Rahmat Sulistyo donned a headscarf, renamed zirself* “Icha,” and met a man named Umar on Facebook. They married, and Rahmat assumed a traditional wifely role, reportedly winning Umar’s love. After six months, though, Umar found out that Rahmat is genetically male, and Rahmat wound up in jail in West Java for allegedly violating fraud and forgery laws. The press dubbed Rahmat a “female impersonator.”
Described in April at the beginning of zer jail term as having regained zis “true identity” and looking like a “properly genuine man” in prison clothes, Rahmat was released last week and said ze would “try to be a man again.”
According to ILGA, Indonesia allows legal gender reassignment only after genital surgery, and same-sex relations between adults are legal in most, but not all areas. Aceh, which is under sharia law, is a conspicuous exception to the latter. Though Indonesia’s Muslim majority is moderate and traditionally tolerant, LGBTQ people still sometimes face harassment and violence, much of it from conservative Muslims and Muslim groups like the FPI. Cross-dressers, by contrast, are relatively accepted, though not fully integrated outside their traditional niches as beauticians and entertainers.
I don’t know what Rahmat’s motivations were, but this case would seem to demonstrate yet again that when people hide their real gender, sex, and/or sexuality, they’re not the only ones who suffer.
* Apologies if you don’t like this particular gender-neutral set of pronouns. There are a lot to choose from.
Translations Google’s and mine.