Knowledge and Insights from Youth: Open Space (Pride Month, June 2023)
On June 18th, 2023, in celebration of Pride Month, AYF celebrates it with the third Youth: Open Space, this time AYF has its network from Thailand, Memee, a youth feminist activist, who identifies themself as a non-binary person. They deliver stories all over the challenges of being a non-binary activist in mainstream Protest in Thailand, not only shaving head action. Memee isn’t the only one who delivers the stories on Youth: Open Space, but also we have Ricardo from Timor-Leste, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international relations. He is passionate about human rights (with an emphasis on queer rights, climate change, and youth empowerment. He shares his experience on advocacy and why representation matter.
By Ricardo, Timor-Leste
As Pride Month is celebrated around the world, it's essential to highlight the stories of individuals who have fought for their rights and paved the way for others in the LGBTQ+ community. Today, we focus on Ricardo, a passionate advocate for queer representation, who has overcome personal struggles and is dedicated to creating spaces where marginalized voices can be heard.
Ricardo, a queer individual hailing from Timor-Leste, shares his experience growing up in a conservative and patriarchal community. In his early years, he felt a sense of isolation, as there was no one around him who looked or acted like him. Questioning his identity and feeling different from others became a common occurrence, leaving him yearning for someone to turn to for guidance and understanding.
Inspired by his experiences, Ricardo's journey led him to join AYF in 2021, where he expanded his advocacy for queer rights. Participating in seminars, and workshops, and engaging in research and policy recommendations for ASEAN bodies, Ricardo noticed a glaring absence of queer representation in decision-making spaces. This realization urged him to question how inclusivity and human rights could truly be achieved without the voices of those directly affected by discrimination and human rights violations.
Ricardo emphasizes that representation is crucial not only within decision-making spaces but also in media. He highlights the lack of genuine queer representation in mainstream media, often reduced to stereotypical portrayals. While he respects and admires those who embody these stereotypes, such as comedians, designers, or makeup artists, Ricardo believes that this narrow representation perpetuates misconceptions about queer individuals. He emphasizes the importance of diverse portrayals to combat preconceived notions and challenge societal expectations.
To conclude, Ricardo shares a deeply personal moment from his own journey—the day he came out to his mother. Expressing his desire for her to understand his true self, he also highlighted his aspiration to become an uncle or godfather. By doing so, he aims to provide support and guidance to future generations, ensuring they never feel alone. Ricardo envisions a future where nieces and nephews can approach him, finding solace in knowing that it is normal and acceptable to be different.
Ricardo's story is a testament to the power of representation. By creating spaces for dialogue, challenging stereotypes, and advocating for queer inclusion in decision-making processes, he strives to foster a more equitable and accepting society.
Being a Non-binary Activist in Mainstream Protest in Thailand
By Memee, Thailand
In the realm of activism and protest, one's gender identity can often shape the experiences and challenges faced by individuals. In Youth: Open Space, we delve into the story of Memee, a nonbinary activist from Thailand, who shares their journey of navigating mainstream protests while challenging gender norms and striving for inclusivity.
Memee identifies as nonbinary and is deeply involved in activism centered around gender issues, gender equality, and feminism. Their passion extends to various social causes, including education, human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and political reform. However, it is through their work in feminism and gender advocacy that their soul finds healing and purpose.
They recall the significant protests that swept through the country a few years ago, which captured international attention. While participating in such large-scale demonstrations, Memee faced unique challenges as a nonbinary individual.
Memee discovered their nonbinary identity a few years ago while immersing themselves in feminism and learning about sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC). It was during their activism journey that they began to question the gender binary and reject societal assumptions about their gender and sexuality. Memee acknowledges the fluidity of their gender and sexuality from a young age, realizing that internalized oppression often perpetuates rigid gender norms within individuals.
As an activist, Memee raised their voice in various movements, including the self-abortion movement. They noticed that previous feminist movements primarily focused on women and girls, inadvertently excluding nonbinary and transgender individuals. Memee, along with their senior activists, took a stand to emphasize that the struggles surrounding safe abortion affected people of all gender identities. By advocating for inclusivity, Memee witnessed a positive shift within their senior activists, who became more mindful of gendered language and embraced a more inclusive approach.
Despite their contributions to the movement, Memee acknowledges that there were moments when they felt excluded as a nonbinary person in mainstream protests. Memee recounts an incident when they shaved their head as an act of protest against a former prime minister. Although the act gained viral attention, Memee was disheartened by the response, as many assumed they were a girl and expressed surprise at their unconventional appearance. This instance highlighted the need for education and understanding of nonbinary identities within mainstream society.
Memee's experiences are not unique, as their nonbinary friends also faced similar challenges. One of their best friends, a nonbinary activist, found themselves seeking political refuge in Vancouver at just 17 years old due to the fight for justice surrounding the "one-two law." Despite their friend's significant contributions and sacrifices, society often failed to recognize their nonbinary identity. These experiences compelled Memee to reflect on the reproduction of oppressive behaviors even within movements fighting against oppression. They stress the importance of creating safe and inclusive spaces within activism, taking into account intersectionality and individual identities to ensure that marginalized groups are not further excluded.
In conclusion, Memee shares their perspective on the essence of authentic activism. They urge individuals who claim to fight for democracy to examine their own prejudices and biases, emphasizing the need for self-reflection and introspection. True activism encompasses not only the pursuit of justice but also the dismantling of oppressive structures and the creation of safe spaces for everyone, regardless of their gender identity or background.
Memee's story serves as a reminder that inclusion and respect for all gender identities are vital in the fight for social change. As we navigate the complexities of our own activism, let us learn from Memee's experiences and strive to build a more equitable world where every voice is heard, valued, and embraced.