When Dorjjantsan “Jack” Ganbaatar turned on the TV in 2006, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
For the first time, he saw two openly LGBTQ+ members on television in a positive light.
Two of the five founders of the LGBT Centre, Mongolia’s first and only non-governmental, non-profit, and non-partisan organization for LGBTQ+ rights, were on a talk show discussing the Centre’s charge to improve access and visibility for LGBTQ+ people in the country.
“Visibility is everything. It was life-changing for queer people like me,” Ganbaatar said. “What I saw as a teen impacted me and made me want to get involved.”
Jack, a 2022 Asia-Pacific Leader with the Obama Foundation, says he saw himself in the founders and the mission. He said before that moment, there weren’t many positive images of LGBTQ+ people in Mongolia.
Since 2007, the LGBT Centre has aimed to “create a society where all human rights of LGBTQ+ people are respected and fulfilled.” It focuses on legal, health care, and youth advocacy.
“We’re trying to normalize our existence in society, and it’s very hard,” Jack said.
Although Mongolian laws exist to protect LGBTQ+ people from labor and hate crime discrimination, Jack says they are not enforced. He says the Mongolian government has stayed silent on LGBTQ+ issues, ultimately hindering progress.
“A country like Mongolia is not accepting of queer culture. The community members are scared; that’s why they want us to be silent. Demanding our rights in public spaces scares them, but for us, it’s pride,” the Asia-Pacific Leader said.
After a year of volunteering in college, Jack became a full-time staff member. He’s been working with the organization since 2015 and is now the health program manager.
“I focus on three main areas: transitional health care for trans people, sexual reproductive health, and general mental health for the queer community. We cover everything except HIV and sexually transmitted infections,” he said.
Jack creates and administers projects to close gaps in LGBTQ+ health rights through research and analysis, revising and establishing inclusive curricula for medical education institutions, and implementing initiatives in the health care industry.
“I am a licensed medical doctor, but I never practiced as specialized. And I just earned my Masters degree in public health last year,” he said. “I am a queer academic who focuses on the movement and queer health. I want to strengthen the movement with evidence on a local and international level.”
As an expert in the industry, the changemaker says it’s his responsibility to advocate in high-level spaces for the queer community in Mongolia.
He has trained academics and practitioners on LGBTQ+ rights and health issues, including the medical staff of the National Mental Health Institute, the Psychology and Social Work Departments of the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences, and the National University of Mongolia.
The Asia-Pacific Leader is part of a four person volunteer staff at the Centre, but he says the value of their work is far-reaching.
“I’ve witnessed real change in front of my eyes,” Jack said. “I hope that my contribution, existence, visibility, and pride can bring something to impact many people.”
Jack is a part of the 2022 Obama Leaders Asia-Pacific program, a non-residential leadership development and community engagement program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders in the region. To learn more about the program, visit https://www.obama.org/programs/leaders/asia-pacific/2022/.