Tebeio, a Masters student at the University of New South Wales in Food Science and Technology is a young gay man from Kiribati. He has been a representative from Kiribati to the Pacific Sexual and Gender Diversity Network (PSDGN), a representative to ILGA and is also a Co- Founder of BIMBA. BIMBA is an acronym for Boutokaan (Support); Inaomataia (Human Rights); & Mauriia (Health and Safety). Coming from a conservative country with a colonial past with the British, Tebeio explains that Kiribati is still a conservative country with conventional attitudes towards LGBT people.
Tebeio recalls an adolescence which was not very pleasant for him as he was growing up different in the eyes of others.
“Primary school was difficult. I was bullied and sometime I experienced physical harassments too”
He was mainly bullied because he was different and the bullies could not understand or interpret Tebeio’s difference. His nature which was not typically considered male or masculine was a problem for others. Reminiscing on his experience as a young boy who was different, Tebeio now reflects that the bulling is not necessarily because his bullies wanted to bully him, but also because they were simply unaware of how else to handle such a situation.
“Being called names was an everyday occurrence but there was no one that I could talk to about the bullying”
Realizing the difference within him which others perceived as a reason to bully, Tebeio recalls how he was praying to make himself normal. One of his main challenges was to find information or to find someone sympathetic to whom he could talk to.
“I had no access to any information about sexuality, gender identity or about the physical changes taking place in me. Others seemed to be fine with no information but I was definitely not”
As many other young people, Tebeio had no information on these changes from the primary school. A few sessions on safe sex has been held when he was in high school but they have been disseminating information on a heterosexual base which did not help Tebeio that much.
Tebeio now realizes the indispensability of comprehensive sexuality education to young people as they grow up irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He recognizes the harmony comprehensive sexuality education can bring to peer settings where bullying could be effectively addressed.
“comprehensive sexuality education at school settings only would not be suffice. In order for comprehensive sexuality education to work effectively it needs to be integrated in to other every day settings which are outside school”
Tebeio explains an important aspect of the application of comprehensive sexuality education. Many young people spend a limited time period at school and spend much time in other environments. He emphasizes that adults specially parents and other influential figures to young people’s lives should recognize the crucial role comprehensive sexuality education play in the lives of young pope and should support young people’s access to such information.