Almost every time, when we talk about discrimination in workplaces, we never think of discrimination in workplace towards LGBT+ people. However, it is a common thing in Cambodia and they are happening every day, but for some uncertain reasons, it has never been in the spotlight.
This is a story from Rada. Rada is 29 years old gay man who is currently residing in Siem Reap and works as a part-time facilitator at A Place To Be Yourself (APTBY) and a local non-profit non-governmental organization called Men’s Health Cambodia (MHC). She said that before she got her current jobs, she also faced discrimination in her previous workplaces. Rada used to be an English teacher at a church. When she worked there, she faced discrimination and prejudice from her peers. “They wanted to change me entirely.” – said Rada. “They teased me and told me to dress like a man. They told me that being gay is a sin, and god will punish me.” – continued Rada. Cannot endure the difficulties that she constantly faced at the church, she left.
Later on, because of her good drawing skills, she was recruited by an American family to be trained into a graphic designer. At that time, she tried to change her appearance by hiding her long hair. But, after they found out that she has a partner, the family and her colleagues started to discriminate against her. She then was discouraged to continue working there and decided to file her resignation letter, even though the work has a lot of potential for her future career. “I felt devastated. It was a really good job, with a decent salary, and would also provide me with many precious opportunities in the future as well.” – said Rada. At that time, she was so down that she even turned to suicide. “I tried to kill myself by riding my motorcycle into a speeding car. But it was the thought of my mom’s voice that saved me.” – said Rada. “My mom was my only encouragement at that time.” – Rada added while holding back her tears. Because of her mom’s support and encouragement, she got over it and continued living her life. After that, it was when she found out about LGBT+ community through her friend, that actually empowered her to be confident of who she really is.
However, not everyone who got discriminated against because of their revelation as a LGBT+ person has received the same reaction from their surroundings and had the same impact on them. Some LGBT+ people actually stand up for themselves when facing this kind of situation.
Jimmy Mc is the perfect example of that. Jimmy Mc, 26, an engineer for a borey in Siem Reap, also got discriminated by a male colleague because of her sexual orientation. Her colleague verbally harassed and mocked her, saying they wanted to see her wearing a skirt. When asked what she thought of it, she replied that she did not care about any of it and called him “uneducated”. “I don’t commit crimes. I work normally. I also never said I’m better than him. Whom I love is not important. What’s important is whether I’m a good person or not. What’s the difference between me liking men and me liking women? I am still me.” – said Jimmy Mc. “No one can change me. It’s just the way I am.” – she continued.
When asked what are the sources of the discrimination, Rada said the problem is deep-rooted in our society since the old days. “It is difficult to erase this thought. What we can do is trying little by little.” – added Rada. For Jimmy Mc, it is because people don’t fully understand the problem. “They don’t understand about LGBT+ people. They just quickly jump to conclusion that LGBT+ people are all bad.” – said Jimmy Mc.
After reading these two stories, we can learn a thing or two from them.
Rada’s story illuminates that in every hardship we face, through sheer dedication and getting the right support, we can go through anything, even if it means that you have to make the hardest decision such as walking away from something you love. Jimmy Mc’s story, on the other hand, projects to us that we can be strong and stand up for ourselves even if we’re facing the problem.
These stories are just two among hundreds of thousands of other stories that are left untold or maybe even forgotten. However, these can be something to remind you that being an LGBT+ is not your fault. If your surroundings cannot accept you as who you really are, there is nothing you can about that. You are just being YOU. Instead, as added by Jimmy Mc as her last word and her advice, “I want other LGBT+ people to focus on yourself and your own good deeds, not the negative things that people think about you”.
This article is written by Soktheareak Hoeur, a 1st generation participant of Story Corner 2020 which aims to break the stigma on LGBT+ through storytelling and the engagement of youths through dialogue and series of training on gay rights advocacy and basic journalism. Story Corner 2020 is hosted by Buzz Talk Cambodia.