”I’M HERE TO REPRESENT ALL LGBT YOUTH.”
Interview: Paul Hofman
According to Youth Pride ambassador Robin Lemònt: “Positivity is so important”.
This year they have been selected as Youth Pride ambassador for the upcoming Pride – a position that fits the born-and-bred Amsterdammer like a glove. Already back in 2019, Robin (22) had a burning desire to take on the role, but it was not their time yet. Recently Robin (as known as Mando Sitabi) was awarded with the prestigious title. “I would like to see more Asian queer people in the media.”
The newly appointed youth ambassador approaches me enthusiastically. Smiling: “I have a real story to tell.” And that’s only the half of it. They talk about their childhood: “I was born here. My mother passed away when I was five.” It was a traumatic event. Their eldest sister was awarded custody and took care of them. “Although we are eleven years apart in age, we have grown extremely close.” They identify as non-binary. Robin emphasizes that their gender therefore does not fit within the binary gender categories of male or female. Robin expressly asks that I use the pronouns them and their. “I am neither a man nor a woman.”
On the stage
After primary school, Robin goes on to high school (HAVO in the Netherlands). They won’t finish their studies though. About their experience: “School made me very depressed.” Robin A.K.A. Mando, regularly performs in drag under the name Robin Lemònt. A name that was not chosen randomly, they smile. “Robin is not a typically male or female name, it’s gender neutral actually. And I absolutely love the color yellow, hence Lemònt,” they explain. “It references lemon and lime, a bit sour, but also very fresh. “My drag persona is actually pretty close to who I really am, just more confident.”
After they dropped out of high school, Robin started working. Their first gig was as a sort of ‘jack of all trades’ at Amsterdam nightclub Exit. “I already knew the place because I often went there when I went out.” They have now been working there for two years and are very happy that the COVID measures for the hospitality industry are being relaxed. “It’s great to be back at work. I do notice that there are far fewer tourists in the city. But you become very close to the people that do come in now. I missed being around people while everything was closed.”
Ups & downs
The words flow out of them like a torrent, with more serious remarks juxtaposed by bursts of laughter. The very same evening that applications closed for the new Pride ambassadors, they decided to try again for the title. “I was really insecure. But I also felt that I was ready. And I went for it.” This time it was a success. What was their reaction when they heard that they were becoming a youth ambassador? “For me, it was the wow effect. An emotional moment, too. I was super happy. At the same time, it also felt like a real validation of everything that I have been through and done.” They pause for a moment: “I’ve known many struggles in my life. Deep valleys and great heights. I was like: I made it.”
Robin came out when they were twelve. Relatively young, I say. “I felt it from a young age.” Their sister and friends knew it before they did, they say. Looking back: “My coming out was easy. Everyone accepted it completely.” Except for a few people at school, they add quietly.
Racism and homophobia
Robin regularly has to deal with racist and homophobic comments. It’s plain to see that it has touched them deeply. “I was so vulnerable. Because I am a person of colour and gender-nonconforming, I am different from others, and I became a target. Still, I tried not to worry about it. I did end up struggling with depression.” Robin quickly gave up school after that. They decided not to let this get them down and became active in the GSA council (Gender Sexual Alliance) at their school, as well as at the Amsterdam COC (local LGBT advocacy organization). Their eyes light up when they talk about it. You can see that activism flows through their veins when Robin highlights how important it is that talking about being different should be given more attention in school curriculums. “Spending one hour on this out of the entire school year doesn’t cut it. You also can’t start early enough, I am convinced of that.”
They emphasize: “I have Asian ancestry. I know what it’s like to have to deal with Asian hate.” That is a subject that Robin wants to focus on during their ambassadorship. Combatively: “I also don’t see enough queer Asian people in the media.”
They bring their experience of discrimination along with them in their role as ambassador. “I am going to commit myself to all LGBTI youth. I have personally experienced what it is like to be rejected. I think everyone should be included. We must do it together and take responsibility in our own lives.” Their message is unmistakable: “Be yourself, you deserve to be seen and to celebrate your life.” In the end: “We’re one family.”With their charm, cheerfulness and serious message, Robin can make a difference as a youth ambassador.
Pride ambassador since 2021