wariazone
 
 
WARIAZONE is an independent documentary by Kiwa and Terje Toomistu about the notion of transgender, transgender subjects in Indonesia, and the relations between gender identity and freedom. Indonesian transgender women who are known by the word waria (wanita, woman + pria, man) are a well-known group of people in the cultural mosaic of the country with the world’s largest Muslim community. Through the voices of around 40 waria, the film also raises questions about the politicization of morality and religion after the reform era in Indonesia. 


Warias are often described in the local context as a combination of masculinity and femininity, a third sex, or a woman’s soul born in the body of a man. Traditionally, variations in gender identity have held a special position in many Indonesian cultures, but today warias have been relegated to an outlaw zone on the outskirts of society. The consequences of the stigmatization based on the rigidity of social constructions (morals, religions, heteronormativity, etc.) include non-recognition of their gender identity, discrimination, limited work opportunities, sex work, HIV/AIDS. 


Activist attempts to increase tolerance through public activities have paradoxically forced the warias to keep silent. Bringing sexuality to the public’s attention has provided the extreme religious groups with the opportunity to attack them in the name of “protecting public morals” and the “freedom of speech”.
 
Wariazone not only situates itself within the context of gender and sexuality, but also points out how the expression of gender is ruled by ideology: the ‘truth’ is related to the power.


Among many activists (Yulianus Rettoblaut, Merlyn Sopjan, Lenny Sugiharto, Ienez Angela, Shinta Ratri, ibu Mariyani, to name a few) and warias who engage in sex work, Dédé Oetomo (a leading activist for LGBT rights), Julia Suryakusuma (Indonesia's own feminist fatale) and Didik Nini Thowok (legendary cross-dressing performance artist) also appear in the film. Visits are made to several waria gathering places in Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Malang and Surabaya, and to the world's only Koranic school for transgender people.  




Read more detailed introduction by Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb, Ph.D. here