Intersections: Re)articulations: Gender and Female Same-sex Subjectivities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 18, October 2008

Gender and Female Same-sex Subjectivities
in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Tracy Wright Webster

      Whatever the hegemonic order of gender relations may be...[t]here are always sites, and sometimes large sites, of alternative practices and perspectives available, and these may become the basis for transformation.
      Sherry Ortner[1]

  1. Female same-sex subjectivities tend to come to the fore in adolescence, and are mediated by, negotiated, and expressed within a local context that is at once multicultural and transnational.[2] In Indonesia, sexual and gendered subjectivities are further complicated by global/ising discourses of gender, sexuality, homosexuality and lesbianism. In this paper, these discourses are located as concomitant in that they are negotiated and filtered through cultural and local mores and systems of belief altering the ideology and practice of gender and sexuality in local contexts. This paper explores the social and cultural dimensions shaping gender and sexual subjectivity through the (re)articulations of a small group of early adult, same-sex attracted females, in Yogyakarta (hereafter Yogya), a city in central Java where local, regional and globalising discourses of gender and sexuality are being reworked.
  2. The analytical framework for this paper follows Sherry Ortner’s reformulation of the approach to the theory of practice as outlined in Pierre Bourdieu’s 1977 work.[3] As Ortner explains, practice theory is not a 'theory' but rather an argument which suggests that 'human action is made by "structure," and at the same time always potentially makes and unmakes it.'[4] Practice theory emphasises that power relations are both reproduced and changed through the practice of human agents. Ortner's proposition of the model of 'serious games' highlights the interaction of 'multiple, shiftingly interrelated subject positions.'[5] The concept of 'subject positions' reflects a poststructuralist view in which the subject is seen as constructed through language or textuality, through discursive practices and the structures and ideologies of society.[6]
  3. As Evelyn Blackwood contends, ' one of the primary crucibles within which sexuality is produced.'[7] She points out that in the analysis of gender systems analytical problems arise through the 'conflation of two distinct but interacting processes—gender as subjective experience and gender as cultural category.'[8] The analysis of gender therefore occurs on two levels: through analysis of the socio-cultural construction of gender in urban Java and through the subjective experiences of the participants. Gender construction and gendered and sexual subjectivity in Java will be analysed within the critical framework of practice theory highlighting the interface between structure and agency. Agency here indicates the capacity of individuals (subjects) to act against the subjection to power, although agency is not sovereign.
  4. I argue that female same-sex subjectivities in Yogya both reflect and resist the hegemonic gender discourse from which they take their meanings and through which sexual and gendered subjectivities are expressed and created. In doing so, I provide a brief overview of the hegemonic gender discourse in Java outlining shifts in gender discourse that have emerged since the end of the New Order regime in 1998. I then engage the (re)articulations of the research participants to elucidate their reflections on their gender and sexual subjectivities and particularly their experience of negotiating the development of their sexuality as an expression of their gendered subjectivity. As young adults, the expression of these subjectivities is in relation to their involvement in same-sex relationships and in the lesbi community in Yogya. Finally, I analyse these (re)articulations as expressions of sexual and gendered subjectivity that are developed, shaped and reified through gendered discursive practices.

    From prescription to liberalisation?
  5. The participants in this research expressed same-sex attraction and most assume masculine gender. The development of the participants' sexual and gendered subjectivities has taken place within the context of layered gender ideologies.[9] The most significant of these are the traditional Javanese gender ideology implicit in the binary gender discourse of the New Order regime (1966–1998) and the new discourses of the period of liberalisation following Suharto's resignation.
  6. As Blackwood argues, 'postcolonial states actively create (or reconstruct) and promote formulations of gender compatible with the perceived needs of development' and subsequently 'definitions of womanhood are consciously forged through state ideologies.'[10] The development agenda pursued by Suharto positioned women as wives and educators,[11] and women were given the task of maintaining family allegiance to Suharto's 'patriarchal, authoritarian, national ideology.'[12] The pivotal role of women in Indonesia's development was made explicit through Suharto's guidance to women's social organisations whose role was to:

      Guide the Indonesian woman to her appropriate status and role in society, which is to be a housewife [ibu rumah tangga] as well as a driving force in development...The ability to raise the status of women without sacrificing their intrinsic nature will be the key to the success of development in the future.[13]

  7. One of the mainstays of New Order military authority, implicit in Suharto's speech, was the sexual politics of 'control over women's sexuality.'[14] This control was systematically achieved through the enshrinement of religious discourse in state ideology through reiteration of the kodrat wanita. The kodrat wanita is a 'religiously inspired code of conduct based on women's intrinsic nature' which prescribes obedience to males, passivity, sexual modesty and self-sacrifice.[15] It defined women's place, role and status at all levels of society: that is, as wives and mothers. As a result, diversity of gender representations and expressions of sexuality were homogenised through prescription of acceptable ways of being. The effect of prescription is silence and the marginalisation of non-normative sexualities.
  8. Dédé Oetomo, a gay[16] rights activist in Indonesia, has stated that '[l]esbi's...are the least known population group in Indonesian society.'[17] During the New Order regime, the restrictive nature of gender ideology, social roles and female sexuality was made explicit in the following statement on lesbianism and womanhood by the Minister for Women's Affairs (1994), Mien Sugandhi:

      I can understand that lesbians have individual rights, but I cannot accept them as Indonesian women. My belief is that lesbianism is not in accordance with Pancasila,[18] because lesbians have forgotten their fundamental duties as mothers, giving birth, and raising children (Suara Karya, June 6, 1994).[19]

