts, be “awkward, brave and kind.” I felt like this encounter contained all those feelings. It was definitely awkward … I had to pull up my courage, but I did so with kindness. I walked away so proud that I stood up for Aiden and all the transgender individuals that I love and those I have yet to meet. In the end, being awkward, brave and kind to me is about love.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
P.S. If you want to learn more about being an ally or getting support as a Nikkei LGBTQ+ individual or parent, please visit us at www.okaeri-losangeles.org. Okaeri will be holding its fifth biennial conference at the Japanese American National Museum on Nov. 10-12. It will be a hybrid conference with in-person and virtual components. You can register at bit.ly/okaericonference2023. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. If you need financial support or have any questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marsha Aizumi is an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and author of the book “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”