By Kamilia Manaf
Institut Pelangi Perempuan (Indonesian Youth Lesbian Center)
At the AWID Feminist Forum held on November 2008 in Cape Town,South Africa, on the fourth day of the conference, I attended aworkshop on homophobia organized by the Coalition of African Lesbians. There were several LBT (Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender) women activists participating in the forum. It ran so well until there were three Moslem women who gave questions to the speakers. Suddenly the session were getting so crowded and most of the participants looked so emotional. They said that the three Moslem women were very aggressive towards the LBT audiences claiming that homosexuality is a sin, a disease, an insult towards the Koran.
I was at the session too. But, I don’t think those Moslem women were very aggressive, they just asked questions in a good way that should be answered by LBT women. It was a discussion session, so everyone has rights to ask and discuss everything. For me, it’s just common questions coming from heterosexual people that I often get too as a lesbian woman. It should be understood that sometimes heterosexual people they just don’t understand about LBT women’s issues, so sometimes it sounds homophobic, so all we need to do is giving an explanation to make them understand. In the reality, there are a lot of LBT women who also don’t understand about their sexual orientation and gender identity and there are also a lot of LBT women who are homophobic. It needs a long time and process for some LBT women to accept and understand their sexual orientation and gender identity. So, it can be understood that heterosexual people also need time and process to understand about LBT women issue.
To be honest, I was so disappointed with the several LBT women who participants in that session who gave a bad response by showing anger, did not listen to the questions, and some of them spoke so loud which I think it sounds so emotional. That was shocking to me. It shows that they are not giving their respect to the session. I know that people have rights to be angry, but if we want to do advocacy and campaign and make a positive social change towards LBT women, we can not make it with anger. We can not expect heterosexual people understand about our issue, if we never try a good communication process with them.
I think the LBT women need to do the POLITICS OF FUN. We all know that Ellen DeGeneres who is an out lesbian artist and she isAmerica’s Sweetheart because of her jokes and she knows how to make fun. A lot of people love her and don’t care anymore about her sexual orientation. I guess she makes a very good communication way about being a lesbian to heterosexual people.
I’ve been a source person in several forums and talked about lesbianism. I’ve got exactly the same questions so many times. All I need to do is tell the participants to ask any kind of questions without feeling afraid of hurting me. And I try to make it FUN. One example: I participated in the Indonesian and East Timor Youth Feminist Forum which was held by JASS in 2006 inIndonesia. Some of them are Moslem and wear the veil. After I introduced myself as a lesbian woman, some participants started gossiping behind me and finally the facilitators of the forum decided to give a special open discussion about lesbianism and they asked me to be the source person. I tried to make the discussion forum full of fun by making some jokes to their questions, and it’s unpredictable that the discussion which was planned for only 2 hours ran for almost 4 hours. And it was fun! We had a very nice discussion with cheer and laugh. After that open discussion, everyone was much friendlier to me, even now some of them become my counselors if I need someone to talk about my sex life and pretty girls that I want to date for. It is also part of my strategy that I share as much as I can about my life when we have break time for gossip and relaxing during the forum or workshop, and now some of them understand there is no difference between lesbian and heterosexual relationship.
Actually, as a Moslem lesbian woman, I really want to answer all the questions of the session, but I did not have a chance to do that because everyone talked and it was so crowded. If I had a chance to answer the questions, I would like to say:
“The essence of Islam teaching is to humanize the human being, to respect and deeply honor human beings without seeing them from their race, skin color, social status, gender identity or sexual orientation. God only sees the difference of human beings based on Taqwa (goodness), and talking about Taqwa, the only one who has prerogative rights to appraise is God, not human beings. The only thing human beings can do is to compete with each other in making goodness as God says. As long as their sexual orientation and gender identity are used for sharing love and not for violence, so that is the main purpose of Islam teaching.”