Day 29 – Mia Yamamoto – Veteran and Lawyer
Can you imagine fighting on behalf of a country that just a few years earlier had treated your family like they were enemies of the state? Being a racial or ethnic minority in the United States can be hard because there’s a certain allegiance or love, that you have for a country that historically hasn’t loved you. And the same thing can be said about being LGBTQ. That’s why I’m intrigued by Japanese American Mia Yamamoto’s story of service. Assigned male at birth, Mia Yamamoto was born incarcerated at the Poston Internment Camp in Arizona. After the war, she moved with her family to East Los Angeles, California. Although proud of their cultural heritage, Yamamoto’s family faced frequent anti-Japanese discrimination. To avoid being bullied and beat up, she and her brother’s joined a Mexican street gang for protection. Yamamoto attended California State University, Los Angeles and after graduating she joined the Army and served during the Vietnam War. After the war, she attended the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. Upon graduation, she worked for legal aid serving as a public defender for poor defendants, mostly people of color. In 1984 Yamamoto started her own criminal defense firm to continue to protect the oppressed in the criminal justice system including unhoused LGBTQ youth. Yamamoto uses the fact that she was born incarcerated and participated in a teenage gang to relate to her clients and gain their trust.
Mia Yamamoto struggled with her trans identity her whole life, and at the age of 60 transitioned to live as her true self. She remains an active Los Angeles based trial lawyer and has become an advocate for racial justice and LGBTQ rights. For her advocacy she has received numerous legal and LGBTQ awards including the Liberty Award by Lambda Legal and the Harvey Milk Legacy Award by Christopher Street West/LA Pride. I like Mia Yamamoto’s story because she’s a reminder that it is never too late to come out and be true to yourself.
For More Information:
Yamamoto’s heartwarming talk with a group of charming Asian-American kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ib_ErKAtMx4