I am an activist mother because I want those in our LGBTQ+ community to be seen, heard and understood. I think this makes a person feel valued, and when you feel valued, you feel like your life matters.
I especially advocate for families because I know how vital it is to the life of our LGBTQ+ children. Acts and messages of family support say you are seen, and I care about you. Recently, I received this message on Facebook, and I realized how important it is to be seen, as a parent as well. Here is the message:
I am not a person that reaches out to express my appreciation ever. I just finished reading your book. It was a life changer for me. My son transitioned four years ago, and it has been a journey. I have been well-supported and have great friends, but no one truly understood my life as a parent and the fear for my child as a parent, as well as the love, pride and the joy felt for him.
One of my friends lent a copy of your book, and it sat on my dresser for years. I would open the book, read a page, cry and close it.
This year, my son graduated, and I finally felt ready to read your book. It was like you put my life in words. Thank you for seeing me and sharing you and your son’s journey with me.
I feel blessed in knowing other families walk with me and my son. We are not alone. You both are not alone either. I hope you are both well. Blessings to you both.
This message made me cry because our book told this mother she was seen. Our story is not a neat package tied with a bow. In the beginning, I thought that was how I should tell our story, so people would have hope. But that wasn’t the whole truth.
Our story was messy. It had moments that I am not proud of. It had words that I wish I had not spoken. And yet, every misstep I made taught me some very valuable lessons if I took the time to reflect on the mistake … if I found a way to be better the next time.
I believe that is why my life with my husband and my children continues to get better. Today, I feel we are more honest, brave, trusting and kind.
I wrote “Two Spirits, One Heart” because I wanted our story to be seen. I wanted my son to be seen. I started Okaeri because I wanted those in the Nikkei LGBTQ+ to be seen. I wanted those who felt invisible and alone to find at least one person who would see them, listen to them and care about them.
I hoped families would see each other, listen to each other and understand each other even more.
At a recent Okaeri event, I saw a JA mother from a Midwestern state on Zoom pictured right next to her queer child. It warmed my heart that this mother would come to learn and that her child was there to support their mother.
I believe we all want to be seen. And if a person can’t be seen in a positive way, they look for attention in even a negative way or find ways to numb the pain of being unseen. That is why students act up in school. That is why gangs are formed. That is why LGBTQ+ individuals turn to drugs or alcohol or any number of ways to forget people don’t care. That is why being part of a community is important.
We belong to churches, temples, clubs, community centers and organizations like JACL and Okaeri or have a trusted circle of friends. The worst thing is to be invisible because that means you don’t matter.
And so I will stop what I am doing and truly listen to what people have to say when they talk to me.
I also will send thank you notes or emails acknowledging how grateful I am for the things that people do, not just for me, but for people or organizations I care about. I want people to be seen. I want people to know that they matter to me.
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.”