I have so much to digest from yesterday’s event at the Japanese American National Museum, Honor Thy Children, that I don’t know where to start. Actually, first I should start with thanking Harold Kameya for inviting me to be a speaker. I’m not sure if he was a little nervous letting me speak at such an important event without meeting me in person first (for all he knew, I could have been perfectly lovely via email and yet only spoke pig-latin in person), but I’m really touched he took a chance on me.
The event took place at the Tateuchi Democracy Forum located directly across the Japanese American National Museum and I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. Within five minutes of arriving, I met lots of interesting people (including the nice woman who chatted with me on the short walk from the parking lot to the theater). Many were, surprisingly, from Hawaii and when they found out that I was from there, they asked, “what high school did you go to?” It made me smile.
The event started around 9am, with Phil Shigekuni giving opening remarks and introductions. We watched the documentary Honor Thy Children, which follows the Nakatani’s life and struggles as a Japanese-American family with three sons, two of whom were gay and passed away from AIDS complications, the other was murdered. I cried during the film. In fact, I think most of the audience cried because I heard sniffling and heavy sighs. Although their story is marked by so much heartache and tragedy, the Nakatanis have turned their pain into something positive. Al and Jane Nakatani were both so inspiring. They spoke candidly about their struggles, dealing with their sons’ sexuality, and finally acceptance and now their activism/outreach within the community. Their sons would be proud of them for being such fighters for the LGBT community.
After their Q&A session, I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Marsha Aizumi. Marsha spoke about her transgendered son with such love and affection, it made me cry. She’s doing so many great things for the LGBT community and I’m excited to read the book she’s writing with her son when it comes out. Accepting LGBT people is something that the Asian community struggles with. I was really surprised to see so many Asian people supporting their LGBT family members and friends. It was amazing.
Everyone in the audience was very supportive, especially a fellow writer named Nancy who chatted with me before the event. She put me at ease. I felt like I was speaking in front of all of my favorite aunts and uncles. Honestly, I felt like I didn’t deserve to share the stage with such selfless and determined activists for the LGBT community. They have all done SO much, even though none of them are actually LGBT, but because they love their children enough to fight for them. It was life-changing. I need to do more because this is my fight too. If anything, they have all inspired me to do better, do more.
After the event, I had a chance to mingle with everyone. So many people came up to me to introduce themselves and thank me for speaking. I wanted to thank them for listening to me and not-so-interesting story. A few people said I should be on television (hahaha, so sweet) and some said I should be a stand-up comedian. “You’d give Margaret Cho a run for her money,” one woman told me. I wanted to hug her for being so nice.
Both Al and Jane approached me after the event and I know I didn’t adequately express my gratitude in the way I should have. I was so overwhelmed, so honored to have crossed paths with them, all I could really do was hug them and say thank you. I remember I told Al Nakatani that I hoped I was okay. He reassured me and said, “we need all kinds of messengers.”
I talked story with people outside and FINALLY got to meet the Kameyas, who I had been corresponding with via email since my contribution to the It Gets Better Project. Ellen greeted me with such a big hug that I felt like I was family.
Before I left for the museum gift shop, I had a second opportunity to thank Al and Jane for all they’ve done for the community. I told them it was inspiring. “Pardon my language,” I apologized, “but you two lit a fire under my butt to do more, help more.”
Jane laughed, “Good. Now light it higher!”