Editor’s note: I met Two Spirits, One Heart author Marsha Aizumi at an open house/media event that marked the opening of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s charter school for LGBT youth—a school Marsha played a pivotal role in starting.
Since then, I’ve had several opportunities to hear Marsha talk about her transgender son, Aiden, and the struggles he faced as a young trans man. Whenever Marsha shares her story—whether she’s talking to a reporter or to me and a video crew for this Center video—she tends to tear up, either because it’s painful to contemplate some of the struggles Aiden has faced or, often, because she’s overwhelmed by pride for him.
Today Marsha and Aiden are both dedicated LGBT community activists, but it took time for Marsha to fully accept and celebrate her trans son. She shares that journey in her new book, Two Spirits, One Heart. Since the book’s publication in fall 2012, Marsha has been doing speaking and signing events all over the country. You can find information about upcoming events – including a Feb. 12 signing at the Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza—on Marsha’s website. – Stevie
Q: You’ve been speaking openly about your story for years. Why did you decide to share it in a book?
A: I always wanted to write a book. This was an opportunity to do something I had dreamed of, and to write about something I’m very passionate about.
At the beginning of the journey (of Aiden coming out), all I saw was the negative. I never thought I would get to this point. A couple of years later, I can see how amazing this journey has been. Now our family is still much closer; we are more grateful for each other.
Q: What was it like to write about something so personal?
A: When I got into some of the difficult times, it was really hard. The most difficult was (the years Aiden was in) high school and college and some of the physical violence Aiden encountered. I cried while I was writing; that was really healing.
I wanted Aiden to read every single chapter, and I interviewed him for every chapter. As a result, we had a chance to talk about these things and I learned a lot. A lot of what I learned took away my shame and my guilt. The thing he said that really made a difference was, “Everything I went through, both positive and negative, made me the man I am today.” He is confident; he is strong; he has this resilience about him.
I thought about, how am I going to be judged as a mother? I had to decide what kind of book I wanted to write. There’s an episode in the book where I yell. You don’t want to put these things in, but that was our journey. I wanted to write a story about how a mother had to overcome these things to get to acceptance and love.
Q: What has the response been like?
A: From LGBT youth, I’ve heard, “I never considered that was what my mother was going through.” And I’m hearing things like, “My mother seems to have opened her heart a little bit.”
If they (parents) are not going to change the way they think, they’re not going to get there. They have to change their picture for the future to get to unconditional love and acceptance. I feel lucky to help parents change that paradigm.
Q: What do you want readers to take away from your book?
A: I hope parents take away that this can be an amazing journey. They have to be committed that they’re going to make this journey amazing for their family.
For youth, I want them to know that if their parents never get there … the most important person who believes in you is yourself.
Q: What advice would you give to parents who are struggling with accepting an LGBT child?
A: Find support. Do some research; do your homework. And talk to your child to get questions answered.
Marsha Aizumi is an LGBT community advocate and speaker. She serves on the board of director for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). In addition to Two Spirits, One Heart, you can read Marsha’s writing in her blog posts for Huffington Post.