PFLAG documentary spotlights Asian mothers, LGBTQ kids

The documentary short film“A Place To Call Home” features four Asian PFLAG mothers sharing their journeys with their LGBTQ kids.

Stephanie Tran, the film’s director who identifies as queer, said the goal of the film is representation of unheard voices. Tran, the child of Vietnamese refugees, wants to create the visibility that they, and other people like them who felt marginalized, craved growing up.

“This film is extremely important to me because I hardly ever see myself represented in the media,” Tran, 28, a Vietnamese filmmaker who uses the pronouns they and them, said in a statement. “It is my dream and my life’s goal to change that.”

PFLAG released the documentary this week  on its YouTube channel to coincide with Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

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Tran approached PFLAG National last year with an idea for a film to amplify and honor Asian LGBTQ voices. But when COVID-19 hit, the project was paused. Eventually, Tran brought the film and her vision to life.

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Here’s a brief look at the film subjects.

  • Aiden Aizumi was born in Japan and adopted by Tad and Marsha Aizumi. He came out as transgender at 20. In 2015, Aizumi earned a bachelor’s degree and graduated magna cum laude and with departmental honors from the University of La Verne, where he later earned a master’s degree in education technology. He works as a compliance coordinator and regional sports advisor with Opportunities for Learning Public Charter Schools – San Gabriel Valley. He serves as president of PFLAG Pasadena, where he facilitates the youth group. Aiden also speaks at high schools and colleges in the area to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues. He and his wife Mary live in Los Angeles.
  • Marsha Aizumi is an author, speaker, educator and advocate for the LGBTQ community. She embraced the cause due, in large part, to her son’s bullying and harassment during high school. Her advocacy work has taken Marsha across the United States and overseas to Asia where she has shared how her shame, grief, and fear transformed into unconditional love and acceptance for her son. Marsha and Aiden have shared their story with more than 200 organizations, including Christian, Buddhist, and Mormon communities, hoping that their rejection from a Christian church they attended will provide a platform for churches and temples to find ways to be more open and inclusive. The pair have also written a book, “Two Spirits, One Heart.” In 2012, Marsha co-founded San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG, where she had served as president. Marsha also serves as a member of the PFLAG National Board of Directors.
  • Aruna Rao is the proud mother of a transgender child, Leo Shanti Hegde. She serves on the steering committee of API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC and is the founder of Desi Rainbow Parents & Allies, an organization for South Asian immigrants with LGBTQ children. She has developed culturally sensitive and innovative networks for South Asians and develops training for a peer-to-peer support network. She has promoted family acceptance at numerous conferences.
  • Leo Shanti Hegde identifies as a South Asian transmasculine pansexual person who is passionate about music. Hegde, who uses the pronouns he/him and they/them, studied both mechanical engineering and music at Vanderbilt University in Nashville where he founded an affinity group called Q&A (Queer & Asian) to build community. Since 2019, Leo has been involved with the transgender, non-binary, and queer Asian and Pacific Islander community organization APIEC to help build power, develop leaders, and uplift the history and contributions of queer API people in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond.
  • Sung Tse was born in South Korea and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 7 years old.  She married her high school sweetheart and is the proud mother of two children. Tse said she was sheltered in her conservative-Christian bubble more than 30 years, but when her youngest child came out as transgender, her faith wasn’t shaken. Tse said God had a purpose for her and her family. Her journey of initial confusion evolved, and she has become a vocal and visible advocate and ally, affirming and loving LGBTQ people, especially those of Korean descent. She is chapter president of San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG.
  • Clara Yoon is the proud Korean mother of a 17-year-old transgender, bisexual son. She is the founder of API Project, which  supports LGBTQ people and families of Asian heritage, fosters intergenerational dialogue, and addresses culture-specific needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander community. Yoon also serves on the board of PFLAG NYC.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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