Interviewer’s Introductions: Welcome to my third of several articles based around Women’s rights worldwide (Read the first one here and the second here)! This series is meant to bring awareness to people who may not know what life is like in different countries as a woman (or in this case a transgender male). None of this is for debate, as it is the interviewee’s opinion and view of their own country and their experiences within it. Thank you!*
1. What is your full name?
I haven’t actually decided on a full name yet, it doesn’t really help that I don’t actually have a surname but I usually go by Arjuna Goldsworth online because I love Ricky Goldsworth, Ryan Bergara’s alter ego. Regarding the surname mystery, my family follows the Islamic tradition of naming, so instead of having a surname that you share with all of your cousins, your surname is just your dad’s name. But, for some reason my parents did not write my dad’s name in my birth certificate and every other legal document so, in a sense, I have two middle names. This is the same with a lot of my friends and my brother, so I guess it’s just how things go.
2. How old are you? Do you feel like your age has affected your worldview? How so?
I am now 16! (Your age when we first knew each other, how time flies.) It has definitely impacted my world views- especially considering the fact that I have joined the internet from such a young age (around 7/8). Being exposed to so many things from such a young age has really radicalized me and my world views. I feel like I was fortunate to have landed on the left-leaning side of the internet, where it taught me tolerance but also the ability to fight back (if that makes sense?) as opposed to the right-leaning corner where their definition of a joke is something that is harmful.
3.What is your gender and preferred pronouns?
I use he/him pronouns and am a masculine aligned non-binary. Or, as my friend says, ‘guy… almost’.
4. Do you think sexuality is perceived differently from where you live compared to the rest of the world?
I’m bisexual and I guess so? Indonesia is still very much homophobic. Gay rep here is very much rare, much less bi rep. I only know one bisexual character from an Indonesian soap opera and she was depicted as a villain and a cheater so yeah, not the best. Indonesia’s homophobia is mainly rooted in ignorance. We are generally really conservative and there’s not a lot of ‘out’ gay people, so people look down on those who are free-sharing with their sexuality. They would often call us a sin or an illness (come to think of it it’s really Classic Homophobia™). There is one province, Aceh, where they implemented Sharia Law, so being gay is literally illegal-and the punishment is public flogging.
There are a lot of crimes that get punished with public floggings, and the crimes aren’t always announced. For example, you could get stoned if you’re caught having premarital sex (even with the opposite gender). Depending on their religious views, some people consider it fair while others that are more secular deem it unnecessary. It’s dependent on the Quran because not everyone in Aceh is a Muslim. But that’s just one province–in the other’s it’s mainly just…dirty stares.
There have been some LGBTQ movies though! But they got taken down quickly because the religious organizations protested against it. Even though Indonesia doesn’t legally have a specific religion, Muslim groups hold a strong influence over the government-as many leaders are Muslim, so I think that says a lot. There was a huge, peaceful demonstration in 2016 when a Christian man nominated himself for governor. (you can read about it here.)
5. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?
Of course! Especially as my identity is very marginalized (queer Muslim POC), I believe that everyone deserves equal rights regardless of gender, sexuality, race, beliefs, class, and such. I don’t think the “fight” is truly everyone – and I mean everyone is truly equal.
6. What are your personal feelings towards gender? Did where you grew up alter/affect that at all?
F*ck gender honestly, I think it’s such an arbitrary concept based on biology which sometimes isn’t even 100% accurate. Where I grew up and my belief as a Muslim definitely shaped it, as men and women are viewed rather differently. Sure, the teachers may preach about how Allah created men and women equal, just with different roles. While I respect that, in the end people misuse it a lot to justify their sexism. I guess that also affected my hostility towards gender.
7. How did you come to the conclusion that you were born in the wrong body?
I’m not quite sure. I remember being twelve and finding out the label bi-gender and thought ‘hey, it seems pretty cool. I kinda feel that’ but I never really told that to anyone except my closest friend. When I was 13, I first experimented with the pronouns he/him. It only lasted for a while, as everyone’s forgotten about it the next month. For a while I used she/him pronouns. There was a lot of doubt in it, as I wasn’t quite sure if someone could use multiple pronouns or how it would even work out so I kept to myself.
Until one day when I was 14, I believe. I just snapped and realized holy shit, I’m a trans guy. I remember feeling so happy that day, I guess that’s what they call gender euphoria? And I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Of course, realization was only the first part. Later that day, I came out to my closest friends via group chat. I was practically buzzing with so much joy when I typed out to them ‘guys, I’m a trans man’. I was so lucky that they had been so accepting. It’s also worth noting that they all said ‘yeah, honestly, it makes sense’. Funny how it always seems like you’re the last person to realize something, but oh well.
8. How does your country treat trans people compared to the rest of the world? What do you wish was different?
It is illegal to be gay in one province of Indonesia – so let alone being trans. I don’t think most people are even aware of the existence of trans men. We’re usually labeled as tomboy. It’s different though, with trans women. Such a shame that transphobia is very normalized here, though. My eighth grade biology teacher used to make fun of Lucinta Luna, an allegedly trans singer a lot back then, and would be greeted enthusiastically by my classmates. It sucked.
In ninth grade, I made a presentation about different gender identities throughout the world. I was terrified, as at the time I was called to the school counselor a lot because someone outed me as bi. When I showed it to my teacher, she was delighted that I was presenting a serious topic. I thought that meant she supported it – but as it turns out she asked me to also add the ‘cure to being genderqueer’ at the end. So maybe not so much.
If I could change one thing about how the country treats trans people, I just wish they would take trans people seriously and be more accepting. That’s it. Sure, there’s a lot that I could ask for, but not having to fear for my life every day simply for being trans as of now is enough.
9. Are you open with your gender identity? Why or why not?
Yes and no. I go to an art school, so fortunately most of the people here are also queer. I’m generally open about my gender to them, and they’re pretty chill about it. I’m also stealth online, for the most part. It’s a different story for family and adult figures in my life, though. Since they’re a lot more conservative, I’d rather just wait a few years until I am somewhat financially stable and not dependent on them anymore if anything goes wrong.
10. Do you think customs for women are different where you are compared to the rest of the world? If yes, how so?
It’s kind of complex as Indonesia has so many different cultures and ethnicities, all with its own customs, to mention the ones from religion. I myself am part Betawi, Sundanese, and Javanese. That’s already three different customs, not to mention Islamic customs. According to which part of the ethnicity is from, it even has different customs. Javanese folks from Semarang and from Surabaya (where my grandfather is from) are different, so it’s kind of hard to generalize. But in general, yeah it’s pretty different, at least at face value.
11. If you could change one part of society in regards to human rights, what would you change? Do you think this is specific to where you’re from or should it be changed throughout the entire world?
It’s just simple. Everyone should be treated equally with respect unless their beliefs are harmful (such as Nazis). The fact that this isn’t a reality yet really sucks. Not just from where I’m from, but the entire world.