Advocating for LGBTQI Rights in the Face of Adversity

Having battled victimization from a young age, Meth Monthary has become an advocate for LGBTQI rights, working tirelessly to promote equality and inclusion in Cambodia
Meth Monthary is an advocate for LGBTQI+ rights in Cambodia. Kiripost/supplied
Meth Monthary is an advocate for LGBTQI+ rights in Cambodia. Kiripost/supplied

Meth Monthary recalls the humiliating experience of teachers cutting his hair in front of his classmates when it had grown “too long”. “The teachers always cut my hair short when I kept it long, and they did that right in front of other students,” he said.

“When I was in high school, I faced numerous problems revealing my character and my gender identity, as well as the way I wanted to dress,” the 28-year-old noted, adding he started to become aware of his identity at the age of five or six.

“When they [teachers] saw me behave too gently, they asked me not to,” he said, adding the taunting continued into university. “When I entered university, I faced similar problems. I had been warned about keeping long hair. For me, it was more of a threat because how I want to look with my hair and the way I dress represent my identity.”

Monthary recalls it was only at the age of about 18 that he started to accept his own identity, and share it with those around him. “Since then, I have started to let people surrounding me know about me, especially those at my workplace and my school,” he said.

Determined to raise awareness and ensure his peers do not receive the same treatment, in 2018 Monthary started advocating for the rights and freedoms of the LQBTQI community.

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“My work has, so far, mostly involved photography, documentary filming and graphic design. I am also making posters and publication materials, as well as report writing and authoring stories of change,” Monthary, who works as a media consultant, said.

His advocacy work started when he shot a short documentary about discrimination in 2018. The next year, he started to take part in various LGBTQI workshops. “I was able to tell my story and what I and the LGBTQI community have faced,” he said.

Inspired, he went on to become a trainer, sharing his knowledge about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression with others.

“I want the government, as well as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Labor to start considering the integration of LGBTQI and transgendered people into the schools and workplaces,” he said.

Monthary is also lobbying for the introduction of a same-sex marriage law in Cambodia, as in many other countries across the world. “If we have such a law, they can become legal couples and have legal documents for their married life.”

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