Alternative lifestyle book
hits newsstands

PT Gramedia Pustaka Utama (GPU), a subsidiary of the country's largest publisher, the Gramedia group, launched a collection of short stories Wednesday entitled Rahasia Bulan (Secrets of the Moon), which focuses on the themes of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual lifestyle choices.

""We want to show the public that people with different sexual orientations, which are revealed in this book, really exist. They are part of our daily social life,"" GPU division head Anastasia Mustikasari said in a statement.

The 228-page book consists of 16 short stories, including those written by popular women authors such as Djenar Maesa Ayu with Lolongan di Balik Dinding (Scream Behind the Wall), Linda Christanty with Mercusuar (Lighthouse), Alberthiene Endah with Secangkir Kopi di Starbucks (A Cup of Coffee at Starbucks) and Clara Ng with Rahasia Bulan.

Some new writers -- gays and straights -- also contributed to the collection, including television host Indra Herlambang with Merindu Randu (Missing Randu).

According to editor Is Mujiarso, the book's publication aimed at showing various sexual orientations that exist in the society.

""We want to show the bright side of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders,"" Mujiarso explained during the launch of the book at Aksara Bookstore in Kemang, South Jakarta.

Literary expert John McGlynn, meanwhile, believes that mainstream literature only supports heterosexual identity, and marginalizes different sexual orientations in the literary world.

""When there is a gay or lesbian depiction, it must be a bad character. Like heterosexual people, there are many good, nationalist gay and lesbian people,"" claimed McGlynn, who is director of the Lontar literary foundation.

He said the emergence of gay literary stories was a healthy aspect of newly won freedom of expression, which was gained after the downfall of the New Order regime and president Soeharto in 1998.

""But, after the downfall of the New Order, we still are forced to be cautious about the movement of certain groups,"" he said referring to some reactionary religious groups.

In addition to the reactionaries, he explained that another threat to freedom of expression, including literature, could come from the pornography bill, which is currently being finalized at the House of Representatives.

""It would be a lot better for them (legislators) to solve real problems like traffic jams and taxation ... Do not intrude into our bedrooms,"" he urged.

Some short story writers of the book, who attended the launch, added that they were well aware of the risks involved with publishing such a book.

The use of explicit words to describe genitalia as well as depictions of sexual intercourse in the book, could well be viewed ""pornographic"" by our narrow-minded brethren here.

--A. Junaidi

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