Dear straight people, I recently received a cringe-worthy message from one of your tribe members. It was my second day at work. I was sitting in my desk, minding my own business when that Facebook notification came in. This girl from university, whom I haven’t been speaking with for years, commented on one of my posts. It was a post about a book on growing up gay in Indonesia I’m currently writing.
I clicked on her comment and read it carefully. It said: “Being gay in Indonesia isn’t that bad. I have plenty of gay friends, and they’re just happy. Nothing risky or dangerous at all, so please don’t exaggerate your story just for the sake of publicity. Fleeing the country just because you’re homosexual is completely unnecessary.”
Let me give you a little profile about this woman: she’s a straight Muslim-Javanese woman. Her background makes her a first-class citizen in Indonesia. For you who don’t know, in Indonesia the Muslims have the biggest power in almost everything, especially politics. If you’re from Java (one of Indonesia’s 17,508 islands), you’re more respected than others, I’m not sure why. So if you’re a Muslim-Javanese like me, boom, you just won yourself a jackpot! Too bad I’m gay, so that throws me down to the most despicable class in the society. My dream to be a president (lie!) will never come true, cause 6.5 out of 7 Indonesian former & current presidents are straight Muslim-Javanese.
Okay, back to this woman. I wasn’t offended at all by her comment. I thought it was brilliant how a first-class citizen can totally relate to the problems of people who are so low on the food chain. It’s the equivalent of white Americans criticizing Black Lives Matter, or saying, “The Native American genocide wasn’t that bad. I know some native Americans, and they’re just happy.” I deleted that comment and blocked her right away, cause I didn’t want to have any idiot on my page. I didn’t even care enough to debate her but I thought, hey, it would make an interesting blog topic!
So dear straight people, don’t ever be like her, please. I know how hard it is to be straight, I’ve seen Mean Girls a few times. But trust me, growing up in total confusion and secrecy is way harder. You don’t know why you’re attracted to your same-sex friend at school while other boys are so obsessed with boobs, and the worst part: you can’t tell anyone about it. About your feelings, about your crush. About your fear of boobs. You don’t even have the gut to say it out loud to yourself.
And even before understanding what’s wrong with you, your society and religion already teach you to be homophobic. I was a homophobic. I disliked all gay people I knew, including myself (thanks Mom). Then when you come out to your conservative family, they show you how to hate yourself.
After my blog post blew up in February, many scared gay men emailed me, telling me about their parents’ plans to bring them to religious conversion therapy, which in Indonesia is so close to exorcism. One of them even just told me last night, “My parents only gave me two options: marrying my own cousin, or dead. They said I’m a family embarrassment.” So please, don’t ever say being gay isn’t hard. It’s hard enough for those growing up in a progressive country like Canada, and I’m confident to say it’s a lot harder for those in Indonesia.
Dear straight people, even if you still believe it’s not that hard to be homosexual, have you ever thought that we, too, want to have a family on our own? Did you know how sad it is being your groomsman/bridesmaid and knowing you’ll never get married? Or worse: getting married to someone from the opposite sex you clearly don’t love, while the love of your life is mourning elsewhere. And did you know that being a fun uncle isn’t fun anymore when all you actually want is to be a loving father?
Not every queer person who’d given up on their countries had been at risk or danger before. Many of us chose to live someplace else simply because we refused to settle for less. We knew how much we’re worth, and we didn’t discount ourselves just to give those already-privileged people more privileges. So yes, it is necessary to move to another country when our homelands fail to meet our standards.
And we won’t let any privileged straight person tell us that our standards are too high, or that our dreams are too big.
Dear straight people, just stop speaking on behalf of us. Just because you hangout a lot with our clan, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to say we’re just happy. I know most of us look more fashionable than most of you, but picking clothes wasn’t the only thing we did in the closet. There were a lot of reflection and sadness in there.
And stop asking these dumb questions too:
- Who’s the man and who’s the woman in your relationship? Well, you don’t need to know.
- When did you decide to be gay? When did you decide to be straight?
- Can you stop telling people about your gay life? Excuse me, how many heterosexual stuff do we have to be force-fed our whole lives?
- Will you be my gay best friend? Now YOU are labeling me.
- You can get married in many countries now, isn’t that enough? No. There are so many things: the everyday homophobia that’s out there, discrimination in the workplace, international LGBT rights issues. The fight is on-going for equality. Same-sex marriage isn’t the end of the battle but it’s definitely a big step.
- Can’t you just pretend to be straight among people, so they won’t harass & discriminate you? If Harry Potter taught us anything… it’s that no one deserves to live in the closet. It’s the harassment & discrimination that should stop. And when Harry couldn’t stop the mistreatment, he moved out from his bully uncle’s closet to Hogwarts so he could be himself. Proudly.
So dear straight people…