Recognizing that LGBTQIA people in the Philippines affect, or are affected by LGBTQIA-related developments in other parts of the world, Outrage Magazine is featuring the LGBTQIA activists who try to effect changes to better the lives of LGBTQIA people in their countries.
In high school, Mameta Endo recalled being forced to wear women’s school uniform. “As a transman, it was painful (for me) to wear girl’s clothing,” he recalled. “It was so terrible that I suffered from stomach ulcers and had thoughts of suicide.”
Mameta tried talking to those in positions of power, “but our teachers didn’t understand me. I told a teacher who was teaching sex education about my situation, but she simply said it might be just a phase and that I was probably too impacted by comics or TV shows.”
At home, it wasn’t any easier either. “My mother also didn’t believe me and denied my gender expression,” Mameta said.
And so he had to keep wearing skirts everyday. “It was so harsh that I felt like I was not worth anything at all,” Mameta said.
Fortunately for Mameta, “most of my friends accepted me for who I am. They empowered me. They were angry about how adults treated me, and they kept telling me I was not wrong.”
That was in 2005, when Mameta was 17.
“All of these made me an activist. I believed that I must change these wrongdoings against LGBT students, and that I must (do something to) end such (acts) in my generation.”
Mameta started the movement in Japan for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT, held every 17 of May). He now serves as the director of IDAHOT-net Japan (since 2007).
“I’m really happy that I finally got attention from society about how important to know how to treat LGBT people at schools,” he said. “It’s been 10 years since I started to take action, and now education-related problems related to the LGBT community is taken up more squarely by the media.”
Mameta is specially proud that “the grassroots actions of activists, including myesle, made this happen. Now, even our country’s measures to prevent suicide specifically say how important it is to support LGBT youth.”
Mameta believes there is more for the LGBT community to do.
“We have many issues in our LGBT community, such as high rates of suicide and mental health problems, poverty among lesbians and trans people, bullying in schools and workplaces, rising rates of HIV infections, and so on,” Mameta said. “But I think most of these problems are related to our educational system. Our curriculum doesn’t include content on LGBT or sexual/gender diversity. So, we grow up without knowing who we are, who our friends are. This maintains homophobia within society and many of us LGBT folks have low self-esteem, unhealthy behaviors, and drop out of schools and quit jobs.”
Particularly in Japan, “bullying and suicide among young people is a very serious problem. Most teachers, parents and lawmakers want to decrease bullying and suicide among teens. So the LGBT community needs to speak out and tell them about who we really are, and what is going on among LGBT teens. I think we can help each other to make it better,” Mameta said.
Mameta is critical of how “sometimes, people within the LGBT community are not so interested in our differences. Some rich gay men don’t pay attention to the issues of lesbians who are not as rich as them, or about what transgender people are saying. People who live in big cities don’t care about people in conservative or rural areas. We should be more inclusive and we need to raise awareness for our differences within the community.”
Mameta, nonetheless, recognizes that “people who have new ideas are now getting involved into LGBT communities, and it inspires me a lot. For example, the idea of having allies was really rare in Japan five years ago. But now, younger people who are not LGBT started to think about LGBT people, and how we all can work out LGBT-related problems together.”
At the end of the day, “I want people to know that LGBT problems, or problems related to sexual orientation, are topics related to human rights. And that’s why all kids have to be taught about this at schools. I think everyone has to know this,” Mameta ended.