Several months ago, my friends in the United States changed their Facebook profile photos. Some were different, but they had the same element: a pink equal sign on a stark red background. They were challenging the US Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that at that moment barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex civil union.
On June 26, 2013, the US Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional. It also destroyed the Californian Prop-8. My friends in San Francisco posted photos of people marching in front of the city hall. The city hall itself were bathed in rainbow lights. Rainbow, the symbol of homosexuals. My heart wept and I did something unheard of: I deactivated my Facebook account for a while.
Then three weeks ago, Thailand began its talks of legalizing same-sex marriage. Vietnam followed suit. I also learned that apparently, Singapore had already held two gay pride marches. My heart wept again.
Everywhere I see, the world is changing. From different parts of the planet came news of victory for my people, the homosexuals. Yet from other parts, these news were tainted with whispers of abuse and persecutions and murders. Some were new, others were reminders of unsolved cases.
It seems to me, however, that Indonesia shall remain unchanged. We are the savages who refuse to abandon our warring ways and instead strive to keep our traditions isolated and intact, free from foreign influences.
As I am writing this post, my fellow countrymen who are muslims are celebrating their victory. They have won against temptation during the month of Ramadan. From my house, I can hear prayers from a nearby mosque and the ceaseless sounds of fireworks that frighten my cats.
As I am writing this post, the website of Arus Pelangi (an Indonesian group fighting for the rights of LGBT community) has apparently been hacked. It now features pictures of ketupat – a packed-rice dumpling synonymous to Eid al-Fitr celebration – and the words Happy Eid al-Fitr, please forgive my wrongdoings. The hacker even inserted a sound effect as it now features the Takbir chant.
Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, there is no other deity but Allah. Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, and all praise goes to Allah.
My heart weeps.
It weeps the same way it did when I heard about the victory against DOMA, about Thailand and Vietnam and their visible fight for legalizing same-sex marriage, about Singapore and its gay pride marches.
It weeps because I know that no matter how people say that impossibility does not exist, it exists here in Indonesia, where homosexuals and the transgendered have been denied their rights to live free of fear.
For you see, celebrating pride, a stepping stone towards recognizing the rights of homosexuals and the transgendered, means showing our existence, showing us as a part of the country, as tax-paying citizens, and most importantly, as humans.
If you say that Indonesia has many other problems that she has to solve first, that means you are denying our existence as humans. You are writing us off as lower-class creatures, as those who are not worthy of your time and energy. As those who need to wait, wait, wait, until other issues get mended, get fixed. But more problems will rise, and you will tell us to wait yet again.
My muslim fellow countrymen are celebrating their victory. They might remember that centuries ago when they were the minority, their own people were persecuted, and now that they are victorious, now that they are powerful, they are doing the same to us.
My heart weeps as it longs for the day that I, an Indonesian homosexual, will too be victorious and recognized as a human who has the right to live and love and celebrate life and love without fear.
Screen capture from Arus Pelangi’s website on the even of Eid al-Fitr (August 7, 2013)