February stands out as a month of love for me because of Valentine’s Day. Although it is not the only month I think of love, I wanted to share a couple of things that happened recently that highlight this theme.
I received a video from a young gay man named Brandon Ishikata. He gave me permission to share his story and his name.
I have never met Brandon in person, but we are Facebook friends, and from his posts, I can see he is passionate and free to be all of who he is. He is currently a ballroom, Latin and swing dance instructor in training at May I Have This Dance studio in Chicago.
In a studio winter showcase, Brandon chose to dance the rumba, which is the dance of love, and he titled his performance “Okage Sama De,” which he says translates to “I am what I am because of you.” The dance was choreographed by Stephanie Hinterschied, and his dance partner was Anna Jattkowski... (Read More)
Last month, Aiden and I were asked to speak to about 40 Mormon Church leaders. Aiden said that he was “supernervous.” I was nervous, too, but I felt like this was an opportunity to reach people who could become allies.
The reason we were so nervous is because the Mormon Church was said to be the reason Proposition 8, the California proposition that outlawed gay marriage, passed. They raised $5 million a few weeks before the election. And according to a New York Times article, “The money allowed the drive to intensify a sharp-elbowed advertising campaign, and support for the measure was catapulted ahead; it ultimately won with 52 percent of the vote.”
You can see why we thought we might be walking into an intense situation. But times change, and people can change, too. I think I am proof of that. I used to think that being LGBTQ was a choice. Now, I know it isn’t. Plus, Aiden and I have to seize opportunities that will give us a chance to change hearts and minds. So, we accepted their invitation a bit uneasy, but hopeful that this event could make a difference to not only the LGBTQ community, but also the Mormon community as well...(Read More)
Last month, I had an experience that both made me stop and evaluate what it means to come out and soar with gratitude to those who would stand up and support in a positive way.
It all began when a high school classmate sent an update email to 15 classmates that lived in the same geographical area about people who were having health issues or were facing other challenges. One of the individuals, Fred, on this email thread, sent a response back about how he appreciated being part of this high school class because though we were different, there was a feeling of connection and inclusion.
I graduated from a conservative, predominantly white high school in Southern California. At the time, I was the only Asian in my graduating class. I did not feel a lot of discrimination, but I did not feel a lot of connection either.
I was just someone who was different and only experienced an occasional derogatory reference to my Asian heritage. But it was enough to make me keep a low profile and study hard, so as not to make waves.
For some reason, after Fred sent this response talking about inclusion and connection, I felt like I wanted to “come out” to the people on this email thread in hopes of bringing more support for the LGBTQ community. I had hoped I would feel a greater connection to these individuals and also bring some awareness to my classmates. And so, I wrote that I had a transgender son and hoped that our class would be kind to LGBTQ individuals, since they knew someone who graduated with them had a transgender child... (Read More)
The power of affirmations was never more evident to me than this past week, as my youngest son, Stefen, continued to struggle to find a job. He had sent out hundreds of résumés, filled out countless applications and had been on a number of interviews. We practiced interview questions, reached out to people for internships and had reminders all over the house of his dream to first work at a bank and then work at an escrow company.
The only job offer he received just recently came from AFLAC. He thought it was going to be a credit analyst position, but it was a sales job. So, after almost a year of searching, I could feel his confidence beginning to wane. He didn’t want a sales job, but if nobody would hire him, should he accept this offer? I encouraged him to listen to his heart, not settle for something he thought would make him miserable waking up each morning to go to work. He decided not to take the job...[READ MORE]
Recently, my husband, Tad, and I took a trip with my brother, Marty, to Las Vegas to celebrate the birthday and retirement of a second cousin. As I get older, these long drives aren’t as much fun as they used to be. All of us (except the driver) are on our smartphones reading emails, playing a game or watching a video. The time goes by fast, but something feels missing. We don’t talk and connect with each other now that we can be entertained by technology.
At Barstow, my husband asked for a driver change, and my brother volunteered to drive the rest of the way to Vegas. Then Tad asked, “Who is going to sit in the front seat while Marty drives? Tad looked directly at me with eyes that said ‘your turn,’ since I had been in the backseat catching up on emails. I happily said, “I will.”
As Marty was driving, I put away my phone, and we began to talk about our childhood. I laughed about the time he hit me over the head with the butt of his cowboy pistol — I still have a dent in my head! He learned this from watching Westerns on television.
I paused for a moment and wondered what other things young kids are learning from television, movies and the Internet that are not good, as I rubbed the dent in my head...[READ MORE]
I always believe that when things repeat in my life, it’s a sign that I need to pay attention. Recently, I met a young artist named Jason Chu, who talked about the difference between someone performing and a true artist. He defined a true artist as one who vulnerably creates his or her work. I didn’t truly understand what he was trying to say until Aiden shared with me a song he thought I would like.
Last month, Aiden and I were booked to give the keynote for a huge speaking event — our largest one ever. About 900 people were gathering for an interfaith and intercultural breakfast. I was nervous on two levels: first, because of the sheer number of people we were addressing, and secondly, because it was going to be a large number of churches, temples, and non-LGBTQ organizations.
The California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ) was the host organization, and it wanted to introduce the topic of being transgender to groups and individuals, many who knew very little about the subject. It was going to be a different audience than what we are used to speaking to... [READ MORE]
As many of you might be aware already, I have been appointed to the Biden Foundation’s LGBTQ Equality Advisory Council. When I first got the call, I was both surprised and honored to even be considered. Then, I saw the list of council members, and I was also very intimidated because many of the names are amazing activists for the LGBTQ community.
Some people see me as an activist as well, but I still consider myself, first, as a mother who loves her sons. And though the work I do most visibly is for the LGBTQ community, I always feel that my voice is also supporting the Nikkei and API communities. Therefore, I am working to make the world safer for both Aiden and Stefen.
My first conference call as an official member of the Biden Foundation was a short one … 15 minutes. It was basically a welcome call from former Vice President Joe Biden. Listening to him, I felt so motivated to go out and do more, not afraid of what others are saying, but lifting my vision higher and believing I have the power to make a difference...Read More