    Sugandhi's comments were made when several of the participants in my research were in their teens. They point to the difficulties faced by females who do not conform to norms of womanhood in Indonesia and assume that same-sex attracted females and lesbi will not marry or have children. The ideal 'woman' in Indonesia is feminine, engages exclusively in heterosexuality, marries and has children. State endorsed statements such as Sugandhi's do little to encourage visibility among females of same-sex attraction. Suffice to say, during this period in Indonesia, discourses of femininity, domestication, wifehood and motherhood for female bodies acted to encourage resistance to narrow definitions of femininity for female bodies, marginalise non-normative female sexualities and discourage overt expression of female sexual desire.
  9. In the period of liberalisation and transition following the fall of Suharto (1998), Indonesia has witnessed a re-engagement in social criticism as a result of the reduction in the level of state intervention, censorship and media ownership. Deregulation of the media and market has brought dramatic and predictable consequences particularly in terms of engagement with globalising discourses and images, and the spectrum of public response to these rapid changes.[20] In Yogya, conferences on sexuality proceeded unhindered in 2003, and in 2007 International AIDS Day celebrations were organised by high school youth. While conducting fieldwork that year, I was surprised to hear my landlady's son of seven explaining the difference between gay and lesbi to his nine year old friend. Enormous shifts in the scope of the roles of women and the development of gender equity programmes have also come about: for example, the 1998 inclusion of same-sex attracted, bisexual and transgendered females into the national agenda of the KPI (Indonesian Women's Coalition for Justice and Democracy),[21] and the issuing of a Presidential Decree (no. 9) for Gender Mainstreaming in National Development in 2000.[22]
  10. The impact of deregulation, the sudden influx of discourses and products together with the explosion in internet use in some urban centres has significantly increased the commodification and sexualisation of the female body as both masculine and feminine and particularly in relation to the consumer youth market. In 2006 there was a backlash from conservative Islamic quarters in regard to sexuality and pornographic acts (porno aksi). Anti-pornographic legislation was proposed. Those in opposition to the production, circulation and consumption of 'pornographic' materials and performance of 'pornographic acts,' such as public kissing, visible navels, the wearing of tight and revealing clothing, unmarried couples living together (kumpul kebo),[23] and premarital and homosexual sex, petitioned the government to outlaw such behaviours despite the fact that they are already generally subject to social sanction. Difficulties defining pornography and pornographic acts blocked the legislation in the draft stage.
  11. In the meantime, foreign owned/multinational big businesses have tapped into the inexhaustible market that is sex, sexuality and gendered difference in marketing products ranging from cigarettes, fashion, music, and magazines, to icecream, facial creams, noodles and motorbikes, to name a few. To cite an example, in 2007, in central Yogya, the MC at a Saturday night shampoo promotion event complete with band, invited youth to compete in a dancing competition stating that dance partners may be 'girl/guy, girl/girl, guy/guy, this is the free era' (cewek/cowok, cewek/cewek or cowok/cowok, ini masa bebas).[24] All forms of couples rushed the dance space: much had changed in the four years since I began my original research.

  12. The participation group of this ethnographic account is small, localised and 'microscopic.'[25] As Clifford Geertz posits, it is through the analysis of the particular that wider cultural concepts can be analysed.[26] In-depth interviews provide material idiosyncratic to the individual's life and from which more diverse social and cultural generalities can be explored. It is through the notion of a 'shared experience' in a specific cultural context that the record of social history expands. Intrinsic to this approach is the individual's perception of their experiences, a self-representation which reflects historical, social and political consciousness. The interviews represent the negotiation of discourses of gender and sexuality in particular and tell of other ways of being female-bodied in Indonesia.[27]
  13. In the process of writing this paper, I have followed the characteristics of ethnographic description outlined by Geertz.[28] In analysing the data, I aim to interpret the 'flow of social discourse.' This involves attempting to 'rescue the "said" of such discourses from its perishing occasions and fix it in perusable terms.'[29] The interview process highlights the importance of language as a cultural medium. As Dorothy Smith suggests, '[t]he language, which is part of the object of study and how that object becomes known within a discourse, is incorporated into the discourse and organized by its social and technical relations.'[30]
  14. The research conducted in urban Yogya involved interviews with a group of six female participants between the ages of nineteen and thirty-three.[31] Three of them are represented here. All are Javanese, of priyayi (Javanese traditional, bureaucratic aristocracy) background, have attained a tertiary education and profess Islamic faith. All expressed acceptance of female same-sex attraction either through their close, sensual yet non-sexual friendship/relationships (hubungan akrab) or sexual/intimate relationships (hubungan intim).
  15. Aji, 25, was raised in Bandung, West Java and moved to Yogya to attend university. S/he[32] lives with hir female partner in a boarding house and is affiliated with the KPI in Yogya. Yusi, 25, from Solo, is a university student and was co-owner of the former 'JP' café frequented by all but one of the interviewees. Yusi lives with hir female partner in a women's boarding house. At 21 years of age, Tia is the youngest participant. She comes from Bandung, was studying at university and living in a women's boarding house in Yogya when we met. She has had close friendships (non-sexual relationships) with both males and females and does not have a preference for either. Of the initial group of six participants, four expressed masculine gendered subjectivity. Two of the participants here represent as butchi, the first of whom is Aji.

    Aji: I like females who are feminine, gentle and pretty.[33]
  16. Aji was a regular at the 'JP' café. One evening I rode down to the café for a meal. The noisy roadside café was abuzz. I sat with Yana, the eldest of the group. As we talked about our loves and lives, we included Yusi the café owner, who was busy in the kitchen, in our good humour. Others joined in the frivolity. On this occasion, it was okay to be loud: there were no 'hetero' patrons in sight or within earshot.[34] Aji was in the group that lingered until the chairs were packed away for the night. Before going home I asked if anyone would be interested in participating in my research. Aji and Yusi agreed.
  17. Aji is of solid build and has short hair. S/he wore loose checked short-sleeved shirts, baggy jeans and well-worn loose-fitting sandals and swaggered as she walked. She is comfortable with the masculine butchi identity s/he presents. Born in Bandung of priyayi parents (middle/upper class), s/he has two brothers and two sisters. Hir story indicates a consciousness of the inequality of normative gender roles as they were played out in hir family. Hir mother is a housewife (ibu rumah tangga) who does not work outside the home. 'My mother was not allowed to work, that is one example of the egoism of males. He can forbid but he doesn't want to be forbidden.' Hir father often travelled overseas for work for extended periods of time.
  18. Aji expresses an early awareness of hir developing sense of masculine gendered subjectivity. At six, s/he preferred to play with cars, fly kites and play-fight with hir male friends rather than play with dolls or cook. The masculine gender role enabled hir to behave more in accordance with many aspects of hir personality. 'Although I did not know what it was, I began to understand that I did not 'like' males, in fact I felt I was more like a male. There was nothing bad or traumatic in my past at all.' Interestingly, 'trauma' is a common theme in the stereotypical depiction of lesbi, particularly in Indonesian film. Lesbi are often portrayed as victims of parental/family conflict (broken home) or of sexual or physical abuse at home.[35]
  19. Aji became aware of hir same-sex preference in junior high school where s/he also learned the term lesbi. All of hir close friends were female and s/he found that many of hir peers had 'shared similar experiences' to hirs in that they had felt an emotional attachment to other females. Hir peers provided hir with motivation and self-belief: 'they gave me strength.'
  20. Aji's lesbi subjectivity is shaped and expressed through hir butchness which s/he sees as an appropriation of the masculine gender role.

