Silver lining for gay and lesbians

Published: May 21, 2011

Fady, 29, limits his imagination to the future of his relationship with his boyfriend.

A closet homosexual, except to a few very close friends, he keeps his sexual orientation a secret.

“I have a lot of things to consider if I come out to people outside my [circle] of close friends. I don’t have enough energy and time to go through that,” he said.

For him and his boyfriend, what they have is the present. He said he would be happy enough if he could be with his partner for the next year.

“We don’t think about how it would be when we’re old and etc,” he said.

In the country’s strong heterosexist culture, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people are either hidden or marginalized. Most LGBT people in Indonesia face rejection from families when they “come out” and are discriminated against by the system.

But, the country’s LGBT and liberal human rights groups are slowly working to fight the stigma of a lewd, mentally disordered lot attached to the LGBT community.

One of the country’s gay rights
organizations, OurVoice, is campaigning to fight homophobia in conjunction with the International Day of Anti-Homophobia that falls on May 17.

May 17 has been commemorated as the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) since 1996, after a conference on gay rights in Montreal, Canada.

The date, May 17, was chosen as the symbolic day, as it was on this date the World Health Organization scrapped homosexuality from the list of mental disorders. The American Psychiatric Association stated in 1975 that homosexuality was not a mental disorder.

In 2006, the Yogyakarta Principle, a guideline of International
human rights law in relation to gender identity and sexual orientation was signed.

Despite that, persecution against LGBT people still takes place around the world. According to OurVoice, there are more than 70 countries that criminalize a person based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

In Indonesia, regional bylaws in South and West Sumatra criminalize homosexuals and the 2008 pornography law states that homosexuality is a deviant behavior despite the Health Ministry’s declaration in 1993 that homosexuality is no longer a mental disorder/disease in their Diagnostic Classification on Mental Disorder Guidelines (PPDGJ).

Fady said he did not know that such a day commemorating the rights for LGBT people existed. He said it was a good thing that a group of people in the world was concerned for LGBT people, although it didn’t affect him much, he added, as he kept his relationship with his partner a secret.

But for Ramy, a 20-year-old lesbian, that day is very important. While Fady keeps his sexual orientation and relationship a secret, not daring to imagine the future, Ramy said she would make sure to follow her own life path. “For the next couple of years, I will make sure I will have a relationship, like it or not,” she said. “I will be true to myself and not undermine my true self to please society,” she said.

Ramy, who chose not to disclose her last name, said her family learned of her attraction to the same sex in mid-2009. “My brother suspected that I liked women. I’m a tomboy, and he started to be suspicious. He followed me and found me with my girlfriend and took me home,” she said.

Her family interrogated her, asking why she couldn’t be “normal”. “I just told them that I was just following my heart; that I desired a woman,” she said.

Ramy said her family took her to an Islamic boarding school that treats “drug addicts and stressed out youth”, where she had to bathe in water mixed with seven kinds of flowers in an attempt to “cure” her.

After two months at the boarding school, Ramy, who lives with her mother, never brought her partner to her parent’s house again.

“My wish in the future is that my family can have an open mind and not be as rigid as now,” she said.

Ramy said that, among her friends and colleagues, she does not hide her homosexuality. “The first time they found out they were surprised, but later they said, ‘It’s her life,’” she said. “While my friends at work, luckily they are people who mind their own business,” she added.

When her colleagues found out, Ramy said that usually the first thing they would say was, “How did that happen? Since when?”

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