By Marsha Aizumi
It has been a month of highs and lows for a mother of a transgender child. I still fear that the world will not see the value that my son can bring to society. Aiden is in graduate school to be a school counselor, and he wants, more than anything, to create safe spaces for all who are marginalized, bullied and harassed. I believe he can make a huge difference in the lives of not only LGBT students, but also those students who are not what others deem the perfect height or weight, the perfect look or whatever category of perfection that tends to marginalize our children.
But if Aiden travels to North Carolina or Mississippi, he will not be safe. He will not be protected by the laws of those states, but rather discriminated against because he is transgender. When I first heard that the lawmakers in North Carolina went into emergency session and Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 that very same day, I was furious. HB2 voided any local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances and banned transgender people from using public restrooms that conform to their gender identity. I wrote to the governor, knowing that a mother from California would probably have no impact on moving him to reverse the law, but it was all I could think of doing.
I could feel the nation watching the so-called “leaders” of these states. What happened in North Carolina and Mississippi could start a wave of anti-LGBT legislation, or it could tell the other states that our country will not stand for this type of bigotry.
In April, a number of influential individuals canceled their concerts to send a message to North Carolina and Mississippi that the law they had put into place was not right. My heart swelled with gratitude that Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Bryan Adams would take such a stand, knowing it could cost them fans and dollars. Also, over 100 companies, including Apple, Google, Bank of America, IBM, Facebook and Disney, have voiced their opposition to anti-LGBT legislation. They are all standing up for individuals like my son, and I love them for it.
In between all of these national events, there were gatherings that were very personal to me. I had the opportunity to attend “Tadaima” (which means I’m home in Japanese) at San Jose State University on April 2.
Tadaima drew about 150 individuals. Once again, I could feel my heart feel joy when I heard Congressman Mike Honda talk about his granddaughter, the work that he is doing and wants to do for the transgender community. Aiden and I were honored to sit on a panel with Congressman Honda’s daughter, Michelle Honda-Phillips, who emotionally shared her story and her unwavering love for her daughter. And a fourth panelist asked that photos not be taken and her name protected, since she is not out to her transphobic father. I felt sad for her, but hoped that being among so many supportive Nikkei individuals brought her comfort that even if her father didn’t accept her, there were many in the community that did.
My own family, the Asamotos and Tamakis, from the Northern California area came out to support us, and to learn and grow. They walked away saying that the day gave them a better understanding of what families go through, and I believe they left transformed into more confident allies for the LGBT community.
Then on April 16, the Sacramento area had a one-day event called “APIQ (Asian Pacific Islander Queer) Homecoming” at Sacramento State University, which drew close to 100 individuals. Fortunate to be invited to lead a workshop on Family Acceptance, I shared our story and the lessons I have learned. Two individuals came up to me after my workshop and shared that they are planning to come out to their parents. I gave them my business card, in hopes that I can be of support to them or their parents if they need a mother to talk with. I know that many lives were touched that day not necessarily by me, but by the gathering that brought API faces and voices together in community.
I talk often about the fear that still remains in my heart for Aiden’s future, and that is a reality that will never go away until society sees my son as a human being with rights, feelings and value. But I also realize there are many organizations, corporations and individuals that are “coming out” to stand on the side of human rights. And so when I see another anti-LGBT event, action or statement, I think about all of you who are out in the world offsetting this hatred and bigotry, and I whisper to myself how grateful I am for people who stand on the side of love. This is what gives me hope . . . .
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.”