“God is Miraculous!”
This sentence came from the Executive Director of the Ardhanary Institute, RR. Sri Agustine when describing the facts of gender as well as forms and characteristics of sexuality with its many varieties, to the journalists from North Sumatra, Aceh, Riau and West Sumatra.
Agustine strongly believes that the proof of how extraordinary God’s power is by creating a variety of identities, orientation and sexual characteristics in His creatures. So when we find a fact that is different from God’s creations, we cannot be judged by men as a defect product, abnormal or imperfect from the Almighty Creator.
Therfore, the intersex phenomenon that was born with various sexual forms and characteristics, for Agustine, is not a disorder or an abnormality. Because, he continued, the same thing also happens to animals or even plants that used to be often referred as hermaphrodites. There are also those who use the term barren.
Thus, the facts of gender and the various sexualities are evidence of God’s omnipotence.
From that reality Agustine emphasized, the media has a crucial and strategic role in shaping the society’s understanding of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and sex characteristic (SOGIESC).
“I got new good information about SOGIESC and LGBT well from the media. But there’s more negative news on the LGBT community so that the public gets inaccurate information,” Agustine said.
LGBTIQ is not identical with Homosexuality
“If you want to talk about SOGIESC, don’t talk directly about LGBT. But let’s talk about ourselves first and the bodily concept,” Agustine continued, who also works as a public lawyer.
She mentioned that people, including journalists, often are misunderstood because they directly link the term LGBTIQ with homosexuals. Even though, the bodily concept should be understood and also be related to heterosexuality. But the mindsets and the socio-cultural concept that has already been built and passed down through generations has made people immediately think negatively when they hear the term LGBTIQ or SOGIESC, especially interacting with the community.
That was a presentation of the introduction material of the Workshop & Fellowship Covering Sexual Diversity in the north of Sumatra Island or Sumatera Bagian Utara (Sumbagut) held by the Journalist Association for Diversity (SEJUK) on March 6-8, 2020, in Medan.
Similar concerns were expressed by one of the founders of SEJUK Awigra. There has been many phobias (fear) towards the community because of their ignorance on SOGIESC and LGBTIQ. The Deputy Director Human Right Working Group (HRWG) explained that the people’s opinion on LGBTIQ could be different and could be personal, but it would be a problem when the government does not provide protection due to the stigma where people consider this a deviation.
“They (the LGBTIQ community-red) increasingly lack access to decent jobs and education, as well as poor acceptance in the society. They have no space,” Awigra said. According to him, the state is obliged to protect and should not treat them (the people) any different, despite their sexual orientation. The state should understand that the constitution does not recognise majority and minority.
Media Coverage from the victim perspective
Dina Listiorini, who is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Communication Studies at the University of Indonesia (UI), in her material, The Media’s Sins, explained that there are a lot of news coverage that cornered the LGBTIQ community.
“Starting from the use of inaccurate diction, to even a disproportionate and unequal news coverage”, said Dina.
Dina conveyed that the LGBTIQ community are often not asked for confirmation regarding an issue that concerns them. So that the news becomes one-sided and influences the people’s judgement towards the LGBTIQ community.
While SEJUK’s Director, Ahmad ‘Alex’ Junaidi, emphasised that journalists should strip away their inherent identity when covering news, let alone when covering minority groups like the LGBTIQ community. Journalists also should not involve their own beliefs when reporting. This is needed so that there would be no bias which would corner the LGBTIQ community.
“If you really don’t agree on this, strip it off first. You cannot bring your personal opinion to your news coverage on LGBT. Give the same room for them, give the same proportion of news coverage, and cover it as honestly as you can,” The Jakarta Post editor added.
Fellowship on Sexual Diversity Issues Coverage
Besides the speakers that have been mentioned previously, Amek Adlian from Cangkang Queer and Rere Al Anshor from PETRASU (North Sumatra Transpuan Association) were also present. In the presence of 11 female journalists and 10 male journalists, they shared about their personal experience on self-acceptance and the acceptance of other people with their identity as a transwoman and a transman.
Neither did they forget to share about the media’s news coverage, specifically in North Sumatera, on how they cover news on the LGBT community and their hopes. “We hope that even though there is crime committed by a member of the community (LGBT -red), it shouldn’t be associated with their sexual orientation because that would lead to an attack to the community,” explained Amek.
Zulia Yandani, a reporter for Radio Classy FM Padang, who participated in this workshop is very happy to have the opportunity to join in, learn and get to know transgenders firsthand.
“At first I thought that gender equality was only related to men and women, even though there is so much more than that. So I also could learn how to cover news and write about the LGBT community so it would not discredit the community,” continued Zulia who is also a contributor for the Radio News Agency (KBR) in Padang.
At the very least, even if they do not agree with the existence of LGBTIQ, as journalists they should not cover about marginal groups with a tone that corners them or demeaning their humanity. Instead, they should uphold the journalistic principles and, after attending this workshop, will not hurt them. This was conveyed by Khairunnisak Lubis from Harian9.com, Medan.
The journalists that were involved in the workshop sent proposals for coverage on sexual diversity during registration and received the opportunity for their proposals to be coached directly from Ahmad ‘Alex’ Junaidi, Dina Listiorina and Truly Okto Purba as the Editor of Medan Tribun (Tribunnews) on the third day.
From this process, these three mentors chose 10 proposals which will be forwarded as a coverage on diversity that would receive a limited scholarship of Rp. 7,000,000 each.
The following are 10 proposals that received the Fellowship Program Covering Sexual Diversity Issues in Sumbagut:
- LGBTIQ in the Riau Dance Stage (Syahrul Ramadhan – Tribun Pekanbaru)
- Witnessing the Life of a Transwoman in Pematangsiantar (Leonardo Purba – Harian Metro Siantar)
- Lesbian and Gay Inspirational Stories in Medan City (Mei Leandha – Tempo.co)
- The Fate of Transwomen in Prison (Virda Elisa – IDN Times Kontributor Pekanbaru)
- Transwomen Are Also Devout (Zulia Yandani – Radio Classy FM Padang)
- The Fate of Transgender Workers in Aceh (Habil – Acehkini.id)
- Legenda Boru Natinjo: Witnessing Sexual Diversity in the Batak King’s Lineage (Lia Anggia Nst – Suaramahardika.com)
- Coming Out in the Middle of Discrimination (Masdalena Napitupulu – IDN Times Sumut)
- Witnessing the Intersex Life in West Sumatra (Teja Alone – TVRI Sumbar)
- Creative Living, Camouflaged Alienation (Damai Mendrofa – Rakyatsumut.com)
By Yuni Pulungan
Editor: Thowik SEJUK