      I see myself as male or butchi because I prefer females who are feminine, gentle and pretty. My feeling is that my inclinations are more like those of males, a desire to protect my girlfriend (cewek): my lover. It is based on the behaviour of males towards females.[36]

    S/he is careful to distinguish herself from males, whom s/he generally believes are 'actually quite egotistical, always thinking of themselves, many of them forcing females into a corner.' Hir generalisations about male behaviours do not indicate feelings of 'hatred, aversion or resentment of males—I am just not attracted to them.' Rather, s/he shows an awareness of the stereotypical masculine traits s/he does not wish to emulate.
  21. Aji expresses a desire to protect (menjaga/melindungi) hir girlfriend. It is a common perception among butchi that femme require protection. This is in accordance with heteronormative gender constructions of man/male as protector and provider. In same-sex relationships protection is deemed necessary on many levels. First, the stereotypical femininity of many femme incorporates idealised middle-upper class feminine traits which reinforce female submission, domesticity and dependence. Women are ideally lemah (weak), lembut (soft), lemah lembut (being friendly/kind) and sopan (polite). Socialised as such, femme are often less experienced in the public sphere and less familiar with institutional and market processes, making them dependent on their partners. Most of the butch participants expressed their desire to help their partners experience and learn more beyond the domestic sphere, and particularly, to make their own decisions and be more assertive. Second, the lesbi relationship is viewed as fragile since it is not (generally) socially sanctioned. Here protection centres on secrecy versus disclosure: who can one trust? The fragility of the relationship is further complicated by the perception that femme, as potentially bisexual, may at any time be married off or choose to take an alternative male (or female) partner. Maintaining secrecy protects both the reputation of femme and that of her family, especially in relation to her potential for future marriage.
  22. As masculine/butchi, Aji is attracted to femme. Hir preference is for a partner who represents the stereotypical feminine traits of traditional Javanese priyayi gender discourse reinforced during the New Order period. This tradition privileged strict sex segregation and confinement to the home for pubescent girls of the priyayi class.[37] In asserting hir preferences, Aji distinguishes hir own masculine gender traits from the distinctly feminine traits s/he desires in a partner. S/he sees hirself as tomboi[38] and with 'abilities like males.' At home the roles assumed by Aji and hir partner are often delineated along gender lines. For example, Aji paints and does home maintenance and sometimes also does the cooking and cleaning. Hir partner is more likely to do stereotypically feminised tasks such as cooking, cleaning and ironing more regularly.

    Hir desired partner is described as:

      supple, receptive, graceful, like dancers, pretty, very feminine, neat and tidy, not tomboi, not with abilities like males, with a motherly spirit, very tender, with patient interest.

  23. Aji emphasises two significant types of female same-sex relationship: those which are close (akrab) and non-sexual (pasangan) and those which are intimate (intim) and sexual (pacaran). S/he has experienced both. To demonstrate these to me s/he recalled a 'nightmare' experience in which s/he was involved in a three-way, non-sexual emotionally intense relationship with a butchi and a femme: both hir pasangan. The relationship was a 'nightmare' in the sense that it was fraught with jealousy and conflict and ended in a public display of physical aggression between the two butchi when the other butchi 'tried to dominate.' Aji met hir current girlfriend (pacar) through an Indonesian lesbian internet chat room. The new relationship is complicated by the knowledge that hir femme partner has had male partners and may marry heterosexually. 'Most femme want to marry a male later.' S/he lives with the possibility that 'maybe soon, my partner will leave me to marry.'
  24. Aji uses the word family (keluarga) to refer to the lesbian community (komunitas lesbi).[39] Hir immediate community is the Gajah Mada University (UGM) community. Most of the lesbi with whom s/he socialises are studying there or have studied there in the past. S/he has been part of this community for three years and through this network s/he met several of hir past girlfriends. This community or family is seen as many communities/families making up a whole, in the archipelagic sense referred to by Tom Boellstorff.[40] The notion of lesbian community extends beyond Indonesia. Use of the term lesbi (an appropriation of 'lesbian' and originating outside Indonesia) unites the global community of same-sex attracted females.
  25. Only four non-UGM community members know about Aji's sexuality, indicating that s/he is careful in disclosing hir 'personal' affairs. S/he argues that in Indonesia, lesbianism is commonly viewed as 'a abnormal, not natural and not permitted: there are those who don't like us, who hate us.' In hir view young same-sex attracted females may not be in the position s/he is to resist such views, particularly those without a support network. S/he suggests many are unwilling to jeopardise their 'good name' (nama baik). Their position is made more difficult due to financial dependence on their families, leading to them to 'fear being thrown out (dibuang) by their parents.' Although societal views are not all negative and 'there are those who say it's up to you' (terserah), the possibility that people may object, insult, reject, ignore and vilify a person on the basis of sexuality is threatening on many levels and prohibitive of public declaration.

    Yusi: When she wants to have children and get married, I don't mind, I expect it.[41]
  26. As former proprietor of the 'JP' café, established in 2003, Yusi is well acquainted with the participants and members of the different lesbi communities in Yogya.[42] Café regulars are predominantly from the UGM community. Previously, Yusi owned a café further from campus and it is hir opinion that the termination of the rental agreement for that space (in an upmarket student shopping area) was an attempt by the local business community to prevent same-sex attracted and masculine females congregating in the area. To say the least, their tendency to smoke in public places overtly defies notions of expected behaviour of 'women.'
  27. Yusi is of thin build, has short hair and generally wears button-up checked short-sleeved shirts with collars, jeans and sandals. S/he is a very active person and was always with hir partner. On the evening of the interview they arrived together so I asked them whether they wanted to do the interview together. They agreed that Yusi would be the main participant. Yusi's story reflects hir inability and unwillingness to conform to familial and societal expectations of femininity. Hir gender non-conformity resulted in exclusion from the family. S/he has several brothers with whom s/he played marbles and flew kites as a child and recalls resenting not being allowed to play beyond the yard with them. Disliking hir school uniform, a red skirt for girls, s/he used to rush home after school to change into hir brothers' clothes.
  28. A sense of injustice pervades hir childhood memories: 'I was always at fault...according to my parents...they had problems trying to control me.' Ongoing family conflict culminated in hir parents asking hir to leave home for the first time at the age of ten. Still at school, s/he drifted among friends' houses for a time and eventually returned home. After several years, and in an attempt to (appear to) appease hir parents, s/he entered into a 'relationship' with a 'homo' male.[43] He entered the relationship for similar reasons. The charade ended when a family friend told hir parents. When s/he returned home s/he was hit by hir father.

