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Indonesia's LGBT community survives despite growing threats from government, clerics
ABC Radio Australia - April 15, 2017
Indonesia's reigning transgender beauty queen holds her head up high as a wave of intolerance sweeps across Indonesia.
Kiki, or Qie Nabh Tappiii, became Miss Waria Indonesia at a time when Indonesian officials, clerics and even government ministers regularly launch verbal assaults on the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Waria is the Indonesian word for transgender. Kiki said she has no time for the critics.
"The way I see it, I am enjoying my life, and it's not like they provide for me or anything," she said. "The most important thing in my life is my family. They motivate me. I can be who I am because they support me."
It has been a hard 12 months for Indonesia's LGBT people. Hardline cleric Habib Rizieq Shihab, who leads the mass protests against Jakarta's Chinese Christian Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok, regularly attacks Indonesia's waria.
"If you see your son or grandson play with dolls, burn the dolls and give them fake machetes to play with, so they can grow up to be men and not trannies," Mr Rizieq said during one sermon.
ABC News attended another gathering of hardliners, attended by about 3,000 women, where speaker Ismah Cholil said transsexual people should be stoned to death or flogged to remove their sins.
'We are also human beings'
On being transgender in Indonesia, Kiki said: "Sometimes it's hard, sometimes it's easy. The hard part is that we have to educate society that we are also human beings. We need to be appreciated just like people in general."
Indonesia's waria do not have many opportunities for work, said Wayan Lucky Diah Pithaloka, who runs several hair salons in Jakarta.
She employs seven waria in the salons. She said it is an alternative to prostitution and begging for money on the streets.
"I want to stop them going out at night for work, to stop being buskers, so the community would look at them with respect," she said. "If we do good to others then God will reward us – other people won't reward us."
Older waria in Indonesia have it particularly tough, waria advocate Mami Yuli said. Indonesia has no social security system, so the elderly rely on their families. Most waria cannot do that, she said.
"They left home when they were young, they ran away from home because their parents refused to accept them being transgender," Ms Yuli said.
"Their families were embarrassed to have transgender children. So for tens of years, they have been running away and now they're old, they have no parents to return to, and they're facing big problems."
Older waria must rely on the support of charities. In outer Jakarta, a group of waria attend a special weekly church service – where they are fed and receive a medical check-up. But there is a price to pay.
The church asks the waria not to wear women's clothing, and, at the sermon attended by ABC News, the audience were asked to memorise the verse from Deuteronomy: "A woman must not wear men's clothing, and a man must not wear women's clothes, because anyone who does this is an abomination to God."
Pastor Gidion Steven Hutagalung said: "The end goal is to slowly transform them back to the gender they were born as. But first and foremost, it's the church's duty to serve everyone, including the transgender community."