In the field of psychology, it is widely accepted that gender is a fluid concept that should not be dichotomized into binary duality of male and female. There are also concepts of LGBT+A: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual. It implies that we could not categorize people who belong to these genders into the normative bracket.
Many people argued that the aforementioned idea is a western value that opposes our so-called eastern value. But, is it true that this concept is exclusivel western value that has nothing to do with any cultural value in our archipelago?
We know that ancient Bugis and Makassar people had a unique and distinctive gender system incomparable to any modern gender system that we know of. They had Male, Female, Calalai (female with male characteristics), Calabai (male with female characteristics), and Biissu (undefined gender). As these five genders are an authentic Indonesian cultural heritage, they were often used as a rhetorical device by feminists and gender minority activists to give a post-colonial analysis, disproving the myth that “LGBT+A is western value”. If we really want to examine our cultural history, we will find out that there are local values that were not gender bias.
As a modern human, we need to move on from the perception that there are only two genders. Our understanding about this is blurred, because this dichotomy of gender is actually western concept introduced to us when imperialists occupied our archipelago. Before they came to nusantara, people of Bissu gender were seen as holy figures, Calabai had a role as wedding make-up artists, and Calalai were entrusted to be king’s guards. We need to question whether LGBT+A is purely a western value, when that concept was pervasive in our society long before they came to nusantara.
The existence of this culture highlights how our society respected all genders, not just those from the majority genders. Bissu gender was a clear evidence how non-conforming gender was highly respected in our nation. Long before western culture penetrated our culture, we have shown appreciation to the mental health of people from non-conforming gender by respecting their role in our society. They were revered like the king himself, and their asexuality made people thought that they can be medium between god and human.
Long ago, people entrusted Bissu to be shamanic rainmaker, a person who could ask god so the divinity could grant people of Southern Sulawesi with water. If we contemplate about their position in society, surely we could learn to respect people from non-majority gender. Not everyone should be categorized as simply male and female. That binary concept was just a western concept embedded into our way of thinking as a post-colonialism consequence.
We can see that now, with the emergence of technology, we can learn that before colonialists came to our archipelago, we have many cultural values that did not persecute people outside male and female genders. We need to apply this into our daily life, by giving a safe space for people from the gender minority, so that they would not have to face violences like the arson assault in Jakarta. If we can flush this persecution out of our society, our friends from gender minority can feel safer, no fear for their own physical dignity. We can learn from our own forgotten cultural heritage to create law amendments that ensure their safety or reform our society’s view about them. We can give them a better Indonesia, a place where they don’t have to worry about being burned by people who don’t respect their identity.
In the film Brokeback Mountain, we can see that people of USA used to persecute homosexual people. People burned fellow human being just because they were homosexuals. If we want to look deep into our own culture, we will find that they are all humans like us. They have human rights that should be protected. Good leaders are peope who can use their power to advocate the rights of these marginalized people. We can ensure the welfare of their mental health by making sure that the laws in Indonesia respect the human rights of everyone, including those who are different.
If someone reveals their gender identity, we should not judge them or change our stance toward them. When they reveal it, it means that they wanted us to treat them like we always do despite the revelation. My hope lies in Indonesia to provide a safe space for people from gender minority.