      My parents won't accept my sexuality...I left home. I stayed on at school, passed and got into uni in Solo. My parents forbade me to leave the city...I didn't go to uni, I stayed in the kos (boarding house) and got drunk.

  29. The situation was unbearable. Unable to express and explore hir sexual and gendered subjectivity in Solo surrounded by relatives and family friends, s/he 'ran away to Yogya, to UGM, worked and continued uni, psychology.' In hir opinion, Yogya is more 'open' than Solo, 'but mainly among people from outside Yogya, not people who originate from Yogya.' S/he had a sexual relationship with a femme from a 'good family, who was expected to marry. That's no problem, although I love them...I won't prohibit them, it's their choice.' Here s/he generalises hir sentiments regarding one experience/lover to include future lovers. The expectation that hir femme lovers will 'choose' to marry makes me question whether marriage is a matter of choice for middle-class femme. Hir partner interjected here saying that she feels an emotional attachment to her parents who pressure her to marry. She stated with apprehension: 'I do not want to hurt my parents with this reality. I hope they will never know.'
  30. Yusi's butchi subjectivity is an extension of the masculine gendered subjectivity s/he has negotiated from a young age: 'since childhood I have been more butchi.' In junior high school s/he 'became aware of lesbi.' In our discussion s/he used the Javanese terms sentul (masculine female) and kantil (feminine female)[44] interchangeably with butchi and femme. S/he also appropriated the heteronormative Indonesian slang cowok (guy) and cewek (girl) in the context of the gendered roles of female same-sex expression. At the time of hir first same-sex sexual experience at sixteen, s/he thought of hirself as sentul, first hearing butchi and femme at university in 1999. For Yusi, the terms reified hir sentul gendered subjectivity and represented a link to the lesbian world (dunia lesbi).
  31. Yusi works two jobs to pay hir uni fees. Hir primary job is in the textile business of Yana (another of the participants in my research). As with Yana, co-workers often refer to hir as Pak (Mr) and to Yana and hir partner as husband and wife (suami dan istri). Although Yusi does not object to this, 'I don't want to expose myself. If they know, it's ok, but I don't make it a point. It's a working relationship, not personal.' Yusi stopped to appraise what s/he had just said about the way others position hir, adding, 'I never wanted to be a male, I don't want to be referred to as a male, I just want to be.' In referring to hir as Pak hir colleagues validate hir masculinity and are complicit in its construction. In the process, however, hir femaleness is obscured.
  32. In the home, Yusi and hir partner have definite roles that are delineated strictly along gender lines. S/he describes her partner as 'dominant in the home.' In doing so s/he refers to hir partner's control of domestic matters, such as home decoration, cleaning, shopping, cooking and the like. Yusi proudly boasts that while hir partner 'dominates' household chores, 'I am dominant in sex, I do it to her and I don't like to receive what I give, I don't enjoy it.' Hir partner laughs in embarrassment as Yusi speaks frankly of hir desires and pleasures. 'I don't like to be penetrated and my breasts are ticklish. When we have sex I need to watch a hetero blue movie first, otherwise it's difficult to get off.' Yusi's preference for 'hetero' pornography is based on hir view of hirself as the doer, the penetrator, the beholder. Mainstream hetero porn (and normative discourses of sexuality in Indonesia) feature the active male/masculine role: they are a representation of hir gendered sex role. For hir, mainstream lesbian porn is not sexually arousing as the females are not of complementary gender.

    Tia: I enjoy whatever God gives me.[45]
  33. Tia was my first contact with someone I believed to be from the lesbi community in Yogya. She is youthful, confident and articulate and at the time we met was an undergraduate student at a state university near UGM. At our first meeting on the steps of the university administration building, she wore dark-framed spectacles, a black long-sleeved shirt, jeans, closed-in shoes and a head scarf (jilbab). Like the majority of females on campus, her dark jilbab covered her hair, ears and neck and identified her as a practising Muslim. The hours passed unnoticed as we sat chatting. She spoke of her attraction to females and of her current female partner (pasangan). I got the impression that she was same-sex attracted.
  34. Several months later I asked her to participate in the research. She had moved to Jakarta so a face-to-face interview was out of the question. When I posed the research topic she was astounded that I had assumed her to be same-sex attracted. I was taken aback but realised I had made assumptions based on what she expressed to me previously regarding her close and loving friendship with a female. As she refused categorisation, I welcomed the notion of a fluidity of sexual expression. She stated 'I am still learning and am in the process of establishing/determining (menentukan) my sexual orientation.' She agreed to conduct an interview via email. The scope of the written interview was limited in comparison to the face-to-face interviews. Her responses could not be clarified or embellished. Tia's (re)articulations represent those of a middle/upper class early adult female negotiating the complexities of a postmodern subjectivity. In this sense, Tia was not willing to make her gendered and sexual subjectivities explicit by affixing labels to them.
  35. According to Tia, she comes from a good middle class home. She was raised 'lovingly' (penuh kasih sayang) and according to 'democratic values.' Her parents were supportive of the friendships she had within the lesbicommunities in Bandung and Jakarta: 'they were very aware, it is for that reason that I have been able to relate with the lesbi community so far.' Her interactions and friendships with lesbi and support for the lesbi community have meant that 'many people think I am lesbi; my attitude is to smile. Although this doesn't influence my choices, I have defended the rights of lesbi before at conferences in the past.'
  36. Tia has had a 'male partner' (pasangan lelaki) previously. She has also had several close friendships with 'females who call themselves lesbi.' At the time of interviewing she did not have a partner, 'for no reason other than not/not yet wanting one.' Later in the interview, she declared that she has 'never related intimately (berhubungan intim) with either male or female.' Her statement highlights the distinctions between forms of pre-marital interpersonal relationships in Yogya, and especially among unmarried adolescents/young adults (remaja/anak muda). The two forms of relationship suggest those alluded to previously by Aji, those of close friendship and intimate relationship.
  37. In particular, Tia's story indicates her understanding of the complex issues relating to the structural alienation of homosexuals in Indonesian society. As she stated,

      it is natural/proper that society prohibits homosexuality because that is the system. The question is how a person with homosexual thoughts can try to introduce societal change, given that it is an already established system with many cultural and religious rules inherent within it. Whether or not I am homosexual or heterosexual is not through pressure from others or from institutions.

