60th All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest / Student understands true self through his piano

60th All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest / Student understands true self through his piano

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Takeshi Shimozato, a third-year student at Haebaru Nansei Middle School in Okinawa Prefecture, won the 60th All Japan Inter-Middle School English Oratorical Contest. The final was held on Nov. 22 at Yomiuri Hall in Yurakucho, Tokyo. The following is the full text of Shimozato's speech, titled "I Am Takeshi."

You are probably about to check the speech contest list to see if there has been a mistake. Don't bother. It's correct. I am Takeshi, and I am a boy, but my mind and my heart tell me different. I have a condition called "Gender Identity Disorder."

Since I was born, I grew up playing with my cousins and friends that were all girls. I had a wonderful childhood and felt happy and loved by all those around me.

However, when I became a fourth grader, all that began to change. I couldn't understand why I was being asked to wear a boy's P.E. uniform and why I was being forced to change clothes in the boy's bathroom. Even some of my closest friends started saying bad things to me. What really hurt most was having to walk home by myself and hearing students behind me call me names. Why is everyone treating me like this? I cried to myself. I began to hate anything about school that separated boys from girls.

One day at school, I saw a girl playing the piano. She was surrounded by other students and they all looked so happy. I wanted to be able to smile like her. More importantly, I wanted others to smile at me. That made me want to learn how to play the piano. I started taking piano lessons and from the start I was able to play with both hands.

One day I asked my mom to buy me a piano. She told me that if I could learn an entire song in three days, she would buy me a piano. The song was four pages long, but I was so determined to make friends, that I was able to do it. She bought me a piano and my life improves every time I play it. All I could think about was playing the piano. I began to play at contests and won many prizes. Many people began saying good things about me.

One day, I sat down at the piano at school. Students were looking and pointing at me and began to say bad things. I touched the keys and suddenly every one froze. I was so nervous that I could only look at the piano. When the last chord was played, I looked up and there were many students standing next to the piano. A few were even smiling. Their smiles made me feel so good. After that, all I wanted to do was play the piano.

I still have my condition, but playing the piano helps me to deal with it. I feel that playing the piano helps others to understand my condition as well. I don't want to hide who I am. More importantly, I want others to understand who I am.

That's why last year I wore the most beautiful dress while playing at the Ryukyu Music Contest. It was the biggest contest I had ever entered. Thousands of politicians, pianist, adults, and children were there. Some of their mouths dropped, and others rubbed their eyes. After I finished playing the piano, they stood and clapped. More importantly, they smiled at me.

Music has helped me find happiness, make friends, and even become the Ryukyu Music Contest Champion. My dream is to use my music to help others. I want people, who are constantly worrying about what other people say and do, to search for their dream.

My mother has always told me that I am the only person that can live my life. She said I have to be myself. I am myself. I am Takeshi.

(Dec. 2, 2008)