What it means to have Pride

Midori haircut

Midori could not contain her smiles as she cut her long hair short for the first time last November. The inclusive vibe of Bishops Barbershop was important to her and her parents.

By Midori Mori

As a child living in this liberal bubble known as Portland, Oregon, I have lived my life naïve and ignorant of the outside world. It wasn’t until recently I even discovered the term for those like me: Transgender. For 12 of my 13 years, all I knew was that I was different from most of the girls in my class.

Unlike most stories I’ve read, it wasn’t like an a-ha moment where pieces started to click together all at once. It was a more-gradual understanding of what it meant to be queer. Heck, I didn’t even know the term until a couple of months ago. For a long time I kept trying to find the why. Why did I feel the way I did? Why did it seem so wrong to be in my own body? After all this time I realized it wasn’t about why I was the way I was, but more importantly what I do about it now. I wanted the world to see me as a boy. I didn’t want to be trapped in this image as a girl anymore.

Dressing as a boy came with ease because my parents have watched me do so for years and years. Yet something has always bothered me as I looked in mirrors or saw pictures of myself. The only thing that kept me back this whole time was my long hair. Why was it long to begin with? It was more the transition from knowing who I am to letting others know. As much as I could stand my ground in a fight if someone were to bully me (proudly, I may add), I wasn’t sure if I was ready for the questions that would come my way. I didn’t want to answer any of them.

When people asked why did I always dress like a boy, I simply replied, “Because I want to.” And that was the truth. Not cutting my hair was the only thing left to keep me from looking like the image I desired. And I don’t think I had it in my heart to answer questions when I barely knew the explanation myself. In the end, I let my heart win and just decided to take the hit with no regrets.

It wasn’t so much I was worried about what the kids at my school would think of me. It was the people who knew me better than myself, and that would be my companions in my Judo dojo. I quickly found a strong passion for combat of any kind growing up. Whether it was the ninja shows on TV to learning Kung Fu at my Chinese school, I just simply loved the exhilaration from battling. The rush, the fight, and the fact that one will go home defeated, the other a victor. Life doesn’t give you participation trophies so why should Martial Arts be an exception?

Midori and Judo Family

Midori with her second family, her community of friends at the Portland Judo dojo. Seated to her right (second row) is her beloved Sensei, Roy Kawaji.

However, as much as Judo grew on me, it was more the people I met along the way – my training partners, my coaches, and of course, my senseis. As a role model for the younger disciples at my dojo, the reputation I hold might be tarnished by my image as queer. All my success might suddenly mean less for those who choose not to associate with me. And most of all, I didn’t want my reputation among my senseis and seniors to change, either. Everyone who trains in that building holds a place in my heart. It would break my spirit to see them begin to disown me for something I can’t change about myself. But they didn’t; in fact, they seemed to be more of a mix of shocked and supportive. Even the kids at my school reacted the same way.

I guess that’s the difference between having pride in who you are rather than accepting who you are. Even now it is a battle I am still fighting. It seems mostly everyone around me can accept who I am and the only person who can’t is me. I don’t care if I have to shout out to the world that I am transgender, but for now saying that about myself still makes me uncomfortable. Some part of me is more in shock of my own label than denial. I want to be able to love who I am as a person but I always come to the same conclusion – I am a mistake.

When I hear about other people in the world who are openly trans and gay and such, I feel so happy for them and that the world is slowly changing its heart. When I meet someone in the LGBT community, I always am so excited to get to know them more.

When it comes down to me, though, I wonder why I can so easily love others for being like me but I can’t ever bring myself to love the person I am. Sometimes I even wish I could just be “normal” in the sense of my gender identity. I want to feel like I belong in the body I was born in. I want to feel like I can grow up and go to whatever college I choose without having to worry about whether the campus is liberal toward LGBT or not. Nonetheless, I can’t change who I am. So if I am transgender I won’t deny it, but rather continue following what my heart knows is right rather than my mind. Because sometimes it is less important to be logical, and more necessary to be emotional.

Midori in Japan

The highlight of Midori’s first-ever trip to Japan (ironically) was an afternoon spent in Tokyo’s Korea Town district. Midori and her school friends are huge fans of K-Pop music.

Being more of a liberal moderate, I am always ready for the world to change in terms of the gap between races, the social norms of what every man and women should be like, even who we can choose to love. As much as I support every word I just said, I’m not ready for my world to change. I never thought being queer would ever relate to my life and now it defines my entire life. My only hope is that seeing the way things are changing around me might be the only change I need to see before embracing the new discoveries about myself. We shouldn’t fear the future inside ourselves and our lives, but rather welcome it and thrive.

***

Midori Mori will be entering 8th grade this year. She found her life’s passion and a community of friends when she discovered Portland Judo five years ago. She competes in regional and national events and dreams of becoming a U.S. Olympian in 2024. She also is interested in politics and watches MSNBC with her dad.

Editor’s note: Midori became part of the VOA community last year when she shared her thoughts following a family vacation that included a side trip to a Japanese internment camp in northwest Wyoming. Read her essay here: My visit to Heart Mountain

Tomorrow: Aki Mori, My beautiful child, Midori

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8 thoughts on “What it means to have Pride

  1. What a strong person you are-and just entering eight grade. You have already lived a lifetime and have one ahead of you. Your essay, My Visit to Heart Mountain is so moving. I am a history docentvat the Oakland Museum of California where we routinely talk about the internment camps. I will keep your story in my head when I give my tours. My family took care of homes and gardens belonging to employees who worked in our store. When they returned their jobs were waiting for them.

    I love what your teacher said, “Remembering the wrongs is just as important as remembering the rights.

  2. You are so brave to write about your conflicted feelings. Most of us grapple with our contradictions in our own minds and never attempt such authenticity. I loved your essay last year and this one was wonderful too. I hope your dream of being an Olympian comes true. Good luck!

  3. Good work living out loud where others can hear you and you can be heard. You have a beautiful, strong, inquisitive voice.
    I can’t believe you are 13. Be patient with 13, and allow yourself to be loved by family and friends.

  4. Like the others, when I read your essay last year my main thought was not believing such a young person could be so wise. Then I read your essay this year, and I wonder about the insight in a young person, to be so clear and so sure on who you really are, and the acceptance that goes with that. I’m almost 62 years old, and I still struggle at times to accept who I am – a full-fledged empath who feels everything. Yes, I felt your struggle but I also felt your strength. With the love and support of your family and Judo community, I think I can go find other people to worry about.

  5. Midori I love your spirit, your honesty, and your strength. I have a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings swirling around my head regarding what I would want my child to hear from a complete stranger if she had shared something so vulnerable about herself. Here’s what the whirlwind boils down to: you are not a mistake. You. Are. Not. a. Mistake. You are an image bearer and you are carrying your light into the world. Keep being you and know that only you know what the best way to do that is. You are so loved.

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