Home Institution

Duke University

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change


In 2016, Indonesia—the fourth most populous country in the world—received international attention for what the Human Rights Watch calls an LGBTQ “Crisis” (2016). Sparked by high ranking officials publicly declaring homophobic and transphobic sentiments, a wave of intolerance, fear, and hate disseminated throughout the country. Gender and sexual minorities became “fresh meat” for political players—government officials, military leaders, religious figures, and other social agents competed to take a stand against an “impeding” LGBTQ threat. These dialogues catalyzed into action as zealous anti-LGBTQ campaigns staked violence and discrimination against gender and sexual minorities across Indonesia.

The “Crisis of 2016” cannot be understood as a resentful reaction to a movement ostentatiously claiming space. Homophobia and transphobia have long been slowly encroaching on the larger hetero- and cisnormative society, especially through private and localized manners (Boellstorff, 2004). Dwelling in this environment, the “threatening” LGBTQ movement has struggled to gain basic groundings, and thus hardly qualifies as a challenger to state power in its societal influence. 2016, then, may be understood as a political gambit to strategically frame a vulnerable, and thus, marketable, minority rights movement. In this political ploy to name the LGBTQ community as enemy, how has the movement changed or moved as a result?

To explore the relationship between political homophobia and transphobia and the LGBTQ movement, I pursued a one-month-long field study, conducting interviews with LGBTQ leaders in the city of Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, Indonesia. From these interviews, it seems as though 2016 presented challenges for individual activists, increasingly divided the LGBTQ community, but brought the movement closer to other social justice movements. In this report, I present these findings from this very limited and exploratory study, in hopes of providing an introductory understanding of the effects of state-initiated LGBTQ intolerance. In the future, I hope further studies are done to better know the nuanced effects of the “Crisis of 2016.”


Asian Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | South and Southeast Asian Languages and Societies


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