November 04, 2016
From One Queer in Jakarta to Another: It Gets Better

It took her year to finally accept herself and come out to her closest friends and relatives, so now she offers her hand to help others who are going through the struggle she went through

by Allie
Issues // Gender and Sexuality
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Two years ago I came out to one of my closest friends. It was a few days prior to my departure to Amsterdam and we were discussing about heterosexual supremacy, heteronormativity, and our struggle of living in a judgmental society.  People don’t understand how it feels to be different because from a young age we are taught to conform to the existing norms and values, and failing to do so, we risk being shunned.
 
I live in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, the world’s 4th most populous country and 16th largest GDP. The Greater Jakarta area is one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas as well as the most populous, with around 20 million inhabitants living in the city and surrounding suburbs.  I’ve spent most of my life in South Jakarta, the more gentrified area of the city, which can mask the true judgmental and superficial nature of its people. I went to rather posh schools with people who  later became influential in Jakarta’s social scene. Among them were the most-followed Indonesian singer on Instagram, an actress-turns-mother, and a child actress-turned-Indonesian-Miley Cyrus.
 
I attended one of the finest universities in Indonesia, named after the country itself, enrolling in the International Program, which let me spent two years here and two years abroad while  earning two bachelor’s degrees. There I met my first love, a girl. I never knew I was able to fall in love, let alone with a girl. I loved her and she loved me, we were happy in our small bubble. We agreed not to tell anyone about our relationship, fearing we will be discovered. We were only lovers inside a locked room, “a convenient relationship,” I thought to myself at the time.
 
When I went overseas I broke up with her and fell into a deep depression. I blamed it on society – if only people were more accepting and friendlier towards people like me. I wish I had told someone to help me. During these dark times, I tried to help myself, too afraid to ask anyone for help. I contemplated suicide when I was abroad because of my sexuality. The only thing that stopped me from doing it was the thought of my parents seeing my dead body.
 
I was a closeted queer and I only came out to a very limited number of trusted friends (I have trust issues with Jakartans) and family member, my feminist cousin. But that was two years ago, and since then I have came out to more people, even my mom. She doesn’t talk about it but at least I’m not getting kicked out from the house, so I’m grateful for it. And, yes, it gets better.
 


Since I decided to came out to people I consider “safe,” things have gotten better. Everyone I came out to have accepted me and my sexuality, even my mom. Still, I know how difficult it is to come out to your friends and especially to your family. It took me years to fully accept myself and a few more years to muster up the courage to come out to people I care about. Never ever come out when you’re not ready to face the consequences.
 
I admit I’m privileged, coming from a well-educated family. Having open-minded parents (Dad works in advertising, Mom is a psychologist) and ones who are not very religious helped. But even with such background, I still hesitated to come out, I cannot imagine how others who live with people with more conservative values even think about coming out.
 
Now to give back, I want to offer my support to others, especially in South Jakarta, who are experiencing the plight I went through. I am here to support you. Whoever you are, if you read this, please bear in mind that you’re not alone. You got me here. Just, know that it gets better.
 
Allie, a pseudonym, has three degrees in Psychology from three different continents, although she’s not a licensed psychologist. She enjoys deep intellectual conversation as much as good food and adrenaline rush.