Would you ever think that this lovely old lady was born some 80 years ago as a boy? No, of course not, nobody would ever think of it. As far as everybody remembers her she has always been this sweet old lady wondering around the village.
Only that she somehow never got married and has no children of her own. But she has many grandchildren from her sisters, who would never guess that their granny has a major secret – that’s her male genitals and an ID-card of laki-laki (a man in Indonesian).
But does it really matter?
Personally I follow the feminist criticism on biological determinism. I don’t agree that our gender is supposed to be in accordance with our sex, that literally based on our genitals the whole society should be divided between men and women only, and there’s no room or just a tight one for any alternatives, both, in the scope of possible genders and sexualities, and also within the substance of these possible gender and sexual identities.
I think the case of this old lady – the oldest transgender I have met in my life -, who is living in the middle of the tropical village life, very down to earth, simple life of sunny and rainy Sulawesi, surrounded by rice fields and green hills, brings out fabulously the relativity of sex-gender pairing. Any foreign visitor, even an anthropologist, would see this world here ‘traditional’ – still out of the reach of modernity and globalization, that theoretically would bring along ‘the sexual revolution’. Yet this ‘traditional world’ here has reached far further than most of the societies in the West, taking the problem with gender with far more ease.
Granny can’t talk much about it, as the children are playing around and she wouldn’t want to let them know. But she brings out her ID-card where her sex is stated as a man. As Bugis culture distinguish between 5 genders, she has probably led a decent life as a calabai (male-to-female transgender) and finally people even forgot about that, seeing her as she is, whatever she wears under her skirt.