Aiden Aizumi, a transgender activist and University of La Verne alumnus, shared his experience in honor of Transgender Remembrance Day on Nov. 20 via Zoom. This event also centered around remembering those in the transgender community who have died this past year due to violence.
Aizumi is a fourth generation Japanese American transgender man. He said he hopes sharing his story can help spread acceptance and those who listen can find acceptance within themselves.
Aizumi said it took 20 years to find himself through self-discovery.
“It’s kind of like a choose your own adventure novel,” Aizumi said to the 32 attendees that attended the virtual remembrance day.
Aizumi was born in Japan and was adopted by his parents. He said that his elementary school days had nothing traumatic or troubling. No one treated him differently and would simply call him a tomboy. It wasn’t until middle school that the challenges started arising, said Aizumi. There were a lot of activities that were gender based. Aizumi also said that his male peers were closed off and he struggled to find where he fit in or belonged.
Around this time people started asking him questions like “Are you gay?” or “Are you a boy?” Aizumi’s grades started to slip and he had anxiety and depression. He would also have panic attacks just about everyday at school.
In his sophomore year of high school, he had his “first version of his coming out.” He thought he was a lesbian. Aizumi’s school didn’t have diversity events so he told his mom he wasn’t going back because of the bullying and lots of anxiety. So, he finished school from home.
He said he did a lot of soul searching and in 2008 he started to transition. His final coming out as transgender was at a Christmas dinner to his friends and family.
“I am very fortunate to have a very accepting family and I had to build a new relationship myself,” Aizumi said.
He said he is also very appreciative of the accepting community at ULV and that he was able to enjoy college and embrace his identity. He also came out in a class taught by John Bartelt, professor of education and human development, and his wife, Linda Bartelt, who both attended the Zoom meeting.
“I want you to know that John and I love you and I’m so happy you’re in our life,” Linda told Aizumi.
Once Aizumi was done sharing his story, there was a short Q&A.
“What are your thoughts on the conservative Supreme Court?,” Misty Levingston, associate director of multicultural affairs and black student services, asked.
“Under Obama there was a lot of support for us but these past four years, lots of these things and support were taken away from us,” Aizumi said. “It’s very frustrating and disheartening.”
After the Q&A, there was a candlelight vigil to remember transgender people who have been victims of violence. There were names that were read and pictures that were shown include; Dustin Parker, Monika Diamond, Nina Pop, Penélope Díaz Ramírez, Tony McDade, Brayla Stone, Merci Mack and Brian “Egypt” Powers.
“In my many years of working with college students, there are always kids transitioning and it’s very hard for them,” University Chaplain Zandra Wagoner said. “We also wanted to acknowledge those who are living and thriving and be supportive of them.”
Wagoner said that she hopes that people left feeling supported and included in a community.
“I attended this event because I wanted to remember the lives of the countless trans women and men around the world that have unfortunately lost their lives,” Mitchell Calderilla, sophomore musical theater major said. “Having ULV hold this event strengthened my joy in attending a school that is so inclusive and makes sure that anyone who wants to be heard or needs to be heard, can.”
Lilliana Perez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.