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Jakarta Post

'Yes, I am transgender': Indonesian singer braves hostility in emotional video

  • Gemma Holliani Cahya
    Gemma Holliani Cahya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, September 22, 2019   /   09:34 am
'Yes, I am transgender': Indonesian singer braves hostility in emotional video A passerby hugs an activist campaigning for the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community during a recent Car Free Day in Jakarta. (The Jakarta Post/Seto Wardhana)

“It has been my inner turmoil for the last two years, but today I want to be honest. The rumors that you’ve heard out there about me being transgender, they're true. I am transgender,” Gebby Vesta said in a three-minute video that was uploaded on her official YouTube channel on Thursday.

Gebby’s confession was shocking amid the anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) sentiments that have been intensifying for years in Indonesia. Before the video was uploaded, Gebby has been reportedly denying accusations that she was waria (transgender).

In the video, wearing a yellow tank-top, Gabby, who is a dangdut singer and a DJ, said that she had decided to go through sexual reassignment surgery six years ago.

“I had hidden my true self for 19 years since the first time I went to Jakarta until today. Nobody knows the real me. Many people had been asking me: Why didn’t I tell the truth? It’s easier for you to say that because you are not in my position; you don’t understand what I am feeling. I have been fighting my own feelings. At that time, I was so afraid that [if I told the truth] I could lose my job,” Gebby, who came from Singkawang, West Kalimantan before looking for work in Jakarta, said in the video.

“Why am I being honest now? Because now I have faith that both fortune and death are in God’s hands and I can’t fight that,” she said while sobbing.

She later explained in the video that she would quit the entertainment industry and focus on taking care of her parents and her business.

“Whatever your thoughts and perceptions [on my confession] right now, I want to live and take care of my parents peacefully,” she said.

In an unexpected turn of events, most of those who watched her video showed support for Gebby, praising her for being honest.

“I’m grateful that you have been given the strength to tell the truth, Gebby. I hope you will always be successful,” a YouTube account under the name Ester Wulandari said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, another account holder using the name Amiruddin Uddin said that although he respected Gebby’s bold decision to open up about her sexuality, he himself did not have the same courage to come out to his parents. “I am gay but I still don’t have the nerve to tell my parents," he wrote. "I’m still scared [of the responses] from my families and people around me.”

Gebby’s public revelation is rare because most Indonesians, at best, look down on waria and some are even violent against them. The first modern transsexual to go public in Indonesia was Dorce Gamalama, who also went through sex reassignment surgery. Dorce, however, became a successful celebrity on TV and had her own broadcast, The Dorce Show. Despite Dorce's relative success, not many waria followed in her footsteps because of the risk of violence.

Cases of members of the LGBT community being persecuted have been increasing significantly, especially since 2016 when Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir said that LGBT people should be banned from campuses. He later tried to backtrack on his statement.

His made his controversial statement in response to public debate about a poster put up by the Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies in Depok, which offered a counseling service for LGBT people.

In 2018, for example, seven transgender people in Sumur Utara, Klender, East Jakarta, had been forced out of their rooming house by nearby residents. Also in 2018, dozens of men attacked two waria in Bekasi. The men told the waria to strip and then cut their hair and beat them with a rod.