When mentioning our fatherly careful uncle that some of these nights in Sorong I’m going out to Tembok Berlin (translates as Berlin Wall), his eyes filled with fear – this is dangerous, people are drunk there, orang mabuk!
A lovely waria Miranda also warned me that sometimes you can be attacked with a knife at Tembok. But Tembok is precisely the place where most of the waria in Sorong gather at night, so there is no question for me – I have to get there. Tembok Berlin is the heart of the city that runs, as the name says, as a wall along the coast current. This is the city’s most popular place for enjoyment and rendezvous (“tempat Santai”). Here we have great gorengans, coffee, tea, grilled bananas and luxurious durian. This is the meeting point for all young people in love and all secret lovers. Among others, both female and male prostitutes hang out here, and latter being even more popular, because having a same sex partner can become a good smoke cover.
“People who pass by then just think that you’re meeting some old school friend. Nobody knows that this will be followed by sex, so your family relations will not be at risk, even if you’re having an extramarital partners,” my friend, who’s active in the local gay scene, told me. And it does not mean that the customer is necessarily gay himself.
But after all, this place is called Berlin Wall and there has to be a reason other than just being a wall. This here is the house of liberties of Sorong. On the one side of the wall we have the city, cars passing by and the numerous sweet aunties selling snacks and coffee, people chatting, having good time. But the other side is wilder – here we’ve got warm see breeze, green waves in constant move, along some trash and young people secretly making out. The zone of freedoms along the Berlin Wall.
It was there were I met a sweet young native papuan waria from Biak. Her story seem to be quite representative for the case of papuan waria – she had escaped from her family to another city, because the family couldn’t cope with the child’s non-conforming gender identity. So here she is now – hanging out with the waria of the city, trying to learn about her new life, and the salon work. Her dream is to open her private salon one day. To finance her life, she also comes here at nights to prostitute, just like her friends. When after an exhausting night she returns home, she prays. For her sins. When I asked her, what exactly she sees as her sin she has to pray for – is it her being a waria, is it sex work or is it something else? She replies: “This here…” While all other warias are joking and laughing just next to us, she tells me with glassy eyes that she only does it for money. She doesn’t get any satisfaction from it.
“Miss Angola!”cries another sparkling waria to sheer up my papuan friend, when she walks across the street in her sexy short pants. She rolls some hips as a reply to the girls laughing. Of course, our gender expression is constructed under various forces, just as feminist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir has stated that one is not born a women, but becomes a women. What I experienced at Tempok Berlin could rather be seen as how a “boy” becomes a waria. It’s how a waria becomes to be here at the local Berlin Wall – zone of freedoms for some, zone of sins for others, zone of pain and hopelessness for some. Whatever it is – we have to break on through to the other side. Here that would be to the side of green waves and warm see breeze. Sounds like freedom, right? Yet so often the other side comes along with random sex for random money, wanted or unwanted, that takes place between the piles of hopeless trash on the beach.