lambda literary reading

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. 

 

the abundance of silence

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

first comes pride, then comes marriage

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)

Screen capture from Arus Pelangi’s website on the even of Eid al-Fitr (August 7, 2013)

opium

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!”

Mmmhmm, daddy. Or gramps?

Mmmhmm, daddy. Or gramps?

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.

so-and-so enters dressed as a girl

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.

The drag queens of Oyot Godhong Cabaret Show at Mirota Batik / House of Raminten, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photos by yours truly.

The drag queens of Oyot Godhong Cabaret Show at Mirota Batik / House of Raminten, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photos by yours truly.

Indonesia, a country overrun by Islamic idiots.

Indonesia, a country overrun by Islamic idiots. Happy Ramadan and Eid.

***

Inspired by the Anachronism Prompt from the Daily Post.

they say i’m a fag

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

hate the religion and the religious

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?

  1. For wars (jihad, holy wars, whatever) they’ve created, especially the collateral damage (loss of innocent souls including and especially those of animals’, loss of reputation of country involved (yeah, I’m talking about my lovely country Indonesia, yay us!)). Seriously, do homosexuals create wars? Fashion wars, perhaps, because we’re chic and we know what’s gorgeous and what’s not (obviously this doesn’t reflect people like Johnny Weir) and we’re not scared to tell our friends, “Honey, don’t.”

    So many don'ts, so little time.

    So many don’ts, so little time. But then again, he’s not my friend.

  2. For the persecution of women and homosexuals. 

    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?

    This is probably the least horrifying and gory image I can get from the Internet.

    This is probably the least horrifying and gory image I can get from the Internet of persecution of women.

  3. For wanting others to convert. 

    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.

    As romantic as this looks, caravans crossing deserts had to deal with extreme desert temperature and raids.

    As romantic as this looks, caravans crossing deserts had to deal with extreme desert temperature and raids. Painting by Charles Theodore Frere.

  4. For basic intolerance. 

    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). 

    In Malaysia, a Chinese couple was jailed for promoting the eating of pork during Ramadan and non-muslim students ate in a toilet TO PRACTICE TOLERANCE. 

    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).

    I could totally relate to Grendel (from Beowulf tale). That poor, horrible creature just wants to sleep.

    I could totally relate to Grendel (from Beowulf tale). That poor, horrible creature just wants to sleep.

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.

Dat nose!

Dat nose!

*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).