It was an absolute honor to be selected as one of the Fellowship recipients at this year’s Lambda Literary Foundations Writers Retreat. Here’s a piece about why we need gay clubs in Indonesia.
It was an absolute honor to be selected as one of the Fellowship recipients at this year’s Lambda Literary Foundations Writers Retreat. Here’s a piece about why we need gay clubs in Indonesia.
It’s funny how we both opt
For a slow ease of death
Instead of a fast, quick blow
The boats on your bedsheet
With their one-two-threes
The smokes billowing
If you accepted silence for an answer
Then you’d find it in abundance
As proof of my feelings for you
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.
I was busy
ranting mumbling talking doing a monologue about religion to one of my friends when I discovered that:
All religions that were created to give hope and beautiful
empty promises to those who are poor (therefore powerless and helpless and downtrodden) are most likely to be successful. Why? Because the majority of people are poor (therefore powerless and helpless and downtrodden) and need some sort of hope that everything’s going to be okay and that the minority (oppressors (rich people)) will get what they deserve in the afterlife.
Then these people rise against the kings and rulers and powerful figures because God wants them (Jews vs. Egyptians, Jews vs. the Canaanites, Jews vs. pretty much everyone, early Christians against Romans, early Christians against Jews, Muhammadean Islam vs. Jews, Muhammadean Islam vs. Arab Pagans) and overthrow the thrones.
And then, these people elect someone (a war general, a prophet, a representation of God), who, backed by God (“God hath spoken through me,” or something like that) strategically destroys other religions by vandalizing idols, appropriating temples, killing and or proselytizing “unbelievers” or generally making their lives miserable (like early Islam and the tax for being non-Islam or non-convert or non-Arab), thus asserting power and restarting the whole cycle of the powerful and the oppressed, without knowing it.
What can I say. Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy.
So I thought I had this crazy (whee!) brilliant epiphany, then my friend said, “Exactly! That’s what Marx said!”
And then I thought, “Fuck! Bitch stole my idea!”
Tangential thought #1: It came to me that I learned about Marxism and his idea that religion is the opiate of the masses when I was senior high. My memory about it is somewhat vague, possibly due to the fact that my sociology teacher that time was a really, really hot daddy-type whose chest hair used to peek out of his shirt and whose bulges were all in the right places (I vividly remember those dark indigo pants. Sigh). Every time he talked about the goddamn revolution, I just wanted him to do all sorts of nasty stuff to me.
Tangential thought #2: Damn, I couldn’t remember his full name nor find his picture on Facebook!
Not-so-Tangential thought: Obviously this theory doesn’t work with gays and transgendered, because we’re the minority. Which makes me question this: The ratio of female to male in this world isn’t really that steep (100 women to 101 men) , so why the huge discrimination against women everywhere?
Somewhat-related thought: This. Gotta love the new pope.
Here, come closer. Let me tell you a story.
Have you heard of drag queens? Yes. Of course you have. They’ve been with us for a long time now. You can find them in ancient lores and tales, reliefs and real life. The Romans, the Arabs, the Greeks, the Hindis, all great and not-so-great nations have men who dress as women and sing and dance and recite poems and jokes and make people laugh and cry and laugh again. Do you you know what “drag” stands for”? See this post’s title. So thank you, Shakespeare, whoever you are, for coining the word “drag”.
Now then, have you heard of Islam? Oh, absolutely. Well, I am not here to criticize Islam or muslims. Who am I to do so? It is true that I’ve spent all my life being persecuted by it and other religions, but I digress. What I’m trying to say is that Islam does not like men dressing up as women, and vice versa. What I’m trying to say is that Islam does not like women. Period. Especially her period. Period.
What if I told you that Indonesia had the biggest muslim population in the world? Oh, but it’s true.
Now what if I told you that there are drag queens in Indonesia? Not just in Bali, where Islam’s mighty claws cannot rip and tear them to pieces, but in places like Yogyakarta, where its Sultan called International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Intersex Association (ILGA) unethical and denied its right to hold a conference. Yes. In Indonesia, where even ILGA’s website is blocked, like a porn site, a smut site, an illegal site. Yes. In Indonesia, where protection of sexual-orientation is not recognized and homosexuality and cross-dressing are still considered deviations. Illnesses.
Yet nothing can stop these showgirls from shaving their face, from tucking between their legs. With their paddings and their stockings and their leggings and their heels and their rouge and powder and fake eyelashes and cream and bronzer and gilded microphones.
Nothing can stop these showgirls from receiving adoration from women, men, those who are both, and those who do not want to be either.
