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The Mile High Japanese American Citizens League invited Marsha Aizumi to speak in Denver about her experience supporting her transgender son’s transition to becoming the person he is today.
by Gil Asakawa

Marsha Aizumi is a Los Angeles-based writer and speaker who was in Denver on June 19 to share her incredible personal and family journey.

Aizumi spoke about her journey with her son, Aiden. Aiden was named Ashley when he was adopted as a girl by the Aizumi family, and came out as lesbian in high school, then later told his mother he realized he’s a man in the body of a woman. Aizumi has supported his transition and the two have written a book, “Two Spirits, One Heart: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance.”

Marsha was invited by Mile High JACL to speak about her experience. The JACL chapter reached out to local AAPI, LGBT and community activist organizations to help sponsor the event. The mini-rainbow coalition, included PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, an organization that Marsha is active with) and One Colorado (a group fighting for gay rights in the state) as well as Facing History (an international group that educates people about racism and prejudice), all standing alongside JACL, OCA, the Denver Asian Pacific American Commission and other Denver AAPI groups (including Asian Avenue magazine). The event was held at the Tri State Denver Buddhist Temple, a hub of the local JA community that is rarely visited by anyone outside the JA or Buddhist community.

The coalition-building and networking between such a disparate audience was a major accomplishment in itself. But Aizumi’s presentation, during which she showed a slide show about her son and related the many challenges he had to face, was the highlight. She teared up many times as she shared photos of young Ashley, who refused to wear “girly” costumes and proudly dressed as Zorro for Halloween in one snapshot, and was a “tomboy” and held up her younger brother by the scruff of his t-shirt in another so he wouldn’t slip and fall into the river where they posed.

She emotionally related how Ashley struggled when she reached middle school and the boys she played with stopped hanging out with her and she didn’t feel at home with the girls who became mean and bullying. And she was honest about her own struggles as a parent who had to accept that her expectations for her child needed to change so she could help and support Aiden become the successful married man he is today.

Many in the audience dabbed our eyes every time Aizumi choked up. But they left feeling empowered and inspired by her experience. The result may be a coordinated effort to bring the area’s LGBT Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders together, and Aizumi may return to help facilitate the meeting.