Coming out to me had only been a matter of time. Some of my friends in college have been very supportive, though some homophobes persist, and gay slurs grew more prominent than ever.
Still, to this day, the one moment that still terrifies me most is the Idul Fitri holiday, because it is during this time that I have to endure the worst hell. That seems to be an exaggeration, but it is my reality.
At age 15, I decided to study in a city far away from my village to escape verbal abuses and bullying by my peers. At 18, I moved farther to study to get away from the memories of being bullied in the village and in high school. But memories of the bullying and abuses continue to be the source of my persistent pain; the past remains unforgettable. I had always wished that I never had to return home
Adding another layer to this: people in my village have transformed into a different society. Since what I call “the second wave of Islamisation”, they have been growing more conservative along with the rest of Indonesia. Twice a year they invite students of the Islamic State University to give them lectures, more youth are going to Islamic universities and pesantren (Islamic boarding schools), and school girls are obliged to wear a hijab, to name a few examples.
Since a lot of the youths and adults in my village are following my Facebook and Instagram accounts where I actively spread the word and educate others about the LGBT community, they all know that I am an open, proud and outspoken gay – probably the only one in a handful of villages around that area. And I am probably the only openly liberal and agnostic person that they know too. Recalling their abuses and homophobic remarks to me during childhood, I could not imagine what they would do to me when I come home during Idul Fitri.
Despite my reluctance, however, I finally decided to come home last Idul Fitri, so I could visit my father, who lives alone. It is the only time I can make myself stay longer – five days instead of the three-day visit to him that I make twice a year.
I am an ex-Muslim – agnostic is probably the best term for it. I have told my parents and family, and, still, we have not settled things down. I know they are disappointed in me, especially because I was a pious child, more than other children my age in the village. To please them, on the morning of Idul Fitri, I performed prayers at the mosque. The rest of the time I avoided being in public space to escape being harmed by others villagers. I cloister myself in my family’s house, and only occasionally visited our extended family.
My father knows how uncomfortable it is for me to be home. I’d told him the main reason: I dreaded those awkward moments spent with my sister. She is the most religiously conservative in the family. Unlike my parents, who practice a syncretic form of Islam, infusing the tradition with the old Javanese spirituality, she is a Wahhabi, a fundamentalist and religious supremacist. She thinks there is something wrong with me, and that my gayness and femininity are grave sins, something that needs to be cured.
My sister made a point of showing off her piety, as if she was living in the Middle East, and as if she had been that way her whole life. Small chit–chats with her revolved around conducting a good religious life, she performed the five prayers daily at the mosque, and her favorite conversation subject is about heathens or kafir (infidel) me.
Her four-year-old son asked me why I did not pray at the mosque, and I told him that I was agnostic and that I did not need to listen to any more Islamic teaching. I knew it was not an appropriate answer for kids, but I’d had enough already by then.
Another time I heard my sister and her husband ridiculing and condemning other Muslims who do not share their extreme beliefs and I felt bad for my moderate and traditional father who was involved in the conversation.
I am sure I’m not the only one feeling this way. Many members of the LGBT community in Indonesia must face similar dilemma when holiday comes. Instead of being a joyful time of love and forgiveness spent with our families, Idul Fitri is a nightmare we have to face every year. How we long for the day when we will be allowed to love, be loved, and be proud, anytime, anywhere, and especially in our own family. Unfortunately, it looks as if we still have a long way to go.
“Dimo” Pambudi currently lives in Jogjakarta. He is a failed biologist who is a daydreamer and night thinker. He dreams to have a porn entertainment industry.