Nothing can stop these showgirls from being what they are, for being ahead of their time, for being brave, for being both frank and Francine. For defying death in a country whose main religion still condones stoning and cutting off hands and legs.
Nothing can stop these showgirls from coming, basking in the spotlight, and leaving a trail of glitter.
And that’s all they really ever want. Now go spread the word.
Inspired by the Anachronism Prompt from the Daily Post.
They say I’m a fag
And that’s the honest truth
I don’t deny it
I’ve been that way since my youth
They say I’m ugly
Well, I have good and bad days
My skin isn’t flawless and I have Orc teeth
And insecurities about my body and my face
They say I’m a weirdo
I know I’m sometimes strange
And more often than not
I act deranged
They say I’m passive-aggressive
Like it’s something awful
I’ve seen other things they do
That are far more horrible
Well, they can say anything they want
They can say anything they please
As long as they don’t say I can’t live my life
And live my dreams and live in peace
You know, I’m really tired of reading/hearing people write/say “hate homosexuality, don’t hate homosexuals”. What in straight hell does that even mean? Homosexuals exist because we commit homosexual acts. No matter what anyone thinks, sex is a natural act and there are people who exclusively have sex with members of the opposite sex (like my parents, well, as far as I know anyway) and those who exclusively have sex with members of the same sex (like me).
So, in light of that statement, which is usually made by religious people from monotheistic and patriarchal religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), I say hate the religion AND the religious. Why?
I’m not only talking about the visible one right now (*cough*Islam*cough* and to some extent Catholicism (if I were a Catholic, I’d rather have a female pope)), but also past actions like this. Oh yeah, I still harbor resentment.To make matters worse, women of Islam, do you know that you only inherit 1/8 of your dead husband’s money, and that’s so much less than your son and your daughter? But hey, money doesn’t make the world go round, does it? No, of course not, but it offers a sense of comfort and protection, especially when one’s older and more feeble. Also, polygamy? Really?
Oh yes. Classic. Pitting the “believers” with the “unbelievers”. You know, for religions as persecuted as Christianity and Islam, you think they’d be less of a bully. But no. This reminds me of one of my exes who told me he was abused by his boyfriend and then went on and did horrible things to me.*
Also, just so you know, the Jews welcomed Muhammad when he traveled (hijra) in June 622 CE from Mecca to Medina (then called Yathrib) after his failed campaign. The leaders of Jewish tribes in Yathrib were intrigued and let him come. Big mistake. Muhammad banished Jews, not only from Yathrib, but also from Arabia, beginning with the Qaynuqa tribe in 624 CE (that’s two years after Muhammad arrived in Yathrib). Want more evidence? Knock yourself out.
Ah, my muslim
friends acquaintances fellow human beings countrymen who are now doing the fasting tradition in Ramadan. Do you really have to parade every sahur (meal before dawn to prepare for that day’s fast) and scream and shout every three in the morning? Not everyone in the vicinity is muslim, you intolerant bunch.
Also, the morning call to prayers? Can you turn the volume down, please? Some of us need sleep. I’m looking at you, the muslims at Masjid Sunda Kelapa, Jakarta. I live like a mile away from you and I can hear you loud and clear every goddamn morning and now, ever night from 1 AM to 2 AM, I can hear fiery (or is it angry?) preaching from your mosque, right before the sahur parade. Just a basic background for those who aren’t familiar with muslim practices: muslims pray five times daily, and it’s customary to be reminded with a call to prayer (adhan) that it’s praying time. This adhan is broadcast from minarets using loudspeakers (in some cases, REALLY LOUDspeakers).
Indonesia of course has its own case to deal with: a member of Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam / FPI, a notoriously violent and stupid “organization”) was involved in a fatal hit-and-run while doing Ramadan raids in Kendal (no doubt driving under influence, as they’re usually drunk during raids to summon their courage. I’m not joking).
So, let me ask you this, how can you separate the religious from religion? I mean, sure not all religious people behave that way. Not every religious man or woman or whatever condone violence and driving out others who don’t share the same faith. Just like homosexuality and homosexuals. Not everyone of us is a predator. Not everyone of us wants to have sex all the time.
Happy Ramadan, happy Eid, happy whatever religious festivity you want. May peace be with you. Thank goodness I’m vegetarian, otherwise I’d eat pork in front of mosques.
But really, who am I to teach about hate? After all, I am not a preacher. Or religious.
*Addendum: on Facebook, a friend pointed out that religion wasn’t the core of problem, it’s power.
