Marsha Aizumi’s book about her transgender son tells a story that is powerful on several levels.
I had borrowed the book from my friend Harold Kameya several weeks ago, but had put it aside until we heard Marsha and her son speak at the JA National Museum a couple of weeks ago. Harold and his wife, Ellen, make a very strong supportive statement on the first page of the book. They are credited as being the founders of the L.A. Asian Pacific Islander Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
My wife, Marion, was so impressed hearing Marsha and her son, Aiden, that she had Marsha autograph her personal copy at the conclusion of their presentation. We spent the next few days sitting in our family room reading our own copies of the book, separately.
It was plain to see that Marsha and Aiden had made their talk many times before. Marsha tells the story of how she and her husband, Tad, adopted Aiden, the older of two adopted infants, after many years of being childless. In the process of growing up, it became apparent the female child, then named Ashley, was not completely comfortable as a female.
Sometime during her high school years she came out as a lesbian. Then, after high school, Ashley revealed herself as a male and, after much discussion within the family, took on the name Aiden.
In their presentation, Marsha and Aiden take turns in very thoroughly delving into the heart-rending complexities involved in first coming out as a lesbian, then as a transgender male. While their presentation is quite informative, I found their book, “Two Spirits, One Heart,” to more intimately get to the raw emotions that emerge as you follow their journey.
During the question-and-answer segment following the museum presentation, Marsha expressed appreciation for the presence of George Takei, who spoke a few words of support.
I asked Marsha the pluses and minuses of being Japanese in dealing with transgender issues. She said her Japanese culture provided the close family relationships that helped to unite the family. On the negative side, she was disappointed in the lack of interest on the part of the community concerning LGBTQs and more particularly, transgender issues. But she realizes that shame and family honor play a large part in the reluctance of the community to get involved. She is hoping to change that through her book and speaking.
Marsha describes how they deal with having Aiden addressed as a female when they are out in public. After the program, however, Marion and I agreed that Aiden seemed very male to us. The transition process Aiden went through has made him physically male, and also seems to have given him a sense of confidence now that he is aligned with the man that has always lived inside of him.
In the book, Marion and I were greatly impressed with Marsha’s completely open and honest telling of their story, although it is at times almost painful to read when she recounts their most difficult years. What becomes evident is the mutual personal growth and closer family connection that resulted from the honest dialogue between them.
With great courage and years of dedicated of support, principally from Marsha, Aiden goes from a self-doubting, agoraphobic lesbian to a proud male.
Marsha and her husband, Tad, are remarkable figures who lovingly guide Aiden and give him the freedom to be whomever he wishes to be.
Marsha Aizumi comes out of the process of guiding her beloved son as a courageous and powerful woman who dedicates the rest of her life to furthering the cause of the LGBTQ community.
After the presentation I was pleased to see present Marian Sunabe, who chaired the very well received Asian Pacific Islander Biblical Values and Social Justice Conference held at Union Church last October. She said she was glad she attended.
Also in the lobby, where Marsha was signing her book, was Judy Asazawa, who attends Centenary United Methodist Church. Judy’s name is mentioned in Marsha’s book as being one of her supporters.
Judy said Marsha and Aiden are scheduled to speak at Centenary UMC (Third and Central in Little Tokyo) on Sunday, June 9, at 1 p.m. What an appropriate setting for a presentation demonstrating the power of unconditional love. I urge you to attend. For more information, call (213) 617-9097.
“Two Spirits, One Heart” is available at the JA National Museum bookstore and at Amazon.com.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.