A transgender woman, MIA YAMAMOTO was born Michael Yamamoto in Poston Relocation Camp, Arizona, 1943. She graduated Cal State University with a B.S. in government in 1966. As Michael, she was struggling with her gender identity and decided to join the Army, in which she served from 66-68. She was awarded many medals such as the National Defense Service medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Vietnam campaign medal.
After the army she went back and attended UCLA’s school of law, where she co-founded the Asian Pacific Islander Law student association. In 1984 she opened her own practice, and has been working as a lawyer ever since. As a lawyer Mia was finally able to afford therapy, and then began her journey of self discovery and affirmation as a trans woman. However, she was only able to find negative representations of the transgender community. Mia tried to find her way through her transition with the arts, learning to dance and play music. She also came to the realization that it was up to her to make a change and difference for the transgender community.
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Since this realization, Mia has done amazing things for the community. In her practice, she has represented many transgender individuals and has made advancements in civil rights. In her career she has:
- Been the past president of the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
- Been the past president of the Japanese American Bar Association,
- Been the past president of the Asian Pacific American Women Lawyers Alliance
- Is a co-founder and past chair of the Multi-Cultural Bar Alliance (a coalition of minority, women’s and LGB T bar associations in Los Angeles)
- Been appointed by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court to serve on the California Judicial Council Task Forces on Jury Improvement and on Fairness and Access in the Courts.
- Served on the commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity for the American Bar Association.
Some of the awards and accomplishments she’s earned in her career include:
- Being honored by the Criminal Courts Bar Association, National Lawyers Guild and Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles.
- Named “Criminal Defense Attorney of the Year” for 2002 by the Los Angeles County Bar Association Criminal Justice Section; Criminal Defense Attorney of the Year” by the Century City Bar Association 2006;
- “100 Most Influential Lawyers in California” in 2002 by the California Daily Journal.
- Being voted a “Southern California Super Lawyer” by her peers, in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012,
- Being awarded the “Spirit of Excellence” Award by the American Bar Association.
- Receiving the “Trailblazer Award” by the National Association of Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Mia’s leadership accomplishments in the LGBT community include:
- Being the recipient of the Golden Key Award by the City of West Hollywood
- Receiving the Liberty Award by Lambda Legal.
- Receiving the Harvey Milk Legacy Award by Christopher Street West/LA Pride.
- Being honored by API Equality and the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission for her advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community.
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