Where It Began
This time last year, I traveled to Yogyakarta, a city 8 hour east of Jakarta to volunteer for a legal education program that works to protect and educate the trans community via LBH Yogyakarta. Here, I met Ibu Shinta, the founder of the Pondok Pesantren Waria Al-Fatah (Transgender Boarding School) located in Kotagede.
Ibu Shinta began this school with the hopes of providing a safe space for Muslim Trans Women to comfortably pray and gather as a community. She had always felt ‘different’ from the rest of the people who attended the mosque since she was young. “I never found any comfort in praying at the mosque,” she told me once.
“(Trans) women were side-eyed, and other people would distance themselves from us. Kids who attend the mosque would point and mock us too.”
What began as a place of gathering, over time, grew into a much larger space for trans women across the country to seek refuge. Starting in October 2019, the Waria Crisis Center now holds Sunday schools that teach the Quran, offers legal aid, and provides free counseling sessions to women who need mental health assistance. Cross-culturally, the Waria Crisis Center assists with local Christian universities in finding volunteers to educate the women who practice Christianity.
Ibu Shinta is a woman with a generous heart, who is constantly supporting and helping other women through the provision of necessary education. The trouble these women face isn’t limited to stigma and on-going prejudice perpetuated through cycles of discrimination. In the streets, where women earn their income as street-performers, they are mocked, ridiculed, and even arrested as a result of the structural inequities underlined by-laws passed by city officials.
Trans women who face difficulties in being accepted by their families are additionally marginalized through their inability to obtain a KTP (a card equivalent to a social security card here in the US) to be employed. As a result, these women are often forced to earn their income as street performers and sex workers.
While volunteering at the Waria Crisis Center, I began taking portraits of the women who attended the legal school as an act of archival.
The women I met in Yogyakarta aren’t illegal or unlawful, or blasphemous as some might label them. These women are dignified and carry cultural values, the same as we all do. They are resilient and transform their pain into a better future. They hold the keys to our democracy and deserve to receive fundamental care and help as all humans do. The women of the Waria Crisis center deserve opportunities to reach their maximum potential, and live their lives as honestly and fully, and pray to whichever god they believe in.
My role here is to provide a necessary discussion that centers on their experience. Ultimately, the community must stand together in order to stand strong.
Due to COVID19, the city of Yogyakarta has extended its lockdown to the end of September. Right now, the women are facing a shortage of supplies in the shelter, food, medical and sanitary goods that are needed in their day-to-day lives.
Through this fundraiser, I hope to provide a financial cushion that allows access to basic human necessities. Your contribution, whether big or small, will be a tremendous help through the provision of safe housing across Yogyakarta, food, medical, and other sanitary goods. Additional funds will be allocated towards the support of the Waria Crisis Center.
Who I am
Fujio Emura is an Indonesian-Japanese photographer who currently resides in New York. For his personal work, he utilizes a lens-based practice as a tool to explore his own multiple layers of identity including sexual, cultural and family dynamics. You can see more of his work at www.fujioemura.com.