I’m from the rainy city of Bogor, Indonesia which is a city near
Jakarta. I’m the eldest of four boys. Growing up, I was really skinny,
ugly and a bit of a bencong or sissy because I was a naturally quite a feminine child. Bencong is a local slang people used to describe guys who didn’t conform to the typical masculine male gender stereotype.
I got bulled a lot when I was younger, probably because I was seen as
a weak child. I was also a bit of a teacher’s pet which the other
students didn’t like. When I was about 11, I started to have these
feelings where I realised I may have been gay because I had a secret
crush on my male friend. I didn’t respond to it at all because it is
just not an option and I came from quite a religious Muslim family too.
In my daily praying, I remember asking God for death because I’d
rather that than face what I had to. I was gay, but I would be forced to
marry a woman and have children – I would be miserable in my entire
life. Perhaps I will end up getting divorced and ruin the life of the
people whom I was supposed to love.
I wished death upon myself and it got to a point where I really
wanted to kill myself, but as a Muslim, you cannot kill yourself.
Killing yourself will send your soul straight to hell.
I started my Masters in International Development because I wanted to
do something about the overpopulation in Indonesia and the issues that
come with that, but after working in many HIV and LGBTI NGOs, I decided
to change my focus to LGBTI rights and PLHIV. I ended up doing a project
about gay international students and HIV with Living Positive Victoria
I had to read a lot of research about gay international students and
reading their stories really got me down because it reminded me of
happens amongst many gay individuals in Indonesia.
A lot of them never came out, dealing with a lot of internalised
stigma, acquiring HIV and then AIDS and dying alone, too scared to have
sexual health check-up.
This was very hard to prove because they were hiding themselves and
not letting any services know about their identity, let alone
researching it. They were having unprotected sex because they never had
any sexual health education and also were too scared to expose their
From my research, a lot of these students were from South East Asian
or middle-Eastern countries and had mostly older, Caucasian men as
sexual partners in Australia who would pass on HIV to them – not the
other way round. I believe international students need to be targeted
with regards to of HIV awareness, because without any sexual health
knowledge and difficulties in accessing services, they are the most
vulnerable group in the gay scene in Melbourne.