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Pandemic and Religion Against LGBT Phobia

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LGBTIQ communities are the most disproportionally impacted by Covid-19. This pandemic hit all LGBTIQ communities from west to east Indonesia.

LGBTIQ communities conducted fundraising and solidarity events as contributions to overcome their problems which worsen day by day. Many allies expressed sympathies.

Indonesia Transgender Network (JTID) delegate Citra Farera explained that the economic instability conditions of LGBTIQ communities. LGBTIQ people who run home-based business gave up and closed the stores because none came to buy their products during the pandemic.

As a result, Citra, who is a coordinator of transgender in Aceh and other cities in Sumatra, stated, they can survive because of aid packages from Crisis Response Mechanism (CRM), a movement based in Jakarta and established to response emergency affecting LGBTIQ communities.  

“Nowadays, the most important thing is they have enough food supplies, such as rice, instant noodles, eggs, and other basic needs,” she said on Webinar held by Journalists Association for Diversity (SEJUK) and GAYa Nusantara (May 17th).

Even in vulnerability, most transwomen are still rejected by their families due to their expressions. Within the limitations, they decided to stay and against all obstacles. 

Unpaid Leave Issues and Fired from Jobs

On Webinar held in the celebration of the International Day Against Homophobias, Biphobia, Intersexism, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) 2020, transgender from Papua Lolitha, shared the same concern. Transwomen and gays who used to work at beauty parlor and hospitality worker are now swerving into any kinds of jobs because they were instructed to take unpaid leave during this pandemic.

While, Vanessa Chaniago, an active member of CRM Jakarta, let her secretariat become an emergency kitchen for transwomen communities having difficulties to afford food due to lack of access to run their business and jobs.

IDAHOBIT 2020: Do LGBT cause the Covid-19 pandemic?

The chief of Independent Men of Flobamora (IMOF) Ridho Herewila advocating LGBTIQ in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, told Webinar audiences that LGBTIQ communities considerably survive in various ways. His gay friends and drivers do different types of jobs during a pandemic so that they can compete against hunger.

“Transwomen have been selling their kinds of stuff so that they can afford basic needs of food,” Ridho recalled his communities and LGBTIQ activities in his region. IDAHOBIT Webinar discussed a theme of Solidarity towards Diversity Gender and Sexuality Phobia during COVID-19 outbreak.

Cung, an active member of Gamacca at which specifically advocating Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (LBT) in Makassar, South Sulawesi, was informed that her settler friends were instructed to take their unpaid leave and some of them even fired from their jobs. Shop owners also closed their booth as efficiency to minimize losses.

Media’s Role to End Phobia

Unfortunately, the media made the LGBTIQ community more vulnerable by media coverage in which many unfairly reports were found on media and connected COVID-19 Pandemic with the communities. Based on media coverage observations done by Citra Farera and Cung in their regions, it is surprisingly found that many written articles accused LQBTIQ communities of being responsible for the coronavirus epidemic.

Cung stated one of the most significant local media in Makassar published an article driven to LGBTIQ Phobia.

 “The article said that the LBT community causes coronavirus and it becomes a new stigma,” Cung said while feeling disappointed.

Six speakers and one moderator agreed that media coverage about LGBTIQ is frequently framed negatively.

IDAHOBIT 2020: The Indonesia LGBTIQ community is increasingly vulnerable to persecution

To a hundred and more IDAHOBIT Webinar audiences on Zoom platform, Editor in Chief of Radio News Office (KBR) Citra Dyah Prastuti expressed her sadness. Citra acknowledged the fact that the media’s framing and coverage about LGBTIQ issues lead to repeated stigma, phobia, and LGBTIQ communities’ persecution.  

As a speaker from the media, Citra DP encouraged all Indonesia press to provide more articles about LGBTIQ communities so, “we can discuss these issues that can frequently occur in public. Make humanity become the fundamental perspective in any LGBTIQ coverage in the media. Everyone has the same right as a citizen.”

 “The more the media aligns about marginal communities, the greater opportunity we have to blow up the issues. Whenever it is published in the media, people’s awareness increases so that people could show their empathy. We urgently need enforced LGBTIQ-friendly perspectives and practices in a media environment,” Citra DP called on her reporter and editor colleagues.

She realized that media crews came from different personal backgrounds and believed in a different value, belief, religion, and raised in a different family. Through this diverse, Citra thought media has more significant scope and huge influences towards its readers or audiences. That’s why the media should provide a forum to intensely talk about LGBTIQ issues to build positive images about marginal communities. So, we can openly discuss LGBTIQ and other marginal communities concerns in public.

