At the end of March, I visited the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center for the event “Nikkei (of Japanese descent) intersections: An LGBTQ forum for everyone” hosted by JACL to see Harold and Ellen Kameya, RiKu Matsuda and Eric Arimoto speak on a panel to a mostly older and heterosexual/cis-gendered Japanese American audience. It was one of those events that speaks volumes about the difference between the East and West Coast Japanese communities. Here was a Japanese community of elders that were all speaking in fluent American English since they were mostly second, third or fourth generation and were involved in the Japanese American Citizens League. I grew up on the East Coast, where Japanese Americans were all my age and their parents had perhaps moved to the US for work and spoke Japanese best.
Ellen and Harold were two parents I had heard about in previous years when I first started this website because they were two Japanese parents who had an out lesbian daughter and were out and proud about it. Of course they didn’t start out with that attitude, but they joined the LA PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and then started an Asian Pacific Islander branch of PFLAG in San Gabriel Valley in the 90s. They are such an inspiration to me and to many queer Asians in the US because they seem to represent a hope that we have for our own parents to be as unashamed of our sexualities.
In any case, it was wonderful to get to know them (and the other panelists/organizers) in March. Ellen shared a poem she wrote to her daughter in ’95 which I asked her to share with the readers of Asian, Gay and Proud. Hope you’ll enjoy it :)
With wondrous delight we greeted you, that rainy night in October.Sixteen long hours of labor. Then…a beautiful gift from God.
Valerie Mieko, we named you Meaning: brave, beautiful, graceful child. You grew into a magical person Kind, sweet, smart and gentle.
Honors and accolades were many Throughout your years in school. Through those years you always remained Our kind, sweet, gentle daughter.
Unaware I was of your inner struggles, Unaware of your private pain. You trusted us and began to speak The truth about who you are.
Disbelief, shame, guilt and sadness. Afraid I was, for you and for me. A good life was what I wished for you, Darkness and grief was all I saw.
Patience and understanding you gave me. Your hope was for my change of heart. Over the years I have come to know Your sisters and brothers in a new community.
Thanks to you for being my teacher You have done an incredible job. I have learned that being different Is just another way of being.
I LOVE YOU!
Ellen Kameya, PFLAG Los Angeles, 1995