This is Lyhour (21) who joined the Gender and Peace Leadership training. He shares his story of change.
I was born in a family which with very defined gender roles. My mother is the only woman, with me, my little brother, and my father. My father has always told my brother and I to act like “real men” and be masculine. I can’t deny that I picked up a lot from that. My little brother, though, who is just 13 years-old, has always been very feminine. He often acts like a girl and has embarrassed my father many times in front of his friends. This has been a really sensitive issue in my family, and even sometimes leading to violence. I have always tended to reprimand my little brother too. Not just because I’m worried that my father will punish him, but because I also kind of thought that he is strange and shouldn’t act like such a girl.
I learned a lot recently from a WPM training on gender and leadership. I always thought that gender is about girls and women. But gender is way more complex. Gender affects me and other men too. There are real expectations that men have because they are men. We also often see women in a certain way because of how we were raised. And it’s not just men and women, there are really so many gender identities that exist and make us all unique. I don’t know if my brother would rather be a girl. Or if he is gay. Or maybe he just wants to express himself in a different way than me and my dad think he should. At the training, I met some LGBT participants. They opened up my eyes. Identity is so complicated and thinking about only men and women is like thinking in black and white without color.
I’ve really put into practice what I learned from the training and from the other participants. I have focused on thinking about my own perceptions about gender and have challenged myself. I am working on supporting my brother to be who he is and express himself however he needs to. If he is LGBT I will support him too, even if my dad thinks he needs to be a certain way. I will stand beside him and keep encouraging him to be himself.
It’s this kind of learning that really affects me. I go to so many workshops and learn concepts but this time it really hits home. How can I take this gender and non-violence work into my own home? I think there is a lot of opportunity and I’m thinking about it every day. I really do have a dream to see my community full of educated and open-minded people who are willing to learn and keep improving our society here in Cambodia. And I’m starting this right in my home and working towards a family that can accept each other and live without violence, even if we don’t necessarily agree with each other.