Growing up, Faisal was not really aware that he had a different sexual orientation from his friends, but as an adult he is very conscious of his sexuality and the discrimination he suffers as a result.
Faisal lives in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that has Islamic sharia law.
He was not fully aware that he was gay during junior high school and even dated several girls at school. “That was just to show people that I was a real man,” Faisal said.
Upon completing senior high school, he gradually realized he was gay and began searching for a partner of the same sex.
Local transsexual figure Edy Saputra said that in Islam, humans were created in couples.
“There is not a detailed explanation on whether that couple is a man and a woman, two men, or two women,” argued Edy who is the director of Violet Grey, a gay and transgender group in Aceh.
In September 2009, Aceh’s legislative council passed a bylaw that criminalized homosexuality and stipulated that adulterers be stoned to death.
For Faisal, being gay in a province with Islamic sharia law is no easy matter. He has endured much suffering and pressure to adapt to Aceh’s religious surroundings.
“The biggest challenge comes from within the family. Usually, a family with a gay member will try to hide that from the public because homosexuality is regarded as a disgrace to the family,” he said.
When he tried to be open about his sexuality with relatives, they responded by trying to take him to a psychiatrist to have him “cured”.
“They also tried forcing me to do masculine activities, such as playing soccer.”
Faisal also faces discrimination from the public, which he said, still regarded gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders as sinful.
Faisal said, members of a gay community, who are not courageous enough to reveal themselves to the public, will be haunted by an identity crisis for the rest of their life, while those who reveal themselves publicly face the risk of being ridiculed and even ostracized by the community.
“I know that most people regard gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual communities as some sort of disease that should be avoided and eradicated.”
Consequently, members of these communities are often subject to abuse and discrimination from the general public.
Faisal said he did not choose to be homosexual, but that it was a gift from God.
“If you meet a homosexual, regard them as a normal person who has the same rights and position
Faisal feels the Aceh community should be more aware of the issues associated with the gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender community.
He and his friends are currently forming a group to accommodate the aspirations of those suffering public discrimination because of their homosexuality.
“Violet Grey acts as a bridge between the public and homosexual communities.”
Faisal and his peers expect the community in Aceh will accept them, or at least have an understanding that homosexuals are also members of the community who have the same rights as others.