In honor of Asian, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, PFLAG National has produced a new documentary short film, A Place to Call Home, directed by filmmaker Stephanie Tran (pronouns they/them).
Last year, Tran, a young, queer, Vietnamese filmmaker, approached PFLAG National with an idea for a film to amplify and honor LGBTQ+ AAPI voices. Then COVID hit, and the way films were being made had to change, quickly--putting the project on pause. Now, one year later, Stephanie is finally able to bring their vision to life.
"This film is extremely important to me because I hardly ever see myself represented in the media. It is my dream and my life's goal to change that," said Tran.
Tran is a multifaceted filmmaker who writes, directs, produces, and edits. As a queer person and child of Vietnamese refugees, they find it crucial to honor and genuinely capture identity, culture, and history. They seek to create the visibility and representation they craved growing up. Not only do they feel it is a necessity for themselves, but for others who feel that their voice is marginalized.
A Place Called Home features four PFLAG mothers of AAPI descent, sharing their journeys with their LGBTQ+ kids.
Sung Tse is is a 1.5 generation Korean American mother of a transgender son. She is the current president of PFLAG San Gabriel Valley API, an AAPI-focused chapter in the San Gabriel Valley in California. The chapter was founded by Marsha Aizumi, a third generation Japanese American mother of a transgender son, and a member of the PFLAG National Board of Directors. Her son, Aiden Aizumi, also appears in the film and is himself now the president of PFLAG Pasadena, in California.
Aruna Rao is a 1st generation Indian American of a queer, transgender son, Leo Shanti Hegdi, who appears in the film and whose song, “After Snow,” is included in the soundtrack of the film.
Clara Yoon is a 1.5 generation Korean American mother of a transgender, bisexual son. Yoon is the founder of API Rainbow Parents of PFLAG NYC.
About the Filmmaker
Stephanie Tran (they/them), Director is a multifaceted filmmaker who writes, directs, produces, and edits. As a queer person and child of Vietnamese refugees, they find it crucial to honor and genuinely capture identity, culture, and history. They seek to create the visibility and representation they craved growing up. Not only do they feel it is a necessity for themselves, but for others who feel that their voice is marginalized.
About the Subjects
Aiden Aizumi (he/him) was born in Japan and adopted by Tad and Marsha Aizumi. He came out as trans at the age of 20 and in 2015 graduated Magna Cum Laude and with departmental honors upon earning his bachelors degree from the University of La Verne, later earning a Masters in Education Technology from the same university. In 2016, the University of La Verne recognized Aiden among the "125 Most Influential" people at the university. He now enjoys a fulfilling career with Opportunities for Learning Public Charter Schools - San Gabriel Valley where he serves as a compliance coordinator and regional sports advisor. Currently, Aiden serves as President of PFLAG Pasadena where he also facilitates the youth group. Aiden also speaks at high schools and colleges in the area to broaden the awareness of LGBTQ+ issues. He and his wife Mary live in Los Angeles.
Marsha Aizumi (she/her) is an author, speaker, educator and advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community, a cause she embraced due, in large part, to the harassment and bullying her son experienced throughout high school. Her advocacy work has taken Marsha around the United States and overseas to Asia as she shares how her shame, grief and fear moved into unconditional love and acceptance for her son, Aiden. 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, which was published in 2013 by Magnus Books and has been reissued in 2021 as a 2nd edition.
In 2012, Marsha co-founded San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG where she had also served as president. In 2014 she co-founded Okaeri (which means "welcome home" in Japanese), a Nikkei LGBTQ+ community event which draws about 250 people from across the United States and Canada and continues to be a biennial event. She has also organized "Creating Safe Faith Communities" in 2017 and "Walking in Love" in 2019, events each designed to bring faith leaders together to work on LGBTQ+ individuals and families feeling accepted and seen in their churches and temples. Marsha has been honored with a number of awards for her work and advocacy, including from Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, the National Queer API Alliance, the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team, and was named "2015 Trailblazing Parent by LOGO TV." She has also been honored with recognition by Congresswoman Judy Chu as Community Activist in 2014. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Marsha moved to Southern California at an early age. She earned her BA from California State University at Los Angeles, majoring in American Studies and minoring in English. She went on to receive her secondary teaching life credential. Among her many accomplishments, Marsha also serves as a member of the PFLAG National Board of Directors.
Leo Shanti Hegdi (he/him and they/them) identifies as a South Asian transmasculine pansexual person who is passionate about music. Leo 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, talk and connect. Since 2019, Leo has been involved with the Transgender, Non-Binary and Queer API community organization APIEC to help build power, develop leaders, and to uplift the history and contributions of queer API people in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Leo currently works as an acoustics consultant and continues to hone his musical abilities, playing the trumpet, flugelhorn, tabla, ukulele, guitar and piano.
Aruna Rao (she/her) is the proud mother of a transgender child. 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 is developing training for a peer-to-peer support network. She has spoken and promoted family acceptance at venues such as the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference, Gender Conference NYC, In My Mind: A Mental Health Conference for LGBTQ People of Color and the National Queer API Alliance conferences.
Aruna was the Associate Director of NAMI NJ for 18 years, where she founded SAMHAJ, a program to provide support and education for South Asian immigrants affected by mental illness, an effort recognized with the 2011 SAALT Changemaker Award and the 2002 NAMI National Multicultural Outreach Award. She served on the NAMI Diversity & Inclusion Workgroup and the NIMH Outreach Partner Steering Committee. She developed and led initiatives such as walkathons, conferences and campaigns as well as cultural competence training for health providers and educators. She seeks to bring her mental health expertise, creativity and cultural competence skills to promote PFLAG’s mission.
Sung Tse (she/her) was born in South Korea and immigrated to the US when she was 7 years old. She married her high school sweetheart and is the proud mother of two children. Although she was sheltered in her conservative Christian bubble for more than 30 years, when her younger child came out as transgender, she knew God had a purpose for her and her family. Rather than her faith in God being shaken, 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. Her journey has made her more compassionate to the amazing people who drew her out of her comfort zone. A graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Sung currently works as an Information Architect for research in oncology. She is also Chapter President of San Gabriel Valley API PFLAG.
Clara Yoon (she/her) is the very proud Korean mother of a 17-year-old transgender, bisexual son, living in New York City. She is the founder of API Project to provide support for LGBTQ individuals and families of Asian heritage, foster inter-generational dialogue and address culture-specific needs of the API community. She also serves on the board of PFLAG NYC. She and her husband support and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ community.