To say that I am disappointed with the decision by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to pick Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate for the election in 2019 is an understatement.
As an Indonesian gay man who lives abroad and who has followed the crackdown on the LGBT community in my country over the past few years, I must say—with a heavy heart—that I cannot and will not vote for any candidates (I will not vote for the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket either). Yes, for the first time, I will abstain.
Some of my friends are understandably questioning my choice. For some people, becoming an ‘abstainer’ or golput (a portmanteau of Golongan Putih – the “white party”) is unacceptable.
Here are some of the things they said to me:
“If you decide not to vote this time, when things go down in the future, you will be responsible.”
“Golput is not an option.”
“Can you imagine what our country would be like if the other guy wins?”
I understand where they are coming from, but one thing they forget is—I’m a gay man. As a gay man, voting for Ma’aruf Amin would mean I facilitate someone who basically wants to increase LGBT crackdowns in the country.
I was born in Aceh and as of now, I can no longer go back there even for a visit knowing that 86 lashes by the Sharia police will be waiting for me. But when I pointed this out to a friend, he suggested I simply not use dating apps and have sex when I visit my birthplace.
That is clearly not the point here.
It’s been ages since I visited one of those gay bathhouses and I don’t even plan to return because I’m finally in a happy, loving relationship with the man. However, the very idea that I cannot go back to my birth place due to the fact they will round us up and put us in jail is simply outrageous.
LGBT people are too used to people who refuse to see us as equals. Personally, I know that not even my straight friends agree with my life choices and, sadly, silently agree with all of the discriminations that people in power put upon us.
I’m an out and proud gay man and I (finally!) know my values. It took me years to understand my values—to know that I am worthy. I will not jeopardize that by voting for someone who wants to outlaw LGBT people.
Sounds selfish? Well, so is demanding me to sacrifice my right to exist by voting for Jokowi-Amin for the sake of “the greater good.” I refuse to be manipulated once again into voting while it is obvious that someone like me is never a part of the equation.
Non-LGBT people would say that people like me should ‘sacrifice’ by voting anyway but it is too easy to tell people that sacrifices are needed when you are not the one paying the price.
For people like Ma’ruf Amin, someone like me should be put in jail . Furthermore, according to the interview here, Amin stated that the government should do something to ‘manage’ LGBT people in Indonesia. Simply put, Amin labelled LGBT people as “adulterers”, “infidels”, and “responsible for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Indonesia.”
Based on the interview alone, there was no room to even discuss LGBT rights with someone like Ma’ruf Amin. That being said, I don’t see any other way to express my disappointment other than not voting for Jokowi-Amin in the 2019 election. I cannot bear the thought that if he got elected, I would be responsible for furthering the discrimination against LGBT Indonesians.
It is against my conscience to elect someone who could become the ‘architect’ of more discriminations against LGBT people. The minimum standard for me to consider voting is that as a gay man, and for LGBT people in general, we are able to feel that we are part of the nation. I will not accept second (or even third) class citizenship.
If people cannot even give us this basic right, then there is no point in trying to force LGBT people to vote.
Amahl S. Azwar is an openly gay man who resides in Shanghai, China where he works as part-time English teacher while hoping to become the next Anggun Cipta Sasmi.