Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kampong Understanding toward Gender Diversity; Case study on Sidomulyo’s Acceptance on Waria Community

Kampong and its Daily Life
Kampong is a home for over 80% of Indonesia urban inhabitants, despite only 30% of urban space of Indonesia exists as kampong. Back to the Dutch colonialism era, kampong is identified as settlement for factory workers and city criminals, but in its progress, kampong has become the survival system for the most urban population. Since the New Order era (under the Suharto regime) until nowadays, kampong is considered negatively as the black spot of the city, and cannot be used as the measurement of the city development.

Kampong in the river bank has the characteristics of urban kampong, which are rigid (generally people assume it as ‘rude’), expressive, and the residents come from varied background of origins, jobs, and education. Most of the inhabitants work in the informal sector, such as pedicab drivers, street vendors, beggars, labors, garbage-takers, street singers, and hoodlums. The role of women is high in the family’s life, and almost all of the people work. Inside their communities, they are extrovert and expressive. On the other hand, when they interact with the outsiders, they become less-confident, rigid, introvert, and defensive, regarding their thoughts as the poor urban kampong inhabitants.

Furthermore, kampong in the river bank plays a role as a social setting where people from various background, profession, religion and social status live together in a space where public and private are mixed and inseparable.

Waria in Kampong

Waria is Indonesian term for transgendered people, derived from ‘wanita’ (woman) and ‘pria’ (man). Gay activist, Dede Oetomo defines waria as men who imitate women in their clothing styles or mannerisms ‘while retaining a masculine identity’. However, the waria community is very diverse.  It includes individuals who continue to identify as male but who imitate certain feminine mannerisms, and perhaps occasionally wear makeup and women’s clothing. Others identify so closely as female that they are able to pass as female in their daily interactions in society. Some waria express that they have ‘waria soul’. According to Boellstroff, many waria feel they were ‘created with feminine soul’. They feel that they have the soul of woman but are trapped in man’s body.

The community of waria in Yogyakarta surely needs a space to live as well as struggles to be accepted in the society where the third gender is still becoming an issue. Riverbank kampong may serve as their destination since it is well-recognized that riverbank kampong accepts more diverse people. Yet, the relationship between waria and kampong is considered as complex, multi-layered and a constant process of negotiation. This is mainly because of underlying issues in the characterization of waria, their dominant profession, and the prominent role of Islam in lower class urban Indonesia.

Still, there is a hope. And the hope lies in a riverbank kampong called, Sidomulyo, where Yayasan Pondok Rakyat works intensively there.

Sidomulyo and Waria

Sidomulyo is a kampong lining the Winongo River in northwest Yogyakarta, about 5 kilometers from the city centre. The land, which is subject to flooding, was first settled by squatters in the 1950s and 60s when a local industry developed. Early in the Suharto regime in 1966 a state policy known as Razia Gelandangan (Homeless Drifter Sweeping) removed large numbers of homeless from the streets and housed them in bamboo barracks in an institution on this site known as Bina Karya. A decade later these people were moved onto the northern riverbank where they mostly became tenants of one of the original squatters. All of the land within the loop was renamed Sidomulyo (literally ‘Becoming Prosperous’). The institution was rebuilt during the 1970s in classic disciplinary institutional form, enclosed behind high walls, mixing the homeless with the mentally ill. A small number of criminally ill are incarcerated in a small prison within the grounds. Approximately half of the land within these institutional walls lies derelict.

In Sidomulyo, there live the community of waria (around 30 waria) who mingle their daily life with the kampong residents. They share public toilets with other kampong residents. They shop in the same grocery stall. Some of them even go washing in the river like others. Waria in kampong also participate in kampong activities. When there is someone passed away, they join the funeral. When there is someone celebrating wedding ceremony, they come to the reception, and so on.

The waria community has a leader who later becomes a public figure in kampong since the leader becomes the mediator between the waria community and the kampong residents.

In addition, waria are also obliged to follow the ‘major rule of living in kampong’, which is they are not allowed to bring ‘customer’ home and into the kampong environment. Other rules implied for waria in kampong are waria (1) are not allowed to gamble, (2) are not allowed to get drunk in kampong and its surrounding, (3) are not allowed to dress too sexy. If any waria break the rules, the kampong leader and waria community leader will sit together and discuss what action they will take.

Apart from that, in this kampong, waria are regarded as kampong resident like others, like what Pak Pardi, the leader of RT 16 said, “Waria is also God’s creation and should be treated as such.”

The kampong acceptance toward waria existence found in Sidomulyo is very interesting to be analyzed, since Sidomulyo is well-known for kampong which accepts the community of waria, particularly in Yogyakarta. The big question appeared is ‘Why do Sidomulyo residents accept the community of waria in their kampong and treat them as other kampong residents? What are the reasons? What kind of understanding that they have? Several answers came up after the writer assisted and facilitated a group of Yogyakarta Kampong Field School (cooperated work between Australia National University, Duta Wacana Christian University and Yayasan Pondok Rakyat) which conducted their field study in Sidomulyo.

The first possible reason is because of the kampong history.
As stated before, Sidomulyo was founded for beggars and squatters, people already living on the margins of society. It was created as a community for the marginalized and had therefore acquired a reputation for accepting minority groups.

The second possible reason is they have their own private social spaces where they can express themselves and reinforce their identities.
They live closely to each other so the communal sense is built. They also have volleyball court where they can practice their skill to win volleyball competition in the city level. Plus, they have their own administrative autonomy. They are not a part of RW and RT meetings and instead have their own meetings together, although they do meet with kampong leaders. They also have a separate group interest fund or ‘arisan’ with 16 members in which they each contribute 100,000 rupiah per week.

The third possible reason is because in Sidomulyo, waria are secure in claiming their legal identity.
As a kampong resident, waria must have an identity card. In fact, most waria fled from their home because of the family pressure or social prejudice and discrimination. Many of them did not bring personal identity papers (KTP/identity card or KK/family card) with them. Without a paper, someone cannot get a job and has difficulty to access public’s facilities (hospital, bank, school/university, etc). Therefore, Sidomulyo provides KIPEM/Kartu Penduduk Musiman (temporary identity card) for waria to avoid them from police arrest or being ‘no identity person’.

The fourth possible reason is because waria participate in creative aspects in kampong through singing, dancing and make up skills. Waria perform regularly in kampong ceremonies and festivals.

The fifth possible reason is because the existence of waria in kampong increases the economic flow among the small scale home industry, like food stall, grocery stall, boarding house, etc. Even people receive additional income out of waria activities by giving them a lift to the city at an average price of 15,000 rupiah since waria admit that it is impractical for them to ride a motorcycle in short skirt and high heels.

Sidomulyo is a refuge for the marginalized community, especially waria, which are tolerant of dissident sexuality groups since this riverbank kampong has a history and reputation for accepting marginalized groups. However, the interaction between waria and kampong residents is also well-maintained through obeying the rules between each party and participating in all kampong activities.

The view on how looking at the waria as a human being, and not merely as a concept underlies the spirit of understanding and accepting gender diversity in urban kampong.

* * *
Presented in the Workshop of CITY
International Seminar on Diversity in Globalised Society
Gadjah Mada University Graduate School, Yogyakarta, October 27, 2010
Invani Lela Herliana (Yayasan Pondok Rakyat/People’s Shelter Foundation)

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terimakasih ya sudah mampir dan menyapa kurakurakikuk :)

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