After writing my article last month on the importance of being seen (See Pacific Citizen, Oct. 21, 2022.), three separate incidences occurred that confirmed to me, even more, how important visibility is. So, this month, I decided to share these moments with you.
Many of you know that I am a consultant for a charter school and educational management company. I have been with them almost 25 years, and Aiden works for one of the charter school sites. Yesterday, while working with one of their employees, I shared how important it was for me to retire in 2011 and devote my time to advocate for my son and his LGBTQ+ community. She had the biggest smile, and later I found out why.
Emily shared, “The second I heard you were a mother of a trans child, I knew you were someone I could open up to. Visibility is so important, and I think it’s really hard for trans people to share that visibility.”
Emily didn’t need to tell me that she was transgender. I would have never known — but we now have a heart connection and a bond that goes deeper than just individuals working for the same company.
In that same week, I received an email from a professor on the East Coast. We met many years ago at a conference for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies but have not really connected on any regular basis. However, we are friends on Facebook, and she saw all the work I am doing in this area. This professor explained that she had a student of Japanese descent that needs resources to come out to her parents and if I would be able to provide resources or even take some time to chat with the student. Two days later, I was on a Zoom call with her student.
Akemi (not their real name) was so sweet and had the most gentle spirit. I asked how she had come to talk about the need for support with her professor. Akemi explained at the end of her meeting, her professor said, “Is there anything else you would like to talk about?” Knowing the professor was queer, Akemi decided to take a chance and ask for support, since she is not out to her family. This student will now be attending Okaeri’s support group for Nikkei LGBTQ+ individuals. A professor’s visibility made this connection possible.
Please visit www.okaeri-losangeles.org for more Nikkei LGBTQ+ resources or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for API LGBTQ+ resources.
Finally, as I was working on this article, I checked my email and opened up this lovely message:
“A few years ago, you came to my (then) church and spoke about the journey you had taken with your son, Aiden. I did not know that your story was God’s way of preparing me for a journey that I did not yet understand I would be taking with my own child several years into the future. But when my child revealed their identity, I responded with love, thanks to what I learned from you.
“My journey still continues, as my child may begin hormone treatments sometime in the future. Regardless of what happens, I do not feel alone, thanks to PFLAG, which I joined thanks to you”
This mother and I will be talking next week, so I can support her on her journey and provide resources.
These three stories, which I have been given approval to share, remind me that visibility of others, whether they be individuals or organizations, matter. We become a safe place for people to reach out to. We become a beacon of hope for others to see that they can live as their true selves. And we can become role models for people who do not even know they need our stories to empower them.
Being seen was terrifying for me in the beginning, but today, I am stronger and more confident in who I am. I hope these three stories inspire you to find ways that you can be seen.
Our country needs positive, courageous and loving voices in this most challenging time for our LGBTQ+ community. And what I believe for certain is that one voice can make a difference and that voice can be yours and mine.
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.”