On Friday, April 20, a group of Melvin’s friends and other supporters met at the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Health Center on Olympic. Asian Pacific Islander Equality LA hosted a buffet dinner for the event. Friends from Evergreen Baptist Church (LA) included Ray Waung, who introduced Melvin, and Bonnie Tang, who emceed.
Melvin came out publicly through an interview I did with him last November. He spends most of his time in San Francisco, but is down in Torrance on occasion looking in on his parents. He has been a part of the Gay Men’s Choir in San Francisco. Melvin enjoys the singing as well as the feeling of belonging he gets being together with other gay men.
Melvin says he has known he is gay since childhood. For many reasons he could not come out to his parents or his friends. Over the years he has developed a love for all aspects of the church. When he served as associate pastor at the Evergreen church, he was asked by his fellow pastors to make a statement regarding his sexuality. It pained him to deny his gayness in front of the congregation. But he had no choice if he was to remain doing what he loved so much.
He does not regret waiting 56 years before coming out. Melvin says his life experiences as a gay Christian in the closet were valuable to him.
In telling his story, Melvin broke out into song, expressing the freedom he now feels as a liberated gay man. Because he has come to accept who he really is, he can not only love himself as a gay man, but also love others more fully — even those who may reject him. He teaches all of us what it means to be a Christian.
Then on Sunday, the 22nd, Marsha Aizumi hosted the first Asian Pacific Islander Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) San Gabriel Valley gathering at the studio of Andre Ting in Monterey Park. Attending was a gamut of LGBTQ people and their families.
It was inspiring to hear the stories from such a wide range of people. There was an air of complete understanding and acceptance.
Sitting opposite me was a young Korean woman who was a United Methodist pastor giving support to an older Korean minister who struggled in coming to terms with his gay son.
In this woman’s congregation was a JA lesbian woman who proudly told us about her two children, one adopted and the other through artificial insemination.
Next to me was Tad Aizumi, Marsha’s husband. Tad told me they had adopted two infants from Japan, a boy and a girl. After a number of years it became apparent the girl was not content with her sexual identity. After undergoing a radical transformation into a male, Aiden became subject to bullying in high school. He was able to graduate only after Marsha’s intervention. Marsha has written a book about her experience, which will be out in September.
Sitting on the other side of me was Eric Arimoto. (I use his real name with his permission. He says he has been out to his parents and friends since he was 19.) Our host, Andre Ting, who will be having meetings in his studio with Korean- and Chinese-speaking parents of LGBTQ children, has been to China to work with parents of LGBTQ kids there. He told the group how important it was, in talking to these parents, to not make them feel uncomfortable in dealing with their children.
At this point, Eric told of how he made his parents uncomfortable in telling them he was gay. Eric is a 40-something Yonsei. This revealed to us differences in the coming-out process ethnically, as well as generationally.
After the meeting I chatted briefly with the JA lesbian mother, who seemed quite pleased with the gathering. She said it turned out a lot better than she expected.
Marsha’s group will be meeting at Andre Ting’s studio in Monterey Park each fourth Sunday of the month (including Memorial Day weekend) at 3 p.m. For more information, contact her at [email protected] or (626) 695-9073, or Andre at [email protected] or (562) 686-1177.
Last year, President Obama signed a law doing away with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military. This took place without a ripple. The sooner we can do away with DADT in our community, the sooner we can free people to be who they truly are to live authentic lives.
Phil Shigekuni can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.