  38. While not defending the system that marginalises sexual minorities, she is conscious of the different levels at which such marginalisation occurs and has taken a stand in representing and defending female sexual minorities. Tia's position on lesbianism shows that she accepts the individual right to freedom of sexual expression. Her point that an individual with 'homosexual thoughts' must act to change normative constructions of sexuality is central to the experience of negotiating sexual subjectivity for many Muslims in Indonesia where even sexual thoughts outside of the bounds of hetero-marriage are considered sinful (zina).[46]
  39. To conclude this section, the (re)articulations presented here offer a medium through which female masculinity, same-sex relationships, sexuality and gendered subjectivities among the middle/upper class in Yogya can be analysed. From these interviews several themes have emerged for analysis. Firstly, the hegemony of gendered discourses and social and cultural practices shaping gendered subjectivities during childhood and adolescence. Secondly, the expression of sexual desire in same-sex relationship, and especially by butchi, is an expression of gendered desire. Through experimentation in same-sex close friendships during adolescence, non-normative gender differences and the search for gender complementarity are realised in the expression of female same-sex sexuality. Over time more intimate relationships may develop.

    Female-bodied gendered subjectivities and the socio-cultural milieu
  40. In approaching the analysis, I follow the words of Ortner on hegemony and its alternatives that I introduced at the beginning of this paper and I incorporate Blackwood's suggestion that analysis of gender be conducted at the levels of cultural category and subjective experience. I begin by analysing Javanese gender discourse and the socio-cultural milieu in which the gender and sexual subjectivities of females of same-sex attraction are shaped. Here the discourses and ideologies that inform and legitimise normative gender constructs as well as those considered subversive are highlighted. The analysis then turns to the subjective experience of the participants. I highlight the ways in which the participants use their sense of agency in expressing their gendered subjectivities, their female same-sex attraction and their butchi/femme gender/sex roles, both in their same-sex relationships and within lesbi communities. As Blackwood suggests, 'gender in this sense constitutes a set of social identities multiply shaped from and through cultural contexts and representations.'[47]
  41. Blackwood's framework also allows for an exploration of what Foucault refers to as the tactical polyvalence of discourses. As Michel Foucault explains:

      Discourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it. In like manner, silence and secrecy are a shelter for power, anchoring its prohibitions; but they also loosen its holds and provide for relatively obscure areas for tolerance.[48]

  42. Knowledge-power relations are unstable and seemingly contradictory as is reflected in the range of cultural and institutional processes shaping gender subjectivities in Java. The most significant institutional influence in the individual's formative years is the family. As mentioned earlier, the traditional roles for adult females in Indonesia, as proclaimed by the state, are those of motherhood and wifehood. These roles are institutionalised through Islamic and nationalist discourse. It is in this context of rigid gender dichotomies and particular heteronormative roles with regard to men that the female same-sex practices and identities and gendered and sexual subjectivities of the participants emerge.
  43. As I explained earlier, the participants here are of the upper-middle (priyayi) class: the hereditary aristocracy of the Hindu-Javanese courts of the pre-colonial era and 'turned into an appointive, salaried civil service' by the Dutch.[49] Predominantly educated in Dutch institutions, they exerted control over the institutions and 'symbolic resources of society.'[50] Patriarchal hierarchy characterised both the Hindu-Javanese courts and the colonial systems: patriarchal power relations framed women's roles among the priyayi.
  44. The kawula, the 'common' or lower class people of Yogya, is a social classification that stems from the peasant frameworks of Javanese society.[51] Gendered power relations among the kawula are less hierarchical than among the priyayi and are characterised by a relatively egalitarian complementarity of gender roles.[52] Power relations between the priyayi and the kawula have historically been exercised through patron-client relationships, in a manner reflecting their hierarchical relations in an established class system.[53] During Suharto's reign in particular, in the political and economic quest for modernity, priyayi values and lifestyle were 'internalised amongst the kawula by means of education, the mass media and to some extent Indonesian state policies in reference to family life.'[54] Similarly, global/ising discourses, such as lesbianism, appropriated by the priyayi and reworked and reproduced through various media, over time, become localised. Priyayi values have permeated all levels of Javanese and Indonesian society and are intrinsic to hegemonic discourses of gender and sexuality.[55]
  45. As Blackwood suggests, '[s]ociety insists on the priority of the body in determining gender.'[56] Expectations of marriage and motherhood were imposed on Yusi and Aji by their families. Yusi, after years of abuse and rejection, and in an attempt to avoid further disapproval from hir parents regarding hir non-normative gender and same-sex preference, entered into a pseudo 'relationship' with a friend, a 'homo' male—a charade and a façade for both involved. B.J.D. Gayatri has referred to these relationships as 'gayhood' friendships.[57] Such sham relationships provide camouflage,[58] and in this sense, these relationships represent a form of resistance for butchi. Family pressure to marry was experienced by most participants in this research project, particularly following completion of their tertiary education. It is femme, however, who feel the greatest pressure to marry.
  46. On the other hand, the subjective experiences of the butchi participants highlight the fact that consistency of individual gendered performance can counter the non-alignment of the body and gender, thus maintaining the harmony of gendered relations. Saskia Wieringa explored the Javanese practice of maintaining social harmony (rukun) among the lower class butch/femme community in Jakarta. She argues that these relationships and subjectivities are accepted/tolerated by the local community so that harmony is maintained. For example, families will protect their daughters (and their own status and reputation) through silence.[59] The experiences of several of the participants in the original research group indicate this.[60] Tolerance of non-alignment of sex and gender in butchi subjectivities reflects a weakening in the power of the body to determine gender, yet obvious legal limitations remain (e.g. only heterosexual marriage is legal).
  47. The participants in my research share the perception that gender is to a certain extent 'given' by others, including family and local community members, and that ascribed labels are those that best match masculine or feminine representations in dress, demeanour and behaviour. As mentioned earlier, the gendering process begins in early childhood. Similar to Blackwood's observation that the tombois she met were called bujang gadis (bachelor girl) as children,[61] the butchi participants I spoke to were also given the gendered labels tomboi and bujang gadis. In extending Louis Althusser's concept of the 'interpellation' of the subject by an-Other through language,[62] Judith Butler adds that '[t]he subject is called a name, but "who" the subject is depends as much on the names that he or she is never called.'[63] Through discursive practices the young child is gendered.
  48. Labelled as masculine at an early age, butchi same-sex desire is shaped by their masculine gender. Being of female body, however, limits the social valorisation of their desire: same-sex marriage is not legal. Tia's gender is not questioned because there appears to be no conflict between her sexed body and her gender. She does not represent as masculine. Her refusal to be labelled is a refusal to confine her sexual preferences, her desires and her sexual and gendered expression. She is refusing to be labelled according to a sexual subjectivity, not a gendered one. In the following, I highlight the ways in which labelling, for the butchi participants in particular, provides valorisation of their sexual and gendered subjectivities.

