Two Spirits, One Heart
A Mother, Her Transgender Son, and Their Journey to Love and Acceptance
For as long as I can remember, my life has been grounded in the concept of living the life you dream. I pursued my dream when I adopted my two children from Japan. I retired to live my dream when I sold my insurance business and became a stay-at-home mother. And as I began to write this book, I dreamed of creating a safer world for both of my sons.
When I talk to my children about their future, I always tell them to follow their dreams. Even if the dream may not be realized, I believe that they are being led in the direction of their heart’s desire. Perhaps they will meet someone who will teach them a valuable lesson or introduce them to an individual who will impact them in a positive way. I no longer ignore signs that appear more frequently and grow in intensity. I listen to the voice inside my head that feels in alignment with my heart. This is how I strive to live my life and this is how I have raised my children.
My oldest child was born female, but today he lives as a man. According to Native American belief, he has two spirits. His dream was to live in alignment with how he thinks and feels as a man. For years, this was his ongoing struggle.
Together, my son and I represent two separate spirits: a mother and her child. Aiden has faced his journey as he reconciled who he was meant to be. I faced a journey as well, choosing to be the mother I was meant to be. And we have faced a journey together as he traveled down the road of transition and became the person that lives inside of him. It has been a difficult journey for both of us and for our family. We have had to confront more fear and doubt than each of us thought possible. But someone once told me that fear backs down when standing in face of love, and no truer words were ever spoken with respect to our journey.
We have walked down some dark paths with very little light to guide our way. Aiden feared rejection and though it still haunts him, he chooses to focus on the positive things in his life. I feared for his safety, acceptance, and future happiness, but now choose to focus on how he has attracted a sense of worthiness, opportunities for leadership, and love into all he does. The rewards for our courage and our determination to set aside personal fears and step into the light of love have brought us more awareness and more joy than I could ever imagine. We developed a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, grew in confidence to tackle the unknown, and experienced fear take flight as we stood together fearless on the outside, but often trembling on the inside. Throughout this journey we have chosen to travel together. And we have been guided by only one heart, and that heart was love.
What is now so evident is that Aiden lives in the best of both worlds. As female for twenty years, he has acquired the sensitivity, intuitive nature, and compassionate qualities often valued in women. As a man, he is more objective, rational, and focused - qualities stereotypically male. Most of us strive over our lifetime to balance the “yin” and “yang” of our existence. At age twenty-four, Aiden has integrated both into his life.
For those who are struggling with their child’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or any perceived difference, I hope this story gives you hope, information, and a vision of what your love and support can mean to your child. I didn’t foresee that this path would bring me so much joy and provide me with such rich and rewarding experiences. I did not believe that I could summon up such courage to speak up and speak out. I would never have known how profusely my love could flow or how far my love could reach. All of these things have been gifts of this path I have chosen to walk with my son.
When I first sat down to write this book, my fingers positioned over the keyboard, my heart beat with excitement. My words were flying off the page as the memories spilled out naturally and effortlessly. In a short period of time, I had written several pages, when usually it took hours to compose the same length of material. I was motivated by the speed of my book’s creation.
Months later, my mood shifted. Writing about the difficult times my son and I experienced, I hesitated and began to filter and analyze what I was going to say or what I had already written. My fingers no longer flew over the keyboard, not only as I relived the painful events from my past, but also projected into the future, speculating who might read this book and how they would judge me.
In the end, I have chosen to write as much of the truth as I could possibly write, while protecting those sensitive areas of my son’s personal journey. Some names in this book have been changed to respect the privacy of others. But most of the names are family, friends, and allies who have nurtured, accepted, and loved us through this journey.
I want Asian-American Pacific Islander families to know that I, too, wrestled with the honor of my family name and the dignity of my ancestors. But I have chosen to honor my family by telling the truth to all who will listen.
I want mothers to know that I began writing this book for LGBT individuals and their families, and now realize I was writing a book about a mother’s love. I believe any mother can relate to my story. We all want the best for our children, we all face times of uncertainty, wondering if we are doing the right thing, and we all want to be the best mothers we can possibly be, although there are times we may stumble and fall.
I also want parents to know that I, too, faltered and denied what seemed to be such clear and obvious signs about my son’s identity. Sometimes the guilt of this avoidance makes me so sad that I wish I could rewind those years and make different decisions. But I can’t. I did the best I could at the time and must forgive myself for anything I did out of not knowing or not being ready to face the journey that lay before me. I hope this book brings peace to parents who may share similar regrets or remorse.
I have chosen to write this book for LGBT individuals and their families as a tribute to all who have decided to love their children in spite of their fears and as a message of hope to all who are still fighting the fear that this journey has brought into their lives. May the thoughts I am sharing encourage you to continue to love your child no matter what and may this book serve to inspire you to release the fear and embrace the love you have for your child.
Finally, the most important reason that I have written this book is to serve as evidence of the fact that although this road we chose to take was not easy, it is filled with amazing experiences that I would never have been able to behold had I cowered in shame, fear, or anger. This journey has been healing. It has lifted my awareness and has opened my eyes to the wonders that were always around me, but I had failed to recognize. I walk in the world taking beauty and acts of love less for granted. I walk in the world recognizing acts of courage, compassion, and acceptance more often where once I moved through that world unconsciously. I may not notice every one of these incredible moments, but I certainly recognize and appreciate more of them than ever before. This journey with Aiden has made my life so much richer. It has deepened my appreciation for my husband and brought me closer to my younger son, Stefen. I am living the life I dream, and I am living it because Aiden had the courage to say, “This is who I am.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART ONE: Ashley
Chapter 1: Marching to a Different Beat
Chapter 2: The Early Signs
Chapter 3: Middle and High School Days
Chapter 4: Finding Our Way
Chapter 5: The Darkness Before the Light
Chapter 6: Gifts of the Season
PART TWO: Aiden
Chapter 7: Beginning Transition
Chapter 8: Transformation
Chapter 9: Marching Again
Chapter 10: Inspired to Activism
Chapter 11: My Son Finds His Voice
Chapter 12: Believing in Love Again
Chapter 13: The Wolf I Choose to Feed
About the Authors