Rainbow Educators' Network

Naeko Wakabayashi's Fighting Homophobia in Texts:
A Successful Case


From the Winter 1997 Issue of WELL News
by Kathy Riley

In her "Fighting Homophobia in Texts" workshop, Asian Lesbian Network activist Naeko Wakabayashi talked about her successful campaign to stop the use of a homophobic test in an NHK speech contest for junior high school students. Her success seemed based on determination, joint work with OCCUR (a gay men's support and action group), perseverance, and a commitment to educating NHK rather than simply confronting them.

The story began in the summer of 1995, when Wakabayashi, an English conversation teacher, bought the text because the material seemed lively and interesting for students. However is wasn't until October that she noticed a speech contest dialog in the back of the book. It shocked and upset her. In the dialog, a boy complains about a nightmare in which another boy who "looked like the devil" wrote him a love letter.

After calling NHK, but getting nowhere in her attempt to get the staffer to understand her complaint, Wakabayashi contacted OCCUR for support. They helped arrange a meeting with NHK and also used their media contacts to publicize the story. Others supported as well.

In a letter to NHK, Wakabayashi explained. "If a person grows to like another person of the same sex, why do we look upon the act of sending a love letter with such feelings of hatred? Whether the recipient of affection is a person of a different sex or a person of the same sex, falling in love with another person is a wonderful thing... Forcing young, impressionable junior high school students who must endure both peer pressure and puberty, to read and even perform such a homophobic skit, itself a reflection of deeply-rooted societal homophobia, fills me with tremendous anger at the subject and anxiety for these students."

NHK staff took her points under consideration, if not to heart. While they were in the process of making a decision that November, a newspaper story appeared about the issue. Shortly afterwards, NHK announced that the dialog would no longer be used for the contest and contest winners would be selected from another free theme category.

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