It took me a few days to realize that I this life here, with all its local dedication to traditions, not to mention the cosmic and blinking mosques that are seated across villages in every kilometer or so – life here is still something that some gender activist in the West could only dream of.
!0 minutes before midnight: we’re ready! Minna and I with all our great calabai friends
I remember hanging out in Eka’s salon with bunch of people observing casually how young waria Upe is dressing herself up. She puts on cute yellow dress and is busy with make-up. Eka encourages me to ask here where she’s going.
“Mau ke mana, Upe?” (where are you going?)
“Cari cowok” (looking for a man) she whispers me, as if passing over a secret which only we, the women, or at least the ones opposed to the men, if nothing else then at least in this case sexually, could only know about. Apparently there’s a spot in one of the neighboring villages where all the men interested in a trans-partner gather. And it do not necessarily involve money in action, it’s a mutual attraction.
Couple of days ago it had been the New Year’s Eve. And as the colors of the local village life started vibrating more and more, I had no desire to go elsewhere than to stay here with my new friends. I even invited my friend Minna Hint to come over from Makassar. And Eka promised to throw a party in her salon. Everybody’s welcome!
Eka is a very energetic, spontaneous and impetuous personality. She seems to enjoy attention and power, but she’s also in no worry, and she’s great. And it seems to me that all the young warias of the village see her as their role model – she has a salon, she has a husband, she has friends. So she was smart enough to take a mild use of having me around to build up her reputation.
“… from Europe, studying MY gender, already doctoral!” she used to stress when introducing me to make it all sound bigger and better. And it almost became like a routine, that every day she introduced me to some 2 or 3 important friends or people with power. And I had nothing against contributing to her success in PR, would be great if Eka made it becoming the first transgender head of the village in Indonesia!
So when the New Year’s party was in our garden, I even didn’t have a chance to have my first bite this delicious fish Eka’s husband was grilling, when I was forced to speak to head of the village, and the vice head of the district and couple of prestigious businessman from the area. And then Eka wanted to give me a make-up, which became the excitement of the night for many warias, women and kids around, before we headed on to the village central to some wicked dangdut party around midnight. Dance, dance, dance, me and Minna were pulled up on the stage to dance in line with all these wonderfully moving calabais. The party was crazy. I wouldn’t find any better word to describe the potential that was explicitly directed for all the village folks from the dancing stage, rather than admitting that it was sexual.
And ironically, that must be my first completely sober New Year’s Eve since childhood. Alcohol is forbidden here, so even if there was some, it was all moving secretly under the table. But also there was almost no way to get any! With Eka we were driving around all the local brew-makers earlier that day to find us some tuak (light palm wine), but no success. And to be honest, I even didn’t miss it. I had already got drunk of life. Make-up by Eka