My beautiful child, Midori

Aki and Midori - Caption 1

Aki celebrates with Midori after she earned a silver medal at the Junior Olympic national tournament in June.

By Aki Mori

I feel I’ve traveled a long way in a short amount of time with my daughter, Midori. It was only a year or so ago when the term “transgender” first began to appear in our conversations. Since that time, I have progressed through different phases without too much difficulty: awareness, understanding, and support. The next phase on my journey as father is the embracing of Midori’s gender identity. I’m not quite there yet, but I know I’m close and I’ll get there shortly.

Midori has always been an exceptionally beautiful girl. Everywhere we have gone, people have told my wife, Katie, and I how cute or adorable or darling Midori is. Darn it, as her father I was just so proud of it all. I envisioned her growing into an amazing young woman: intelligent, fierce, independent, and gosh-darn beautiful. So when she began expressing herself as a boy, it was hard for me to watch her let go of her natural girlish beauty. It may only come across as shallow and selfish on my part to phrase it this way, but what pains me most is to see her beauty be wasted.

But I am coming along, and Midori gives me plenty of space with her happy-go-lucky personality. With the passing of time I am beginning to treat Midori more and more like my son, even subconsciously in many cases. She is unusually tough physically, so I make her carry the heaviest bags of groceries, or the extra suitcase when we are traveling. She frequently gets injured in judo – and it’s not a big deal to me. I let her punch me in the shoulder as a sign of her affection to me. Mowing the lawn is probably on the horizon.

The singular turning point in my comfort with Midori’s gender identity was a phone conversation I had with my mom, who lives in Ohio. Even long after Midori’s transgender status was established in our household, I had been avoiding the topic with my parents because they are serious Pentecostal Christians. They view challenging situations in life through the lens of a spiritual battle taking place in an invisible realm.

I feared that Midori’s unusual choices would be cause for my parents to pass judgment on my spiritual uprightness as a parent and family protector. When I finally broke the “news” to my mom, her reaction shocked me. Without any pause or reflection whatsoever, her response to me in Japanese was, “So what?”

She was completely supportive of Midori and even surprisingly knowledgeable on the topic. Who knew that programming on Japanese satellite TV could be so progressive? And more importantly, who knew that assumptions I held about my mom’s core values could be toppled like Jenga bricks so late in my life?

Aki's Mother and Midori - Caption 2

Aki’s mother came to visit Portland in March. Her earlier and immediate embrace of Midori’s gender identity was both a surprise and an inspiration to Aki.

My current worries? I think about the difference between gender identity and sexuality. They are separate topics. I am comfortable with the former, but not the latter in the context of my 13-year old child. And yet I know that whenever Midori turns to the internet for information, she will Google umbrella terms like “LGBTQ” or “queer,” which will produce a mish-mash of search results, including ones that are offensive or possibly horrifying.

Similarly, Midori recently expressed an interest in attending gay pride parades. If such events were organized with children in mind, I would have no problem with that. Katie and I are basically left to helplessly trust that Midori will exercise good judgment and apply boundaries for herself that are appropriate. I know these are the same concerns of any parent who has a teenager, right? I get that we’re all on the same bumpy boat ride.

At both the tree and the forest levels, Katie and I are so proud of Midori. Midori’s grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins also feel the same way, and her little sister, Ayumi, doesn’t care. They’ve always been best friends and there’s nothing to indicate that will ever change.

The Mori Family - Caption 3

The Mori family visited Japan together for the first time this summer. Mother Katie (far left) and father Aki flank Ayumi and Midori as they stand at the entrance to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo.

Midori has a lot to be thankful for. I have a lot to be thankful for. At the same time that we are traveling along separate journeys, we also are on a road trip together. As I mentioned, “embracing” is my next destination on the roadway and I can now see it coming right up around the corner.

***

Aki Mori and his wife, Katie, moved to the Portland area in 2006 after winning the right to purchase their home in a real estate lottery. They are both thankful to live in Portland. It’s the perfect place to raise their two children, Midori and Ayumi. Aki has been a public educator for 18 years and currently is an assistant principal at a high school in Beaverton.

Editor’s note: I met Aki several years ago when I edited an op-ed piece he submitted to The Oregonian and I regard him as a model educator and parent. He is a family man who exhibits kindness and integrity, and demonstrates respect for others. As the parent of a gay daughter, this piece resonates deeply with me. I don’t imagine it will be long before Aki moves from accepting to embracing his child’s gender identity.

Read Midori’s piece: What it means to have Pride

Tomorrow: Tammy Ellingson, Baby, you can drive my car!

 

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “My beautiful child, Midori

  1. Aki, you don’t sound shallow or selfish to me. At all. You are experiencing the loss of a plan and a “looking forward to,” and that is hard stuff. I am glad your child clearly feels loved and valued. Focusing on relationship in the preteen years of our kids seems the best answer to so many of the challenges that those years bring them and our families. Keep up the great work of valuing beautiful Midori.

  2. Aki – I hope you don’t think that your acceptance of Midori is something that just any parent would do out of love for their child. Nope. I expect that you are in the minority here, and it tells me everything I need to know but already suspected about your heart, your love, and your devotion. Sadly, too many parents would shun their child. Kudos to you and Katie for your loving acceptance and support of Midori as she journeys forward toward adulthood. As I said when I shared the post today, read about a father’s boundless love.

  3. If you can write a statement like this ” It may only come across as shallow and selfish on my part to phrase it this way, but what pains me most is to see her beauty be wasted.” it means you are honest and willing to acknowledge and explore that part of yourself – which basically means you can’t be shallow or selfish 🙂 You have always been so authentic. Thank you for, once again, sharing such a personal journey with us. I would love to read a piece about your trip to Japan!

  4. Aki every year you shine a little more wisdom and grace into my life around this crazy parenting adventure. Thank you for being such an uplifting example and being a father your children can look up to.

  5. AKI and Midori Last year when you each wrote about your visit to Minidoka, I feel I got to know each of you a bit and truly respected the shared strength and commitment shown in the pieces. This year I am even more blown away by your honesty, openness and love. Thank you for helping us to see a most important and personal issue from 2 points of view.

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