    Lesbi subjectivities
  49. Since gender, for the most part, determines sexuality in Java, sexuality and gender cannot be analysed as discrete categories.[64] For all of the self-identified butchi participants, lesbi was the term used to describe their sexuality. This is contrary to the findings of two key researchers of female same-sex sexuality in Indonesia. Alison Murray's research in Jakarta in the 1980s suggests that females of same-sex attraction did not like the term 'lesbian'[65] due to its connection with 'unpleasant stereotypes' and deviant pathologies.[66] In 1995, Gayatri found that media representations depicting lesbi as males trapped in female bodies encouraged same-sex attracted women to seek new, contemporary descriptors.[67] The participants in this research, however, embraced the term lesbi as an all-encompassing descriptor of female same-sex attraction and as Boellstorff has noted in 2000, Indonesian lesbi tend to see themselves as part of a wider international lesbian network.[68]
  50. The term lesbi has been used in Indonesia since the 1980s, although not commonly or consistently. Lines, les, lesbian, lesbo, lesbong and L, among others, are also used. Female same-sex/lesbi subjectivities in Yogya are not strongly associated with political motivations and the subversion of heteropatriarchy as they were among the Western lesbian feminists of the 1960s. By the time most of the participants in this research were born, the term lesbi had already become infused in Indonesian discourses of sexuality among the urban elite (though with negative connotations in most cases), and has since become commonly used both by females of same-sex attraction to describe themselves, and by others. Most learnt from peers at school and through reading Indonesian magazines.
  51. However, public use of the term lesbi and expression of lesbi subjectivity has its risks. Murray's research on middle to upper class lesbians suggests that females identifying as lesbi have more to lose than lower class lesbi in terms of social position and the power invested in that class positioning. This is particularly in relation to their position in the family.[69] Conversely, her work also shows that lower class lesbi 'have the freedom to play without closing off their options.'[70] As Aji suggests, young females, particularly of the priyayi class may not be in a position to resist the social stigma attached to lesbianism and the possible consequences of rejection or abuse. Yusi faced this reality despite the fact that s/he had not declared herself lesbi. Hir gendered subjectivity meant that s/he did not conform to stereotypical feminine ideals and desires.
  52. With so much at stake, many lesbi remain invisible. Heteronormative and feminine gendered expectations for females in part explain why lesbians may indeed be the 'least known population group in Indonesia.'[71] Collusion in invisibility can be seen here as a protective strategy. The lesbi community or keluarga (family) is what Murray refers to as a 'strategic community' of the lesbian subculture.[72] The strategic nature of the community lies in its sense of protection: the community provides a safe haven for disclosure. Invisibility, however, also arises through the factors I mentioned earlier: the normative feminine representations of femme, their tendency to express lesbi subjectivity only while in partnership with a butchi, and their tendency to marry. Invisibility, as a form of discretion, however, may also be chosen.

    Gender complementary butchi/femme subjectivities
  53. As Blackwood suggests for the tomboi of West Sumatra, 'having already established a masculine gender identity (s/he was called bujang gadis), s/he also laid claim to a sexual desire for women, a move that accords with the hegemonic cultural ideology, in which sexuality is thought to follow naturally from one's sex/gender.[73] Wieringa highlights that butchi/femme gendered behaviour is already established prior to any links with lesbi or butchi/femme communities and discourses.[74] The gendered behaviours, however, may not be labelled as such. This is evidenced in the interviews presented here.
  54. While butchi/femme identities have been criticised by Western feminists as replicating heterosexuality and reinforcing patriarchal forms of domination, the object of female desire is female not male. In this way butchi/femme subvert normative gender and sex role stereotypes through their same-sex practice.[75] Murray explains that butchi/femme among lower class lesbians of Jakarta is conceptualised differently to how it is conceptualised in the West, and, 'implies a subversion of norms and playful use of roles and styles,'[76] and further, that butchi/femme distinctions were seen as outmoded.[77] Butchi/femme roles seem to be taken up rigidly by several of the middle class participants in Yogya and are generally accepted as the means through which to identify potential partners and roles played out in their relationships. For the most part, the gender identities assumed by the participants, particularly the butchi, do appear to be relatively fixed identities.[78]
  55. Due to the apparently fixed nature of butchi identities and subjectivities and their reluctance to sleep with males, they are seen as 'true lesbians,'[79] lesbian sejati, an image perpetuated through the media.[80] Similar to the butchi/femme communities in Jakarta, in Yogya, butchi are identified by their strict codes of dress and behaviour which include short hair, sometimes slicked back with gel, collared button up shirts and trousers bought in menswear stores, large-faced watches and bold rings. Butchi characteristically walk with a swagger and smoke in public places. In her research in the 1980s, Wieringa noticed that within lesbi communities in Jakarta the strict 'surveillance and socialisation' may have contributed to the fixed nature of butchi identities.[81] In Yogya, this is particularly evident in the socialisation of younger lesbi by senior lesbi (a theme I explore elsewhere in my current research).
  56. The participants held individual perspectives on butchness. Aji's butchness is premised on hir masculine gender subjectivity and desire for a partner of complementary gender. Yusi expresses hir butchness differently and relates it to dominance in the relationship and in sex play. The participants who told of the sexual roles within the relationship emphasised their active butchi roles during sex. As Wieringa suggests, this does not necessarily imply femme passivity as femme 'stress their erotic power over their butches.'[82] It does, however, indicate one way in which the butchi I interviewed articulate their sexual agency.
  57. Femme subjectivities, on the other hand, are generally conceived of as transient. As many of the interviews illustrate, femme are expected by their butchi partners to marry and have children: butchi see them as bisexual. In public, and indeed if they marry, they are seen as heterosexual, though their heterosexual practice may not be exclusive. In the 1980s, Wieringa observed that femme 'dressed in an exaggerated fashion, in dresses with ribbons and frills...always wore make up and high heels.'[83] In the new millennium, the femme I met were also fashion savvy though not in an exaggerated sense. Generally they wore hip-hugging, breast-accentuating tight gear, had long hair and wore lipstick and low-heeled pumps. Their feminine representations were stereotypical: it was through association with butchi within the lesbi community that femme subjectivities become visible.

