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A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance

• What would you do if your daughter said that she wanted to change her gender to male?
• Marsha Aizumi, mother of a transgender child, spoke about “A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance” at Northeastern University on March 31. The event was a part of the university’s “International Transgender Day of Visibility.”

• After 16 years of marriage with Tad, Marsha Aizumi adapted a three-month-old-girl from Japan in 1988 and named her Ashley. As the baby grew, she disliked the color pink and dolls. At Halloween, she preferred wearing a super-hero costume such as Batman or Superman. Marsh found one day that Ashley wrote an essay in grade school, “If I am a boy…”

• When Ashley entered middle school, she wondered to which group she would belong. Locker rooms were separated for boys and girls, and the students began to play different sports such as girls playing women’s sports. When Ashely joined boys, they didn’t like her coming to their side. She didn’t fit in with either boys or girls.
• Marsha thought that Ashley was at a difficult age, and things would be better soon, but the situation turned much worse when she entered high school.

• She gained some weight and developed muscles. She came out as a lesbian when she was 15. In high school, she was bullied by her classmates. She was hit by a baseball bat and other time punched in her eyes. She was also rejected by her church.
• She was depressed and began to engage in self-mutilation. She said that her inner side was much more painful than her body. She was diagnosed with agoraphobia.
• She thought that she wouldn’t live to see her 18th birthday, but the one thing that saved her was golf. She played varsity golf and received the MVP award all four years.

• However, her difficult situation continued. One day, she told Marsha that she wasn’t returning to school when she became a senior. As an educator, Marsha was devoting herself to helping dropouts at that time, so her own daughter’s dropout was a problem. She talked with Ashley’s teachers, and fortunately the school allowed her to help Ashley to get her diploma from home.

• Six months before her 21st birthday, Ashley said to Marsha that she was not a lesbian, but a transgender. She was a boy with a girl’s body and wanted to her body to be aligned with what she thought and felt.
• On her 21st birthday, she changed her name to Aiden, and later had surgery to remove her breasts. Marsha said that the birthday was a turning point. Aiden regained her smile and began to participate in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) activities. He thought that being a transgender was not something to hide, but something that part of who he was.
• Aiden joined a marriage equality march in Washington D.C., and Marsha accompanied him. She said, “I saw my son was marching down the street and was so proud of him.” She also said, “He said to me, ‘I want to be an advocate to change the world, not just to LGTB individuals, but for anybody who sees a difference.’”

• Aiden has attended the University of La Verne and going to graduate with a BA this spring. During his college years, he was involved in the LGBT activities. He was awarded 2013 and 2014 Higher Education Grant from PFLAG Pasadena and received many other awards.
• In 2012, he was selected as one of 15 members who were invited to the White House and met President Obama in a LGBT reception.
• In November, 2013, He married Mary, a school psychologist who had experienced discrimination because her hair didn’t grow at all.
• Beside his activities, Aiden has worked with Marsha to bring high school diploma programs to LGBT youth who were dropping out or have dropped out of high school due to harassment and bullying.

• Marsha Aizumi said that children, who thought that they were different from others, tended to feel guilt, anger, sadness, and fear. On the other hand, as a parent, Marsha felt guilty if she had too much work or thought she was being a bad mother. As a family, they felt sadness that they had to give up seeing their daughter’s future.
• Marsha remembered many anxieties until her daughter became her son. These were the safety of her child, obtaining good jobs, influence on her family, and if she was doing the best for her child.
• In that circumstance, her love to her child was unconditional. She committed to her son and educated herself, so that she could help other parents who had the same anxiety.
• She said that her love for her son was taking a mother’s responsibility. If it was not working, she could fix it. She also kept open-heart communication and often showed gratitude to her son.

• After Marsha spoke at the podium, she answered Shimpo’s interview questions.
• Regarding the Japanese American (JA) community, she said that the majority of them were friendly, but she knew many people discriminated against LGBT individuals.
• Last November, Marsha organized an event called “Okaeri”, which meant “Welcome back to home.” The event was sponsored by the JA National Museum. She said, “What we wanted to do was welcoming people into this space. That was Nikkei (JAs).” “I think that older people just don’t understand it, and I’m trying to build ties between 9066 and LGBT because it is the same. People were afraid of Japanese, so they put JAs in camps. People are afraid of LGBT, so they want push them away. So they are similar,” she continued.
• The event “Okaeri” drew about 200 people, and the similar events were held in Seattle, San Jose, and San Diego. Marsh said, “They are doing small events, but more Nikkei communities are taking it up through PFLAG and JACL.”

• Marsha Aizumi is a speaker, educator, and advocate for the LGBT community, a cause she embraced due in large part to the harassment and bullying that her son experienced throughout high school. She is also the author of “Two Sprits, One Heart.”

Marsha Aizumi Addapted a three-month-old girl from Japan

Aiden smiled on his 21st birthday for the first time since he suffered.

Aiden began to participate in LGBT activities after his 21st birthday.

The above photos are borrowed from Marsha's presentation.

Marsha Aizumi