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GLOBAL ISSUES IN LANGUAGE
EDUCATION NEWSLETTER
December 2005 - Issue No. #59 (p.10-11)

A Student Speech on Discrimination

by Marc Helgesen

Miyagi Gakuin Women's University, Japan

Many of us are periodically asked to help students prepare for English speech contests. So, when a student e-mailed me asking for help, I said yes and asked her to stop by my office. When I read her speech, I thought, "Wow! I've never had a student tackle an issue like this, especially not in public."

Although she didn't win a prize in the speech contest, I thought that just dealing with this topic makes her a winner. And a model for all her kohai (juniors) who heard the speech as she practiced it in class. In this day and age, no one would justify discrimination on the basis of race or nationality. So why is it so common and accepted when it comes to sexual orientation?

I'm delighted to have a student who is challenging that way of thinking. Below, you can read her speech. Enjoy.

Marc is a frequent speaker at international conferences and a long-time supporter of JALT's Global Issues SIG.

Marc Helgesen, Miyagi Gakuin Women's University, Japan
E-mail: march@mgu.ac.jp

Are they really abnormal?

by Maki Onuma

Miyagi Gakuin Women's University, Japan

When I worked part-time, I saw a mother with a child. Suddenly, the boy began to shake his waist, raise his hands, and make a strange sound. Immediately I understood what he was doing; he imitated Hard Gay, the performer who acts like a gay character. At the sight of his action his mother said to him, "Stop it, or you'll become a real homo!" The boy said, "Oh, I don't want to. Because they are abnormal!" And then, they laughed together.

Today, I'd like to talk about how to get rid of discrimination against homosexuals. As you know, in Japan, there are many heterosexuals who fall in love with the opposite sex. On the other hand, there are also homosexuals who fall in love with the same sex. According to Asahi newspaper, homosexuals are 3% to 10% of any population around the world. In the past, homosexuality was treated as a mental illness. But, now, homosexuality is thought of not as illness but as an identity. So the World Health Organization excluded homosexuals from being targets of medical treatment in 1993 and Japan accepted it the next year.

But, do you think discrimination against homosexuals has disappeared in twelve years? No! Comedians on TV make us laugh when they make fun of homosexuals. Students and teachers in school use discriminatory terms without thinking, for example "homo", "lez", and "okama." People in town feel bad when they see a same sex couple.

It is very serious problem for gays that the discrimination still exists. According to the Mainichi Newspaper, 15% of homosexuals attempt suicide. That is five times as much as heterosexuals. Gays face serious problems. Could you ignore their problems? They feel "Am I abnormal?" and "Why am I like this?" Then, if worst comes to worst, they kill themselves. We can't ignore them!

Why do we discriminate against homo-sexuals? I suppose the cause is we don't learn about them or learn wrong information at school, and we swallow this whole. We have an incorrect image, for instance, gays acted like the opposite sex, they have sex with many people and so on. The Mainichi newspaper shows 91% of people have never learned about gays or were taught negative things about them. In my case, I used to discriminate against homosexuals until I took an elective subject which included the topic of homosexuality at my university.

So I have one suggestion. It is that junior high school should have a class to teach correct information about homosexuals. I think if schools do that, we can stop discrimination against homosexuals. There are two reasons why we should learn about gays in junior high school. First, we all have to go junior high school because of compulsory education, so everyone can study it. Second, Yasuharu Hidaka, who is a lecturer at Kansai Gakuin University, says homosexuals begin to realize they are gay at about thirteen to fifteen years of age. That's when we are in junior high school. It's just in time. Thanks to this class, homosexual and heterosexual students can get true information.

Actually, some junior high schools already started this class about homosexuals. For instance, Heian Jogakuin junior high school in Kyoto has given lessons about homosexuals as part of sex education in health and physical education since 1997. This class does a discussion, puts themselves in a homosexual's position and listens to a gay person's lecture.

Every class has common features. It is that homosexual students feel it is easy for everyone to know that they are not abnormal. Moreover, heterosexual students could understand deeply and lose their discriminatory thinking against homosexuals.

Some people say it is not necessary to learn about homosexuals and that it has a bad influence for children. But please imagine. Through study connected with homosexuals, it will be easy to accept when our friends or family are gay. And if we became parents, we can point out in case our children say discriminatory remarks to them. What's more, homosexuals can stop worrying due to being taught before their eyes and their friends lose their discriminatory thinking. To learn about homosexuals will have a great effect for everyone!

We have discriminated against homosexuals for ages. But are they really abnormal? No! We should know there are many gays around us. We should remember they are not abnormal. Please think about homosexuals who were worried by discrimination. I hope everyone knows they are not abnormal.

They are people, the same as you and I.

*****

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