Last Monday August 6th I was invited by Yuko Higashi to participate as a speaker in a Seminar about Human Sexuality in Osaka Prefecture University. I will soon write a specific post about this event, which represented a very interesting pedagogical encounter between five international experts (Milton Diamond, Matt Tilley, Alain Giami, Elizabeth Riley and myself) and a very passionate group of Japanese students and advocates.
One of the advocates I met through this encounter is Mameta Endo. He is 25-year old self-identified transgender man. Although we briefly saluted each other during the Seminar, our real conversation began after the event had concluded. We were in a taxi, on our way to a restaurant (in which we had dinner with some of the Seminar’s participants) and we just started talking. I was so surprised to see Mameta’s energy as a young advocate that I immediately decided to make him a little interview.
Mameta admitted that he had a lot of problems during his teenage years, trying to cope with dychotomic gender roles. For instance, he remembers how much he disliked to wear a female school uniform. “I was very shocked because I had to live as a girl, so I didn’t want to go to school but I went…” said Mameta.
Later on, as a college student of Veterinary Medicine, Mameta started a network of LGBT students in his University. At the beginning, 7 of his friends composed the Network, but after a couple of years, the Network had more than 100 members. The LGBT students of the network carry on different educational activities about LGBT issues and they participate in Tokyo’s Pride. “Two hundred and fifty students walked during the Pride”, Mameta indicated.
Since 2007, Mameta also started participating as an organizer of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) in Japan. The first IDAHO event in Japan was organized in 2006 by a lesbian politician in Japan, and one year later, Mameta was one of the persons to assume the leadership of the Celebration. To commemorate IDAHO, he collects messages that LGBT people (or their families and friends) send through e-mail, Twitter & Facebook. “It could be a mother saying that she didn’t know that her son was gay but now that she knows, she is fine with it” Mameta said. After collecting these messages, he reads them in public venues. “Very brave!” I told him… “We make public actions in 20 cities in Japan”, Mameta answered.
“How is your life after all of this?” I asked Mameta. Although he still faces difficulties at work (he has to work as a woman but in a gender neutral uniform), Mameta believes that celebrating IDAHO has improved his life. “When I was 17 years old, I came out to my family but they were very shocked and they didn’t want to talk about this, but now they are ok. However, sometimes, they still get shocked”. “What do you think is the greatest problem for transgender people here in Japan?” was my last question to Mameta. “In Japan, we have very conservative gender roles, they are everywhere, and homphobia is very present. People don’t know about LGBT issues and sometimes say bad things about LGBT people”.
Thanks for this little interview Mameta! Let’s keep pushing forward the rights of LGBT people in Japan!