  58. The hegemony of the sex/gender system in Indonesia is pervasive. The female same-sex/lesbi sexual and gendered subjectivities of the participants in this research both reflect and resist dominant discourses of masculinity and femininity. The construction of female-bodied masculine gendered butchi subjectivities is enacted at the interface of a network of discursive practices, in particular, those of rigid binarist polarities of traditional Javanese priyayi and New Order gender ideology, and global/ising discourses of lesbianism. Gendered discursive practices delineate the boundaries to these. For example, if a Javanese lesbian cannot be considered an 'Indonesian woman,' is it that s/he must be an Indonesian man?
  59. The young child is inscribed with gender through the process of being gender named. Personal characteristics, skills, competencies, abilities, likes and dislikes, moods, behaviours and mannerisms are commented on and labelled: a gendered subjectivity is produced through discursive engagement with the social and cultural environment. The Javanese sentul and more recently butchi subjectivity provides valorisation of the gendered subjectivity which has, in line with hegemonic gender discourse, incorporated a sexual subjectivity to reify the masculine desire implicit in discourses of masculinity in Indonesia.
  60. The reappropriation of the Western butch/femme lesbian subjectivities through the use of the terms butchi and femme as expressions of gendered lesbi subjectivities in Yogya indicates that the terms are synonymous with the meaning of Javanese sentul/kantil gendered female same-sex subjectivities: the terms are used interchangeably. This reappropriation hails a commonality in sex/gender subjectivities across cultures through which new discourses of sexuality and human rights are brought to bear on the body. Access to and reappropriation of the Western terms in the form of the local butchi/femme was predominantly class based in Yogya at the time the research was conducted. Articulation of these subjectivities is predicated on educational level, access to print media, and social networks. Concomitant to these are the global/ising discourses of sexuality and lesbianism accessed through mass media and increased mobility. Not surprisingly, access to new technologies, images and products, and the frantic pace of information exchange mean that new discourses and subjectivities are being (re)appropriated, particularly by youth across classes, challenging the traditional normative sex/gender system in Yogya and the wider Indonesia.


    [1] Sherry Ortner, 'Making gender: towards a feminist, minority, postcolonial, subaltern, etc., theory of practice,' in Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture, ed. Sherry Ortner, Boston: Beacon Press, 1997, pp. 1–20, p. 18.

    [2] Evelyn Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra: constructing masculinity and erotic desire,' in Female Desires: Same-sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, (ed) E. Blackwood & S. Wieringa, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. pp. 181–205.

    [3] Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. R. Nice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

    [4] Ortner, 'Making gender,' p. 2.

    [5] Ortner, 'Making gender,' p. 12.

    [6] Michel Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge, trans. Alan Sheridan, New York: Pantheon, 1972, pp. 50–55, 71–76, 92–96.

    [7] Evelyn Blackwood, 'Culture and women's sexualities,' in Journal of Social Issues, vol. 56, no. 2. (2000):223–38, p. 229.

    [8] Evelyn Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra,' p. 182.

    [9] For an overview of the historical shifts in gender ideologies see Evelyn Blackwood, 'Gender transgression in colonial and post-colonial Indonesia,' in Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 64, no. 4 (2005):849–79.

    [10] Evelyn Blackwood, 'Senior women, model mothers, and dutiful wives: managing gender contradictions in a Minangkabau Village,' in Bewitching Women, Pious Men: Gender and Body Politics in Southeast Asia, ed. A.Ong and M. Peletz, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995, pp. 124–58, p. 125.

    [11] Julia Suryakusuma, 'State ibuism: the social construction of womanhood in the Indonesian New Order,' in New Asian Visions, vol. 16, no. 2 (1991):46–69.

    [12] Wieringa, 'The birth of the New Order State in Indonesia: sexual politics and nationalism,' in Journal of Women's History, vol. 15, no. 1. (2003):70–92, p. 71.

    [13] G. Dwipuayana and K.H. Kamadhan, Soeharto My Thoughts, Words and Deeds: Autobiography, trans. Sumadi Mutiah Lestiono, Jakarta: Citra Lamtoro Gung Persada, 1991, p. 260.

    [14] Wieringa, 'The birth of the New Order State,' p. 84.

    [15] Wieringa, 'The birth of the New Order State,' p. 75.

    [16] Italicised here to distinguish between the Western and Indonesian gay identities.

    [17] Dédé Oetomo, 'Patterns of bisexuality in Indonesia,' in Bisexuality and HIV/AIDS: A Global Perspective, ed. R. Tielman, M. Caraballo and A. Hendricks, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991, pp. 119–26, p. 125.

    [18] Panca (five) sila (principle), the five principles of the Indonesian nation: kebangsaan (nationalism), kemanusiaan (humanism/internationalism), kerakyatan (representative government/democracy), keadilan sosial (social justice), and ketuhanan (monotheism).

    [19] B.J.D. Gayatri, 'Indonesian lesbians writing their own script: issues of feminism and sexuality,' in Amazon to Zami: Towards a Global Lesbian Feminism, ed. M. Reinfelder, New York: Cassell Press, 1996, pp. 86–97, p. 86.

    [20] Tom Boellstorff, 'The gay archipelago: postcolonial sexual subjectivities in Indonesia,' PhD Thesis, Dept. Social and Cultural Anthropology, California: Stanford University Press, 2000, p. 281.

    [21] Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia untuk Keadilan dan Demokrasi (KPI).

    [22] Gender equity programming in the government sector.

    [23] Term derived from the words kumpul (to come together) and kerbau/kebo (buffalo). The term refers to those who live together outside of marriage as dirty, animalistic and uncivilised.

    [24] Cewek/cowok (girl/guy) is slang, heteronormative discourse.

    [25] Research was conducted in 2003–04 in fulfilment of the requirements of the ACICIS (Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies) programme at Gajah Mada University, Yogya.

    [26] Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Basic Books, 1973, p. 21.

    [27] The interviews were conducted while I was in Indonesia in 2003.

    [28] Clifford Geertz, The Religion of Java, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

    [29] Geertz, The Religion of Java, p. 20.

    [30] Dorothy E. Smith, 'On sociological description: a method from Marx,' in Texts, Facts and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling, London: Routledge, 1990:86–119, p. 99.

    [31] Signed ethics approvals were obtained from the participants. The research was conducted under the supervision of Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, Director of the Women's Study Centre at the National Islamic University (UIN Sunan Kalijaga) in Yogya. All interviews were conducted in Indonesian and any words, terms or expressions I did not understand were clarified. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and translated by the researcher. Pseudonyms are used to ensure the anonymity of the participants.

