Travelling in Indonesia, on the main land Java, I have met a very kind, intelligent and beautiful LGBT artist. Quickly, I learned that there are many spheres to identity, and that despite our very different background we always find someone that can understand what you are talking about. Now, I want you to understand. Let me tell zir story.
Identifying as transgender in Indonesia takes much courage and much spirit and the ability to not listen to the thousands of whispering voices around you. Here, as trans-gender person you can constantly hear strangers insulting you, saying bad things directly to your face or behind your back. You can become victim of violence, people spitting to your feet, grabbing your clothes or wishing bad things happening to you. But the thing that strikes me the most is the racism behind it, our racism against ourselves. I believe that the hatred against trans-people or individuals with various sexual orientations is deeply connected to racism. We have copied the international racist structures, and now, we hate ourselves. The class divide of our society, in my opinion, is also a reason why we are attaching values to subgroups in our society. We have not always been like this, we were once an open place, colourful and diverse. But the burden of developing, with its setbacks and the lack of opportunities has caught our country early enough.
Let me tell you one story, just something that I recently experienced. Coming back vacation, being a travel agent, I usually travel around in Asia many times a year and I speak other languages, such as Thai. So, scoming back, I feel those negative attitudes towards me much more vividly, and I sometimes get more angry. So, when people respond in a rude way to me, I have started to pretend to be a tourist from Thailand, talking in Thai language. Suddenly, the same people watching me with hatred in their eyes, forget caring about me being trans or not. Those very same people put you on this golden plate: A foreigner, this blessed person, who cannot do anything wrong. And this is even more apparent with Europeans and Americans. They can have any identity they want, they will always be perceived as better than we Indonesians perceive our own people. I think because tourists, travellers, and therefore, foreigners most often have money, money they can spend. So, my people want to be nice, polite, because they always expect a foreigner to pay for hospitality. But it seems more than just money, I feel that we, as society have been a victim of colonization and since then of racism, and we have internalized these distorted worldviews in our daily perceptions, most often without realizing the damage we cause to ourselves, our families and our community.
But, do not get me wrong. It is not like all people are like that, we also have beautiful communities, where we support each other and our diversity, where we learn from each other and where we can be free in a safe space. I am participating in trans-gender networking, all over Indonesia and beyond, with immense art projects that are being displayed publicly and for a wide audience. I am active in the movie, music and entertainment industry, all hotspots for positive change. I believe my country and my community is changing, we are fighting the old traditional values and we are trying to reach out and combat racist attitudes. It is our time, now, to take over and make the planet to a better place.