by: Okky Madasari
Sometimes we hate something just because we don't understand it. This is exactly what happened to me when it comes to homosexuality.
Ten years ago, I was in my early 20s and had just moved from my village in East Java to Yogyakarta to further my studies. I was not familiar with the internet then.
There was neither Facebook nor Twitter.
Reality was as simple as what happened around me, and the truth was what most people around me said.
For me, homosexuality wasn't real at that time. I had never even read a book or watched a movie about it. Even when I moved to a bigger city, met and befriended people from various regions, ethnicities and religions, read books and watched movies, homosexuality still wasn'??t real.
I had neither gay friends nor met gay people. So, I didn't have any reason to believe gays existed.
Even when one day a friend told me that he had just met a gay person, I thought he had made it up, or it was just his imagination.
By then I knew there were gays, but they seemed small in number, very far and remote from my life and just a deviation from reality.
For a long time, I believed that LGBT issues were unworthy to be talked about, far less important while we had many problems to be solved, like poverty, corruption and violence.
Until one day I moved to Jakarta and started to see reality first-hand. All of a sudden, I began to meet many gay people and made friends with them. This forced me to accept that gays existed. They were around and very close to me, living in the same world and becoming part of my daily life.
I saw with my own eyes how they lived, how they expressed themselves, how they kept their secrets from family and friends, in school or at work.
From my own experience, I believe we can't take awareness for granted. It starts with experience, develops with knowledge and changes in the process. I needed time to realize that LGBT people are part of my reality, obliging me to accept and care for them.
As a writer, I also needed time to realize that I had to write about this issue, giving LGBT people a voice through my stories and the same importance as other issues I raised in previous novels.
When today I see myself very firmly defending LGBT rights through my work or daily attitude, I still remember that I had a long journey to reach this point.
That's why I can understand why many people still can't accept LGBT people as part of their reality. Every person has different experiences and knowledge.
Young people who spend most of their time with their family and friends in school are controlled by what people around them think and say. Older people are controlled by religious teachings, disregarding anything beyond them.
It's really a war: A war of discourses, a war of knowledge. It's actually not a war like many people say as a war against LGBT, a war between straight and homosexual people. It's really a war in each person's heart to always question what the majority of people claim as the truth.
While awareness can'??t be taken for granted, it also means we should always challenge ourselves to go beyond what we are used to seeing and hearing.
One can't gain a new perspective if one only stays in confined boundaries, reads only what the majority of people reads, talks and listens only to people of the same religion and background.
Awareness comes to people who open their eyes and hearts. And sometimes some people just need to get a small chance to experience it.
The only enemy for us is those who use violence against others and treat others inhumanely just because they are different.
These people don't belong here - a place where people respect, above all, basic human rights and the law, while a war of ideas is the only war that matters.
In every game or system, there should always be a fair referee who can kick out those who break the rules. We need good laws, a government and law enforcers to make sure this war is played by the rules.
Unfortunately in Indonesia, too often these referees have taken sides with vocal voices of morality, for fear of losing power rather than ensuring that these battles of ideas can be celebrated fairly.
It should not be too difficult to exclude violence from this war of ideas. While awareness must be earned through a process, loving others is a gift of human nature.
The writer, a novelist, highlights transgender issues in Indonesia and how most Indonesian Muslims deal with such a reality in her fourth novel, Pasung Jiwa.
Published by The Jakarta Post I hated gays, and they weren't real 'back then