It was in early 2011 when I keyed in the word “lesbian” on a search engine site, and since then my life has changed. I found a forum named Voy, a lesbian forum for Indonesian Lesbian. I also found an independent website that was very active and informative back then. It was Sepocikopi.
Everyday I visited Sepocikopi and read almost all of their articles. Then I started to reach out to the “senior lesbians” that submitted their work to Sepocikopi through messenger or e-mail. I asked them everything I wanted to know. I was 19 years old and I enjoyed being “spoiled” by them, because most of them were older than me.
Then I make an alter-account on Twitter. I followed Sepocikopi and few lesbian writers whom I recognized as Sepocikopi’s regular contributors. I also interacted with other lesbians, who, like me, didn’t use their real names.
For the very first time since I was born, I felt like I was free. I could tell other people about my sexuality without worrying that they would judge me because we were same. Even if we came from different backgrounds and we were of different ages, I enjoyed our interaction and our discussion.
My story didn’t end there of course. It wasn’t enough to interact with them digitally, so I asked them to meet me in person. We began to hang out for lunch or coffee. What I love about it is even when we met in person, we didn’t ask about each other’s identity. It felt really safe for a discreet lesbian like me. I still remember, when I travel to Jakarta from Surabaya, where I live, I managed to gather 12 other people in one meetup. That’s 13 lesbians in one sitting, a huge number for me.
But people around us were staring at us with strange look, because some of us were couples and they had the typical lesbian look – I mean stone butch and a very girly girlfriend. Though I was happy then, I didn’t feel safe because people were giving us the look.
After that, I’ve tried to be more selective about whom I want to meet in real life. Because even if my identity is safe, I also want to enjoy myself without worrying about other people who stare at me with judging look. If this makes me sound picky, that’s fine. I am looking for a safe place and environment. And alterland gives me that. For a closeted lesbian like me, having few friends is better than none at all.
A safe place that still offers friends with whom I can share my story – that’s alterland for me.