SEJUK with the LGBTIQ who are members of GAYa NUSANTARA and PERWAKOS visited Jawa Pos editors in Surabaya; and with Gamacca and Komunitas Sehati Makassar (KSM) visited Tribun Timur newsroom in South Sulawesi

Ajeng Larasati, human right activist, frequently advocating LGBTIQ cases, suggested media give favorable coverage to end phobias toward sexual diversity. She invited LGBTIQ communities to use media as the right platforms to build a compatible narrative as well as build allies.

“It is the right time to give a positive narrative about marginal communities in the media. Be more vocal so people could know other perspectives about them,” said Ajeng, who believes every person is equal and has the same access to justice and peace no matter what their sexual orientation and identities are.

Ajeng entirely agreed with Citra DP’s statement about the importance of media to use the word ‘humanity’ is. According to Ajeng, “we are using the right approach, religion, and humanity at the same moment. We cannot use partially used. It requires LGBTIQ communities to increase self-empower and be more confident to enlarge allies to get more knowledge and networking.”

IDAHOBIT 2020: Let’s celebrate sexual diversity!

Towards LGBT-friendly Religion

“Religion is a public room for a human being, and we should believe we have our authority, including religious interpretation,” said Amar Alfikar, a transman living in Islamic Boarding School in Kendal, Central Java, responded to Ajeng’s encouragement.  

On a Webinar also broadcasted live on Kabar Sejuk Youtube Channel, Amar invited his LQBTIQ friends to have their authority towards personal belief and faith.  So, they can have the courage to get involved in not only pro-queer religious interpretations but also for all human beings.

“Only by starting to love ourselves, then taking over the authority of religious interpretation to be friendly to all becomes possible,” Amar continued.

 Rahmatan lil ‘alamin (love for all universe), for Amar, means that mercy is not only for LGBTIQ, not only for Muslims, but other religions, even those who are not religious,”

Religious solidarity is needed to beat the impact of coronavirus pandemic to vulnerable communities, including LGBTIQ people. Before the large-scale social restrictions policy (PSBB) applied in many cities in Indonesia, the LGBTIQ community was the second most hated community after the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Phobia, stigma, discriminative policies and regulations have been made as to the result of LGBTIQ backlash in 2016, leading communities more prone to get social injustice, economic insecurities, and acts of violence. Coronavirus outbreak made the vulnerabilities worsen.

A transgender researcher in Indonesia Kevin Halim, as a webinar moderator, was re-questioning about religion role in presenting peaceful, gracious, and joyous sides of religion for humanity. Then, this is a matter of serious concern to Dr. Inayah Rohmaniyah, a Muslim scholar from the Ushuluddin and Islamic Thought faculty of the State Islamic University (UIN) Sunan Kalijaga, Yogyakarta.

She invited religious figures and academics to attend spiritual and academic discussion forums are involving at which LGBTIQ and other vulnerable communities. Through the discussion forums, people can critically discuss the function of religious-based educations. In the other hands, scholars can promote anti-discrimination and antiviolence spirits. 

“As a lecturer and social workers, she always tries to rebuild youth’s critical thinking and involve elderly (especially religious figures) into a discussion and re-question whether if religion is synonymous with discrimination or not?” said Inayah.

She was also re-questioning about preventive ways taken by the religious authority to prevent violence in the name of religion. Then, she suggested LGBTIQ communities are more confident to come out, involve themselves in public discussion, and see more people. Religious figures will be ashamed to reject LGBTIQ visitation to the religious community.

“The key point is an encounter space, dialogue,” she stressed to all webinar audiences who are 89 identified as women, 86 men, 12 participants identified themselves into other genders.

IDAHOBIT 2020: Are the Scriptures always used as arguments to discriminate against LGBT?

While the chief of Ledalero Catholic Philosophy College (STFK) Father Dr Otto Gusti Madung also shared some thoughts and experiences to develop a friendly academic environment for LGBT people. Recently, his institution invited LGBTIQ communities in Maumere, East Nusa Tenggara, to attend essential events, such as STFK’s 50th anniversary. STFK also addressed food aids for people who are affected by coronavirus pandemic.

“In Christianity or Catholic Church nowadays have developed a new method in interpreting scripture as more friendly to women, LGBT communities and other marginal communities,” Father Otto concluded.[]

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