Nobody is gay in Indonesia – Rantepao, Sulawesi, Indonesia

X is gay but then he is also not gay. Because in Indonesia, nobody is gay. He has a sort of girlfriend, which is just for show. He has two friends that are gay and a third that’s still undecided. He lives in Rantepao, the biggest city in Toraja which is a strange mix of traditional beliefs (animism) and mainly the protestant flavor of Christianity. X works in a restaurant, which is how we meet.

I learn X is gay because he tells me “I knoooow you have giiiiiirlfriiiieeeeend!” in such an exaggerated, flamboyantly gay manner it is almost as if he is mocking the stereotype. He knows this, he tells me, because I am very handsome. I tell him I don’t have a girlfriend and just to make sure ask him if he has a one. It is at this point that X leans over the table conspiratorially and whispers: “I have problem with sex mister, I like the boys and the girls!”

X tells me besides his two gay friends, nobody knows he’s gay, not even his own family. I tell him I spotted it quite easily and quickly and he immediately responds: “O, because body language yeah!” Although X seems to know exactly what I’m talking about, he seems oblivious to the fact others, such as his family members, might recognize it in him as well. I suppose the ‘benefit’ of nobody being gay in Indonesia is that the subject can be avoided at family dinner all together.

X is curious why I know the body language. I tell him I have several gay friends and come in gay bars quite often, the thought of which seems quite amazing to him. When I tell him gay men can marry in The Netherlands and that we have openly gay politicians his mouth drops open. I ask him if he thinks something like this will ever happen in Indonesia, or in the Christian town of Rantepao. He says maybe. When I ask him how long he thinks it will take he tells he doesn’t know, maybe ten years, maybe fifty. “Until then, we wait and hope.”

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