A secret ‘Miss Transgender’ pageant has secretly taken place in Jakarta, Indonesia on Friday 11 November.
Being transgender in Indonesia is a brutally dangerous life to live. It’s crucial that trans individuals hide out in secret locations to avoid contact with violent discrimination. These people often have to turn to sex work to live, due to blatant discrimination within other workplaces.
Indonesian culture stigmatises and strictly opposes gender diversity, causing a wide range of difficulties for the transgender community.
The official of the pageant – Yulianus Rettoblaut – has spoken of these issues. “In our country culture and traditions are still very dominant.
“So in Indonesia, people like us are not recognised, because people think religion only recognises male and female genders”.
By going ahead with the pageant, organisers and contestants made a brave statement. They were risking exposing themselves to abuse and violence should people have found out. Despite this, around 200 people attended the event and over 30 hopefuls took place in the contest.
A small number of journalists were informed of the event at the last minute, ensuring it ran without disruption. People present at the pageant were also warned not to post anything on social media until afterwards.
The Miss Waria Indonesia 2016 crown went to 28-year-old Qienabh Tappii. ‘Waria’ is a term used in Indonesia to describe transgender individuals. Qienabh will go onto represent Indonesia internationally, at a pageant set to be held in Thailand.
She was thrilled with her victory and spoke of her plans to promote the progression of transgender rights: “I want waria to be accepted, appreciated and understood in our society, and to be equal with other Indonesians. I will work really hard to achieve it”.
Clearly Indonesia has a long way to go in the acceptance of transgender identity. However, the bravery of these people is certainly a step in the right direction.