My oldest child was born female. Today he lives as a man. For 20 years, he struggled to align his physical body with his core being. I watched that struggle and I saw his pain, but I didn't know how to help my son. His own mother did not know what to do. The man that lived inside of him screamed to be recognized. He tried to ignore this male voice, but the voice could not be silenced.
Then one day, he spoke the words that opened up a whole new world for me … "I want to transition to be a guy". And those words changed both of our lives, setting in motion our journey as a family and his journey to become the man he was meant to be.
Throughout 2009, my daughter became my son. Day by day, small and large steps presented themselves and we weighed each one. Some steps we took and others were discounted or deferred to a later date. Aiden began hormone therapy and had "top" surgery. We went to court to change his gender and he completed all the paperwork to be officially recognized as male. With each change, my happy, confident child began to return to me. Hope came back into his heart. Today, he smiles more. He dreams often. And he has found love, when he thought love would never appear.
Because of all the wonderful transformations and in gratitude for my son still being alive, I searched for a place that I could make a difference … a place where I could give back in appreciation for what had been given to me. And a place that touched my heart so deeply that I would commit myself to doing this work the rest of my life. And as I searched I found an answer.
Aiden's high school years were filled with some of the most painful, humiliating and lonely moments of his life. He was harassed regularly at school and physically assaulted outside school. Once attacked for no reason and another time assaulted with a bat, I lived in fear for his life. At a time when my son should be soaring with hope and possibilities, looking forward to his future, he led a life of depression, solitude and withdrawal. He suffered from panic attacks. He was diagnosed agoraphobic. He almost didn't graduate high school, so afraid of leaving home.
But my son did graduate and after taking off one semester to recover from his difficult senior year in high school, he decided to attend college. Once his life took a positive turn, I started to envision a place for bullied and harassed high school students to find a safer, and more nurturing environment to get their high school diploma. With the help of many visionary leaders in the Los Angeles LGBT community, a program opened in February 2010 at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. A partnership between Opportunities for Learning Public Charter School and LifeWorks, a youth program at the Gay & Lesbian Center became the perfect collaboration. Here students both LGBT and LGBT friendly can be in school without fear of being bullied, harassed or physically hurt. They can receive an accredited high school diploma and go on to college. And they can start to dream about a life where they can be accepted and valued for the gifts and talents that they possess.
Besides the LA Center, I am searching for other cities to open up programs. I have talked with people in Chicago and I dream of doing something at the Center at Halsted. A beautiful location with an amazing vibe, I can imagine LGBT youth coming to the Center, loving the opportunity to study in a safe space that is both inspiring and welcoming. It would fill my heart with joy to know that there is a place for Chicago youth who might struggle and feel that the world offers no hope. I want them to know there is hope. This I know is true, because I have walked with my son on this hopeless path. But neither of us gave up … I did not give up on him and he did not give up on himself. And so this path became part of our journey to discover how courageous we could be … how strong and resilient was our spirit … but most of all how much love could flow from our hearts to each other.
I found my life purpose through Aiden's journey, but I also found the real individual that lived within my child. Oh what I would have missed, if I didn't open my heart and mind, acknowledging the truth that was my son.
Marsha Aizumi lives in Arcadia, Calif. She currently works as a director of educational programs, developing experiential learning and academic opportunities that empower and inspire at risk youth in California, Colorado and Illinois. Her first book, Two Spirits, One Hearta memoir about her transgender son's journeyis written through the eyes of a mother. See www.marshaaizumi.com .