The love life of transsexuals

Caring souls: (From left to right): Adel, Shanti and Nency sit in a waiting room at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, in Salemba, Jakarta, after fellow transsexual and AIDS activist Shakira was shot by unidentified assailants at Taman Lawang in Central Jakarta at dawn last month. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama
Caring souls: (From left to right): Adel, Shanti and Nency sit in a waiting room at Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital, in Salemba, Jakarta, after fellow transsexual and AIDS activist Shakira was shot by unidentified assailants at Taman Lawang in Central Jakarta at dawn last month. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama

For many transgendered women, loving a man means letting him go. Only few dare to wish for an everlasting romantic partnership.

Yuli Rettoblaut, Mariyani and Rully all share the same story: They were in long-term relationships where they eventually told their partners to leave them and marry a “real” woman.

“I feel I’m destined to not have a partner,” Rully said in Yogyakarta.

Rully said she had been in a 7-year relationship with a man. Being a devout Muslim, Rully encouraged him to find a wife. “Whenever we talked about children and other stuff, we came to a dead end. I suggested he end this [relationship] and marry [another woman],” she said.

In the beginning, her partner refused to leave her but eventually agreed to end the relationship.

“I’ve concluded that it’s enough to feel love in our hearts; we don’t need to have it written down because there is controversy [in the issue of same sex or transgendered marriages], and we might not have the courage to always be known as something that defies long-held rules in society’s norms,” she said.

Those who do marry often come to loggerheads with Indonesian law. Recently, Fransiska Anastasya Oktaviany, also known as Icha and Rahmat Sulistyo, 19, was arrested for alleged identity fraud. Icha had been married for six months to Muhammad Umar, 32. Umar said he did not know Icha was a transgendered woman.

Hartoyo, director of LGBT rights organization Ourvoice, said in a press statement that Icha’s gender identity and sexual orientation was Icha’s and Umar’s private concern. “However, Icha has a different gender role and sexual conduct so she had to forge her identity card. The problem of why Icha forged her identity should be highlighted by the State… Many transgendered people do the same thing, and some of them are permitted by local authorities to change their sex on their ID card,” Hartoyo said.

Despite the fact that the State, through the Ministry of Health in 1993, has stated that homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality are not diseases or mental illness, the 2006 Demographic Administration Law has not accommodated transgendered people as a separate identity and still designates gender identity according to physical anatomy, Hartoyo said.

Mariyani, who runs an Islamic School for transgendered women, once encouraged her partner to leave her and marry another woman. But, after that relationship, she found someone new and was married under religious law.

“A female religious leader married me off,” she said. Her husband apparently already had a wife and children, so Mariyani and her husband separated. Mariyani adopted a child and decided to live on her own with her daughter.

Lulukaszyura Surahman (Luluk), 28, said until a couple of years ago, she wouldn’t admit she was a transgendered woman. “I felt I was a woman and I was very against telling people that I’m a waria [transgendered],” she said.

Men would court her, and she would be responsive. Eventually, she would ask her friend to tell the man courting her that she was a transgendered woman. “They usually disappeared after that,” she said.

Now she tells people from the start that she is a transgendered woman.

“So, he would know from the start,” she said. Luluk added that she would not want to stay single the rest of her life.

“It doesn’t feel good to be alone all the time,” she said. “Every person wants to love and be loved,” she said.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post | Feature | Mon, April 11 2011

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