    [32] In acknowledging the female-bodied masculine gender subjectivities of the butchi participants I use the hir and s/he pronouns used by Blackwood, 'Tombois of West Sumatra.' In doing so I acknowledge Boellstorff's criticisms firstly that the Indonesian language does not distinguish third person pronouns according to gender and the pronoun dia is used for males and females, and secondly, that the use of hir and s/he may indeed exoticise individuals, see A Coincidence of Desires: Anthropology, Queer Theory, Indonesia & London: Duke University Press, 2007. It is my view that the English pronouns 'he' and 'she' are not adequate as they are too exclusively gendered. As gendered subjectivities are significant here, third person pronouns gendered in this way are most representative.

    [33] Ari, Bulaksumur, 30 August 2003.

    [34] Hetero was the term used by group members to refer to heterosexuals and heterosexuality.

    [35] Similar depictions are presented in the 2006 film, Detik Terakhir (The Final Moment), dir. Nanang Istiabudi and Tentang Dia (About Her), dir. Rudi Soedjarwo 2005. Sex workers and drug users are often portrayed similarly.

    [36] Cewek is a heteronormative term referring to unwed, post-pubescent girls. It is used here to represent femme/feminine partner in female same-sex relationships. See also Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra,' p.186.

    [37] For an example of this discourse from the perspective of a young female of the priyayi class a century ago, see Raden Adjeng Kartini, Letters of a Javanese Princess, Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1976.

    [38] 'Tomboi' generally refers to a gendered subjectivity and may be used interchangeably with butchi yet does not necessarily represent lesbi or a sexual subjectivity.

    [39] For a more detailed analysis see Tracy Wright Webster, 'Strategic Communities: The Notion of Keluarga in Indonesia and Among Females of Same-Sex Attraction in Yogya,' ASAA Conference Paper, June 2006. URL:

    [40] Boellstorff, 'The Gay Archipelago,' p. 175.

    [41] Yusi, Bulaksumur, 15 September 2003.

    [42] Yusi has now moved to Jakarta and closed the 'JP' café in Yogya.

    [43] For a discussion of non-heteronormative male sexuality in Indonesia see Dédé Oetomo, 'Gender and sexual orientation in Indonesia,' in Fantasizing the Feminine in Indonesia, ed. L. J. Sears, Durham: Duke University Press, 1996, pp. 259–69.

    [44] Sentul/kantil (Jav) – masculine/feminine gendered distinctions of female same-sex relationships.

    [45] Tia, email interview, 10 September 2003.

    [46] See Boellstorff's work on living with the incommensurability of being Muslim and gay in Indonesia in A Coincidence of Desires, pp. 139–180.

    [47] Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra,' p. 182.

    [48] Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Middlesex: Penguin, 1978, p. 101.

    [49] Geertz, The Religion of Java, p. 6.

    [50] Siti R. Dzuhayatin, 'Role expectation and the aspirations of Indonesian Women in socio-political and religious contexts,' in Women in Indonesian Society: Access, Empowerment and Opportunity, ed. M. Atho Mudzhar, Sijida S. Alvi, S. Sadli and M. Quraish Shihab, Yogya: Sunan Kalijaga Press, 2002, pp. 154–94, p. 158.

    [51] Everyday class/status distinctions are more commonly variations on upper (atas), middle (menengah) and lower (bawah). People of the lower classes referred to as wong cilik (Jav. little people).

    [52] Kuntowijoyo, 'Arah Pengembangan Organisasi Wanita Islam Indonesia,' in Wanita Indonesia Dalam Kajian Testual Dan Konteksual, ed. Lies Marcoes-Natsir and Johan H. Meuleman, Jakarta: INIS, 1993, 129–34, p. 131.

    [53] Geertz, The Religion of Java, p. 146.

    [54] Dzuhayatin, 'Role expectation and the aspirations of Indonesian women,' p. 161.

    [55] In relation to Javanese society, see Geertz, The Religion of Java, p. 6.

    [56] Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra,' p. 193.

    [57] B.J.D. Gayatri, 'Coming out but remaining hidden: a portrait of lesbians in Jakarta, unpublished paper, 1993, p. 14.

    [58] Gayatri, 'Coming out but remaining hidden,' p. 14.

    [59] Saskia Wieringa, Globalization, Love, Intimacy and Silence in a Working Class Butch/Femme Community in Jakarta, Working Paper, Amsterdam School of Social Science Research, 2005, URL:, site accessed 10 August 2006.

    [60] Tracy Wright Webster, 'Negotiating Female Same-Sex Relations and Identities in Yogyakarta, Indonesia,' Honours Thesis, Murdoch University, 2005, pp. 48–49.

    [61] Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra,' p. 190.

    [62] L. Althusser, Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays, New York and London: Monthly Review Press, 1971.

    [63] Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative, New York and London: Routledge, 1997, p. 41.

    [64] Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra.'

    [65] I use the term lesbian here to indicate the distinction between the imported Western concept and the appropriated lesbi used by the participants.

    [66] Alison Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy: class and Jakarta lesbians,' in Female Desires: Same-sex and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, ed. E. Blackwood & S. Wieringa, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 139–56, p. 142.

    [67] B.J.D. Gayatri, 'Coming out but remaining oppressed: lesbians in Indonesia, a report for Human Rights,' a Global Lesbian Rights Report presented to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, San Francisco, 1995, p. 9.

    [68] Boellstorff, The Gay Archipelago, p. 176.

    [69] Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy,' p. 147.

    [70] Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy,' p. 150.

    [71] Oetomo, 'Patterns of bisexuality,' p. 125.

    [72] Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy,' p. 140.

    [73] Blackwood, 'Tombois in West Sumatra,' p. 190.

    [74] Wieringa, 'Desiring bodies or defiant cultures: butch-femme lesbians in Jakarta and Lima,' in Female Desires: Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices across Cultures, (eds) Evelyn Blackwood & Saskia Wieringa, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 206–31, p. 215.

    [75] Wieringa, 'Desiring bodies or defiant cultures.'

    [76] Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy,' p. 142.

    [77] Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy.'

    [78] See Wieringa, 'Defining bodies or defiant cultures,' and Blackwood, Tombois in West Sumatra,' on the relatively fixed nature of butch identities.

    [79] Murray, 'Let them take ecstasy.'

    [80] B.J.D. Gayatri, 'Sentul/Kantil: not just another term: kekayaan relasi gender female homosexual kontemporer di Jawa,' unpublished paper, 1994, p. 3.

    [81] Wieringa, 'Desiring bodies or defiant cultures,' p. 224.

    [82] Wieringa, 'Desiring bodies or defiant cultures,' p. 213.

    [83] Wieringa, 'Desiring bodies or defiant cultures,' p. 217.


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