Activist shares transgender journey

Aiden Aizumi and his mother Marsha Aizumi presented “One Family’s Journey: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance” April 30 in the Abraham Campus Center. Aiden, a liberal studies major who was born a woman, co-authored “Two Spirits, One Heart” with his mother, which reflects on Aiden’s transgender experience. Aiden and Marsha discussed Aiden’s transition and their relationship throughout, as well as answered questions about their life./ photo by Daniel Torres
Aiden Aizumi and his mother Marsha Aizumi presented “One Family’s Journey: A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance” April 30 in the Abraham Campus Center. Aiden, a liberal studies major who was born a woman, co-authored “Two Spirits, One Heart” with his mother, which reflects on Aiden’s transgender experience. Aiden and Marsha discussed Aiden’s transition and their relationship throughout, as well as answered questions about their life. / photo by Daniel Torres

Kristina Bugante
Editorial Director

Aiden Aizumi, transgender activist, and his mother Marsha Aizumi shared their experiences in a presentation “One Family’s Journey: A Mother, Her Transgender Son and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance” as a part of Transgender Awareness Day April 30 in the Campus Center.

In a nearly-filled ballroom of students, faculty, staff and administrators, the mother-and-son pair recounted their personal experiences of accepting and supporting Aiden Aizumi during his coming out and transition into a transgender male.

“This is a very special day of awareness about transgender individuals, their families and their communities,” said Zandra Wagoner, University chaplain.

“It’s a day of learning, understanding, expression; as well as a day to honor qualities deeply cultivated by the transgender communities, such as courage, grace and authenticity.”

Aiden Aizumi, senior liberal studies major, came out as transgender and started transitioning from female to male when he was 20 years old in 2008.

He is currently a board member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays’ (PFLAG) National Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Advisory Board and is an executive board member of PFLAG Pasadena.

The time before that, however, was difficult for him.

“I’m going to refer to him from the very beginning as male, because that’s who he’s always been,” Marsha Aizumi said. “He was just identified as a female, because biologically that’s how his body was — but he’s always been a little boy.”

In elementary school Aiden Aizumi said he was a very carefree, adventurous and mischievous tomboy.

However when he entered middle school, where he felt that he did not belong, he started withdrawing himself socially.

“I had a hard time with depression and social anxiety,” he said. “I kind of thought that’s how it is, it’s middle school — it’s supposed to be kind of challenging and awkward.”

High school was even tougher for Aiden Aizumi.

Sophomore year he came out as a lesbian, thinking that things would get better — unfortunately, his coming out just made him a target for bullying. He began suffering extreme panic attacks and was severely depressed and suicidal.

“Senior year of high school, I didn’t want to come back to school, I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself,” he said.

Aiden Aizumi spent the end of his senior year doing independent study and got his diploma, but he did not participate in any graduation activities.

“I had still not figured out exactly who I was and in a space I didn’t feel safe in,” he said. Marsha Aizumi said she did not know a lot about what her son was going through during high school because he never told her — he was trying to protect her.

Throughout the six months leading up to his 21st birthday, Aiden Aizumi changed his appearance, his name, started hormones and was getting ready to have top surgery, which is a commonly performed surgical procedure for female to male transgender individuals that include bilateral mastectomies and male chest contouring.

“We were celebrating that he made it to 21, which is a milestone to celebrate,” Marsha Aizumi said. “But for me, I’m celebrating that my son chose to live.”

Aiden Aizumi said he struggled with the sadness and grief of letting go of his old self.

“I was trying to figure out a way to grieve myself,” he said. “I was trying to bridge these two people and these two lives, because I felt they were kind of running parallel to each other.

I had to find a way to let go of that and honor it, but still move forward and embrace this person that I was.”

He was also worried about how his relationship with his father would change after his transition.

“I really worried about finding some other way to connect with him,” he said. “I worried a lot about if I actually went through with this, I was gonna have to mourn that relationship because I wasn’t sure how we were really gonna communicate with each other.”

Aiden Aizumi now calls his father his “silent supporter” and says they are much closer than ever.

For support Marsha Aizumi reached out to PFLAG, an organization that unites LGBTQ individuals with parents, families, friends and allies. “The more educated I got, the less fear that I had,” she said.

Marsha Aizumi has since become a huge advocate for the LGBTQ community and currently serves on the national board of directors for PFLAG.

“One of the reasons why I am so passionate about this work is I am grateful that Aiden is still with me,” she said. “I feel I want to give forward in any way that I can.”

Marsha Aizumi and her son have co-authored “Two Spirits, One Heart,” a book that recounts Aiden Aizumi’s transition from the perspective of his mother.

“I still do have fear that I’m not going to do enough change in the world,” she said. “I want him to grow up in a place that really acknowledges who he is.”

Aiden Aizumi is set to graduate this month and strives to become a teacher.

He found out about ULV through his wife, Mary Aizumi, whom he married in 2013.

“I never imagined being able to go to a school that would embrace me in a way that this school has,” he said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

Kristina Bugante can be reached at kristina.bugante@laverne.edu.

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