National Coordinator for Transmen Indonesia (TI)
I am Raiz, since 2019 I have been the National Coordinator for Transmen Indonesia (TI). Transmen Indonesia is a collective that was formed in 2015 as a forum for sharing knowledge, experiences and stories related to the identity as transmen in Indonesia. TI was initiated by the Alumni of Transmen Camp batch 1 and 2, and now we have representatives from 8 provinces in Indonesia. Currently, we are trying to reach more transmen from various regions in Indonesia by using the inter-transmen friendship approach.
What was life like before COVID-19, and service availability for transmen?
In Indonesia, the identity of both transmen and transwomen is not recognized by the State. In fact, there are still a lot of discrimination and acts of violence that afflict trans people in Indonesia. Both transmen and transwomen have to fight hard in their daily lives. Not just in regards to identity, but also the space and opportunities available to trans people in various lines of life are also very limited. Likewise, if it focuses on health services related to the specific needs of trans, transmen-friendly services are still very few and only focused within big cities.
With the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak, how did you respond to this? Can you detail the evolving service needs of transmen during lockdown, and how community groups are able to address the issues?
The COVID-19 outbreak certainly has had many negative impacts on middle to lower class people to be able to meet their daily needs. Transmen, who are mostly day laborers, private employees or traders, have a more complex problem. The pandemic has made it difficult for transmen to access basic health services nor have access to necessary hormones.
In overcoming problems that developed during the lockdown period, Transmen Indonesia has not been able to solve problems related to transmen needs such as financial support, health services or wellbeing needs. This is because we do not have the resources and financial resources for these things. However, we know that there are many organizations or collectives that can help us to deal with this problem. Until now, what we have done is to link transmen who have certain needs with organizations that can cover those needs.
What were the issues that transmen in your country experienced during this time? What are the gaps in terms of addressing the issues?
The transmen movement in Indonesia is a new movement within the LGBTQI struggle in Indonesia. Transmen movement still has to catch up in terms of knowledge, experience and the existence of the movement itself. The transmen movement is still trying to organize itself. This is because there is still a knowledge gap even among transmen groups. The transmen movement must catch up while competing with other LGBTQI movements to gather resources in the form of both capacity building and funding. Unfortunately, most resource providers only want to work with organizations that are long established, registered, and have managerial capacity. So, this kills the learning and development for organizations that are just beginning to grow, learn and organize themselves.
How have you, staff, and volunteers working for NGOs been coping?
Currently the Indonesian transmen team is still working voluntarily. We are building our organization, while also looking for other sources to meet daily needs. This of course drains a lot of energy and makes the potential for burn-out even higher; however, we try to manage our expectations about what we can achieve, so that we can reduce stress.
How have you been able to seek resources to fill in the gaps? Who has been able to help provide support to your work during the pandemic?
During the pandemic we were greatly helped by the Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Society (CSBR) in mapping the situation and needs of transmen in Indonesia.
“Personally, I learned that it is important to meet and take care of each other. In the past we may have not appreciated meeting other people, not enjoying the moment — now that’s something we miss.”Raiz
How has the COVID-19 outbreak changed the way that you/your organisation and other NGOs will be working in the future?
Not much has changed from the way we work because our organizers are in 6 different provinces, therefore we are able to work online. Maybe we will try to apply periodic class models by maximizing the online meeting platform if we get the opportunity for capacity building in the form of training, workshops or discussions
Moving forward, what do you think must be adjusted/rethought within LGBTQI work post COVID-19?
During the pandemic, the State increasingly had the power to intervene in peoples’ lives on behalf of security and health protocols. This is confirmed by the overt military deployment in public spaces, which did not occur before COVID-19. This of course increases the security risk for LGBTQI individuals, as there are always reasons that can be used to persecute LGBTQI people.
Furthermore, we have to change the ways of protesting against the State in an effort to attract public attention. Pre-Covid we could take action by taking to the street — this must change by maximizing social media awareness or alternative broadcast media.
The last thing that is often overlooked is our readiness to ensure the sustainability of the organization, not only about funding but also about how we can care for the people who run the organization.
Are there any positive lessons learnt from the effects of COVID-19?
Personally, I learned that it is important to meet and take care of each other. In the past we may have not appreciated meeting other people, not enjoying the moment — now that’s something we miss.
What would you like to say to donors, development partners, and the government?
I don’t know whether the development partners and the government will pay attention to us at this time, but we are still consistent in fulfilling our rights as citizens. But for donors I would like to convey that building a movement should start with deep trust. Trust in an organization that is just growing, so that more movements can be built.