June 24, 2024 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Nikkei Japanese mother and transgender son break through stigma of traditional shame

Photos of Marsha Aizumi and son Aiden courtesy Marsha.
Photos of Marsha Aizumi and son Aiden courtesy Marsha.

BY KAREN OCAMB  |  The coming out process can be devastating for LGBT youth with many having to choose between the freedom of authenticity or the invisible slavery of the closet, chained to parental and religious expectations of living a life bound by societal norms.

Often overshadowed or ignored, however, is the coming out process for the loving parents who also must deal with internalized expectations and face possible  societal rejection.It’s a process that involves not just the neighbor next door but centuries of ancestors who would be dishonored with the slightest deviation from tradition.

Such is the pressure faced by LGBT Asian Pacific Islander youth and their families. And to make the coming out process even more difficult, while Japanese youth can now look up to Star Trek actor and social media hero George Takei, there are no role models for Nikkei Japanese parents.

okaeri-1

Marsha Aizumi and her 28 year old, married transgender son Aiden are determined to help. They have co-written a book, Two Spirits, One Heart, teach LGBT diversity to charter school teachers and Aizumi is bringing an Asian face to PFLAG through a new API chapter she founded in the San Gabriel Valleywww.sangabrielvalleyapipflag.com

“When kids come out, they can bring their parents to our meeting to see other parents who look like them and speak their language,” Aizumi says, noting that there also parents who speak Chinese and Korean at the meetings, as well.

Many API communities have great language barriers for their English-speaking children to explain who they really are to their parents. “There are often no words to convey gay, lesbian, transgender, except those that are negative.”

looking-at-aiden-at-gender-spectrum

Aizumi has also organized her second Okaeri gathering October 14-15 at the Japanese American National Museum, which is co-sponsoring the event, held at 100 N Central Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

The first Okaeri event was held in 2014 and, because it was so needed, over 200 people from the ages of 8 to 80 came from as far away as Canada, New York and Hawaii to participate.

“Okaeri” means “welcome home,” a humble bow and warm extended hand or an enthusiastic wave to the perhaps frightened and shame-filled parent longing for education and understanding. Aizumi understands the need.

“During World War II, my family was placed in concentration camps, even though they were American citizens,” Aizumi says. “I feel that  Nikkei families try to live in a way that they do not bring negative attention to themselves. They know what happened when that was the case during the war.  We studied hard to get good grades, we were taught to only do things that would be bring honor and pride to our families— because it wasn’t just us that we were representing, it was all our family. And I think in some way, it was also a matter of safety.”

Aizumi says she was confused, hurt and lost in shame and fear of dishonor when her beloved child told her the truth.

“The Asian culture is steeped in honor, saving face and strong family ties,” she says. “When Aiden first came out, I was so ashamed that I went in the closet.  I could hear the voices of my family both living and dead saying that I was bringing dishonor to our whole family and our whole family name by being the mother who had a lesbian daughter, then later, a transgender son. And since there were no visible faces and voices in the Nikkei community, this only verified my feelings that I was a bad mother.”

But Aizumi found the courage to buck tradition and seek outside help, even though there were no Asian faces at the PFLAG meeting she attended.

“Today I believe that I bring the greatest honor to our family by being out and visible as a parent. And more and more parents are coming out to publicly love and support their LGBTQ children,” she says.

“I think the main thing our API PFLAG group does is provide visibility and voice to our community.  We show that being LGBTQ does not make you a bad person or lessen your chances for success,” she says. “We talk about how being LGBTQ is not a choice—but we, as parents, have a choice to stand by our children or not.  Many parents are so afraid for their children and we show them that they can have a wonderful life, because all we truly want is that our children to be happy. They cannot be happy if they are living in the closet and can’t live as their true selves.”

aiden-and-me

For more information on the Okaeri event, visit their website: www.okaeri-losangeles.org

in NEWS
Related Posts

Teen Fatally Stabbed at First Annual Palms Community Weekend Festival on Saturday

June 23, 2024

June 23, 2024

LAPD Investigates Tragic Incident at Event Organized by LAPD Pacific Area Boosters By Dolores Quintana Tragedy struck at the first...

LA County Issues Ocean Water Use Warning for Several Beaches on the First Day of Summer

June 21, 2024

June 21, 2024

Elevated Bacterial Levels Prompt Health Advisory for Popular Coastal Spots Sadly, on the first day of Summer, the Los Angeles...

Max’s House of Drag Viewing Party Celebrates Season 2 Premiere

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

Max Hosts Epic Drag Extravaganza for House of the Dragon Pride and passion converged at Max’s HOUSE OF DRAG viewing...

Celebrate Queer Cinema at the Egyptian Theater’s Hollywood Pride Series June 25-27

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

Experience Nearly a Century of LGBTQ+ Representation on the Silver Screen The Egyptian Theater is set to host “Hollywood Pride:...

California Supreme Court Blocks Tax Measure from November Ballot

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

Ruling Halts Effort to Overturn Measure ULA In a ruling issued on Thursday, the California Supreme Court blocked the Taxpayer...

(Video) Director Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin Q&A On Their New Film The Exorcism

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

It stars Russell Crowe, Sam Worthington, and David Hyde-Peirce. @centurycitywestwoodnews Director Joshua John Miller and M.A. Fortin Q&A On Their...

Westfield Century City Announces First Annual Foodie Week Starting Today

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

Deals and Prix-Fixe Menus Available From June 20th to June 27th Westfield Century City, a premier outdoor shopping destination in...

Los Angeles Public Health Warns of Surge in Mpox Cases Reported in Los Angeles County

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

Public Health Officials Urge Testing, Prevention, and Vaccination Amid Recent Spike The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is...

Pedestrian Fatally Struck While Crossing the 405 Freeway in Brentwood

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

Victim Hit While Crossing Southbound Lanes; Investigation Underway A pedestrian was fatally struck by a vehicle on the I-405 southbound...

Colorado Springs Shooter Sentenced to 55 Life Terms for Hate Crimes at Club Q

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

Anderson Lee Aldrich Pleads Guilty, Receives Life Without Parole Anderson Lee Aldrich, the homophobe who killed five people and injured...

West Hollywood Library and City Hall to Close for Juneteenth Observance

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

Online Library Services Available; Parking Regulations Relaxed on June 19 The West Hollywood library and City Hall will be closed...

LAUSD Board Approves Cell Phone Ban for District Schools

June 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

Resolution Aims to Be Effective by January 2025 The LAUSD board voted 5-2 on Tuesday to pass a resolution authored...

Gunfire Incident at Westchester Park Leads to Arrest, Prompts Community Meeting

June 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

LAPD Pursues Suspect After Shots Fired, Councilmember Responds An LAPD spokesperson confirmed that a disturbing incident took place at Westchester...

Toddler Fatally Struck by Relative’s RV at Dockweiler State Beach

June 17, 2024

June 17, 2024

2-Year-Old Child Lancaster Identified as Victim in Tragic Accident A toddler died Saturday after being struck by a relative who...

West Hollywood to Host Juneteenth Event Featuring Historian Dylan C. Penningroth

June 17, 2024

June 17, 2024

There Will Be a Discussion on Black Civil Rights History, Q&A session, Book Signing In celebration of Juneteenth, the City...