Why, yes. Of course it’s power. In the Old Testament, Jews were the victims, then they rose to power (and tormented Christians and Pagans). In the New Testament, Christians were the victims, then they rose to power (and tormented Jews and Pagans). In Quran, Muslims were the victims, then Islam rose to power (and tormented Jews and Christians and Pagans).
They just sat there. Empty plates and full stomachs. They just sat there. The two of them. He and his friend. His friend fumbled with the glass tea pot and poured jasmine tea into his white cup.
“Sometimes,” he said, “I wonder where it all went wrong.”
His friend looked up.
“I wonder if I could pinpoint that very moment when I made that mistake, you know? Just to know when and with whom.”
His friend reached over the table, over the empty plates, over the glass pots and white cups of jasmine tea, to his hand.
“But even, even if I could, it wouldn’t be useful now, would it?”
His friend squeezed his hand. That was the only thing his friend could do at this moment. That was the only thing his friend could ever want at this moment, to be with him and no one else.
If this post is vague, it is largely because it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is Islam in Indonesia. In several parts of this country, the teachings of Islam have been adapted (diluted?) with ancient animism and mysticism, and Hinduism.
My mother converted to Christianity from Islam and so I still have relatives who are moslems. My best friend from primary school is a moslem, my best friend from junior/senior high is a moslem (the first gay friend I had and we still see each other until now), I’ve moslem friends from college and I’m close to several of them, I’ve moslem colleagues and business partners, I’ve dated moslem men.
In my life, I’ve been taught tolerance, and it is not an exaggeration if I say I’ve challenged it time and again, both with and without my knowledge. I think being gay and Christian in a country with the biggest moslem population in the world (approximately 250 millions) has taught me that tolerance, even as I’m living a rather charmed and guarded life, is not an easy thing to have and exercise.
Maybe I’m helping perpetuate the myths of and prejudice towards Sharia, the religious law and formal code of Islam. However, apparently there are moslems who don’t understand what complete Sharia is (this includes chopping off hands for thieves and stoning to death). There are good aspects of Sharia, such as its laws on money and economics, and these are the ones that most people like (obviously). The other more extreme aspects such as death sentence, not so much.
Thing is, there are 282 of 491 provincial districts in Indonesia that are based on Sharia. I’ve no idea to which extent this law is upheld, but considering that headscarf (hijab) is imposed in the province that started it all: Aceh (yes, the same Aceh that was hit by tsunami in 2004) even on women who aren’t ready yet to wear it, I smell religious oppression. Which makes me glad I don’t live in Aceh.
I’m not a mathematician, but 282 out of 491 is uh, more than half, right?
My question is this: what about the minority groups?
I’m not a Christian anymore, but every time I read news about Christians having to hide, to struggle just to pray, while moslems close down roads for Friday prayers and therefore cause traffic deadlocks, my heart weeps with despair, disappointment, and rage. In 2009, Islam hardliners sealed Beth Shalom, the last synagogue in Java. The building, a designated heritage site, was demolished in May 2013. This is not surprising, since the world-famous Borobudur (an ancient Buddhist temple that was once the greatest seven wonders of the world and a UNESCO heritage site) suffered an attack by a moslem called Ibrahim aka Mohammad Jawad aka Kresna back in 1985. Nine stupa domes were destroyed.
However, again, it is hard to define the Indonesian Islam. Hardliners take their cues from Arab countries (and then some), without realizing the Arab countries are on their rise against Islamic forces. I’m not a Lady Gaga fan (oh God, I’m an embarrassment to the gay community!) but it was the ultimate facepalm moment when her concert was cancelled just because some Islam hardliners went gaga and staged a protest (was it even legal?) against Gaga.
The more peaceful Islam adapted to mysticism and animism and the ancient religions is considered musyrik, a heresy, and needs to be abolished. These hardliners are the ones that set Indonesia back to the ancient times, mar the beauty of Islam (as some of my friends have testified), whilst being the ultimate hypocrites.
Case in point: the people of Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (Prosperous Justice Party), who successfully championed the blocking of porn sites (I miss my Rule34, you assholes!) although, you know, they can’t block them all (yay!). Tifatul Sembiring of this political party is the information minister responsible for this censorship, and he’s a frigging bigamist and alleged corruptor. It’s a well-known fact that Islam allows poligamy, but to an extent. This is not the case with Luthfy Hasan Ishaaq, whose youngest wife is eighteen years old.
Oh yes, the things I could tell you about Islam in Indonesia, or whatever and however this religion has been corrupted by people of power and by people searching for power, because apparently, religion is still power here in Indonesia.
Talk about power fuck in its truest, most literal form.