Earlier this week, I had the chance to speak with Marsha Aizumi, who is putting the finishing touches on her new memoir, Two Spirits, One Heart, the story of her journey to accepting, loving and supporting her transgender son, Aiden, unconditionally.
Marsha, who lives in Arcadia, CA, and I first met at Creating Change in February. As an Asian American advocate in the LGBT community, I was especially excited to connect with Marsha. She is the first Asian American (she’s Japanese American) mother of an LGBT-identified child I’ve met who has become an advocate for the LGBT community in her own right.
Shortly after Creating Change, Marsha made a video speaking out against her mayor’s decision to bring someone from Focus on the Family in as a keynote speaker for a city event. It was featured on the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force blog.
Last week, Marsha and Aiden spoke to school administrators in a district in the LA area about the harassment that many LGBT youth face in schools.
Contemplating her work, I found myself wondering whether she had always been an ally, and if not, what led her to this place. Through our conversation, I had the chance to find out. Here's an excerpt from our talk:
Q: Tell me about Two Spirits, One Heart.
Marsha: It’s a book I wrote on my son's transition, from my perspective as a mother. I wrote it for families, both parents and young people, who might be struggling with a child’s transition. It’s mainly from my point of view, though I interviewed Aiden a lot, since he’s obviously been the focus of this journey for me. I’ve just finished writing the manuscript, and the book will be published in April of next year.
Q: What do you hope parents will gain from reading this book?
Marsha: I want them to know that acceptance often takes time. They have to ask for that time and communicate to their kids. It wasn’t easy for me in the beginning. I was afraid, because I didn’t know other people who had gone through this experience, and I felt pretty alone. But Aiden was really patient. He recognized it had taken him a long time to accept his transgender identity, so he was able to give me space to think it through.
I also hope parents will see that sometimes they need to push themselves, because even with space and time, they may still not feel ‘ready.’ For instance, Aiden and I had an appointment for his surgery and I wasn’t ready, I was scared. I kept thinking, ‘What if he wants to reverse it?’ But he told me, ‘You know how important it is to me to have love and family in my life, and I would give all of that up just to have the room to be myself if I have to.’ And I realized if he was willing to sacrifice that to be who he was with integrity, he was ready to transition, and I needed to be there for him.
Q: What do you hope transgender youth will gain from reading this book?
Marsha: I hope they will hear a story that gives them a sense that their parents may come around with time. But the final chapter also addresses the fact that some parents may not, and in that case, I hope young people will see that they can find other people in this world who will accept them for who they are and who will offer them support.
Q: What has been the best part of this journey for you?
Marsha: My life is so different than it would have been without Aiden, because he’s expanding my sense of community. There have been some humorous moments, like I went to my first Pride march, and Aiden had to prepare me for some of... the costumes there that would have shocked me otherwise! And there have been exciting moments, like when Aiden and I marched in the Equality March in DC in 2009. I never would have done that before starting this journey with Aiden. That experience changed the way I thought about love and commitment, and that’s when my activism really kicked in. I feel so lucky that despite the hardships he’s faced, from bullying to discrimination, Aiden is still alive and in my life.
I applaud Marsha for her work and for having the courage to share her family’s story. ‘Two Spirits, One Heart’ is now available at a discount price for pre-orders. The first chapter is available online for free.
GLAAD will be providing media training to Marsha next month in preparation for her book launch.