Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wrapping things up in Jakarta and Bangkok

Well, it's finally time to wrap things up this summer and head back to DC. After I left Banda Aceh, I spent a week in Jakarta for a spree of interviews with various LGBT activists and development practitioners. What I've come to realize in these posts is that I can't quite disclose who I am interviewing or their organizations given that LGBT advocacy work is still very controversial in Indonesia. 

Nonetheless, this summer finally  marked the end of my thesis data collection. I began research last year, so after 2 years, 2 countries, 7 cities, and 100+ hours of interviews, everything is finally complete!

While the majority of my data comes from Indonesian NGOs, this summer helped me get a better sense of where development organizations position themselves in relation to the LGBT movement and, more importantly, how religious leaders (by some miracle I found a progressive Indonesian pastor and imam who support LGBT communities) conceptualize the issues. As Indonesia requires all of its citizens to follow one of 6 official religions, and given the high importance placed on religious beliefs, I find that ultimately the LGBT movement cannot succeed until it can engage with religious leaders. Furthermore, even with a few progressive religious figures, how can their opinions be accepted over more conservative ones?  Indeed, I often take the position that looking to the law and high level policy to solve things like social discrimination and stigma is overemphasized--there needs to be a "cultural buy-in" from society if ideas like human rights based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (SOGIE) are to work. These more cultural strategies for acceptance tend to make people uncomfortable since they are not necessarily "revolutionary" or "transformative" as they often rely on using normative frameworks of Indonesian citizenship to get people to see LGBT people as Indonesians before they see them as minorities. These are also strategies, I would argue, which development organizations are unwilling or unable to effectively engage in.

I'm still working on putting together a video from my entire three months abroad, but for now here is the conclusion of my time in Indonesia (I celebrated Indonesian Independence Day by going to a queer badminton tournament) and a clip from my work on the Being LGBT in Asia at UNDP. 

Billboard near the shore in Banda Aceh that warns citizens against celebrating Valentine's Day.

Indonesian LGBT badminton tournament

The perfect malam minggu (saturday night) snacks: fried tempe, teh poci, sticky rice, and cassava

street vendor in Kota Tua, the north side of Jakarta with many Dutch colonial buildings

HUT Indonesia ke-68! Happy 68th Independence Day!

me in Kota Tua

Talking at the Indonesian National LGBT Dialogue sponsored by UNDP and USAID

One of our social media campaigns: "What message do you want to send to the LGBT community in Asia?"

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