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Waria is a label that originates from Indonesia and can be interpreted in many ways; one more prevalent use is to describe men who live as women.[1] Waria has many other meanings, including being a synonym to transfeminine, nonbinary, and other interpretations.[2] It is sometimes compared to western terms, such as "transgender woman" or "transvestite"; however, none of those words are completely accurate and in doing so can perpetuate cultural erasure and remove the historical and culturally specific context.[1]

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Etymology

The word waria is a portmanteau derived from the Indonesian words "wanita", meaning woman, and "pria", meaning man.[3]

Community

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This section contains mentions of discrimination and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

The waria community in Indonesia is massive, and has had a significant impact on Indonesian culture. Many, but not all, warias are Muslims who live as men who have "womanly tendencies" that they like to entertain. Some warias identify as women, while others do not identify fully as either gender. Previously, the waria community was generally respected in some regions of Indonesia; however, with increasing Islamic fervor and moral panic, warias tend to be disadvantaged. In contemporary society, they are often disrespected and discriminated against, despite being an intrinsic part of Indonesia's culture and history. The waria community in Indonesia is often forced to participate in prostitution due to job discrimination, resulting in an inability to easily access most professions or an education.[4][5] There are also warias who lead lives that would be considered average for a middle class Indonesian. These waria live their lives in no way different from other men and women in Indonesia. These warias also generally perceive themselves as transgender. Warias who live in lower socioeconomic classes, on the other hand, do not "pass" as easily, and as a result often perceive themselves as men with womanly tendencies.[2]

Healthcare

Although Indonesia pledged to aim for universal health care, that health care only seems to apply to middle and upper class Indonesians. This ignores immigrants, sex workers, survivors of sexual assault, people living in poverty, and SOGIESC[6] minorities, including warias.[7] Many warias face discrimination, resulting in poverty, and they often have to resort to prostitution to survive. As a result, they tend to have a higher risk of dying due to sexually transmitted infections, particularly AIDS.[4]

Flag

The waria pride flag was created by Wiki user WiiFyneLM in June 12, 2021, in order to bring more attention to the waria community of Indonesia, which is his home country.[source?] The red stripe represents blood and courage. The black stripe represents the lives unfairly lost to sexually transmitted infections and a lack of care. The pink represents femininity. The gold represents the preciousness of warias to Indonesia, as well as the use of jewelry in Indonesian culture. The brown stripe represents the history of warias in Indonesia, as well as their historical importance. The white stripe represents purity and spirit. The red and white stripes, as well as their meanings, were inspired by the Indonesian flag.[8]

Distinction

Transgender woman

Waria is very commonly referred to as transgender woman. This may or may not be accurate depending on the person, but it ultimately varies too much to be an accurate comparison overall. Waria refers to gender identity, gender modality, and gender expression.[2]

Genderqueer

Waria is similar to genderqueer. However, waria specifically leans towards femininity and masculine femininity, as opposed to genderqueer, which focuses on general queering of gender.[4]

Gender non-conforming

While the waria label may be used to refer to gender non-conforming people, this is not always the case. Just as the transgender label does not always accurately convey this identity, the gender non-conforming label may be too specific to fully encompass what it means to be waria.

Lengger lanang

Lengger lanang is another cultural practice which has spiritual roots. It is specifically related to believing that one has the soul of a woman. One major difference is the focus on lengger lanang as a practice (a dance form more akin to a spiritual drag), while waria is a gender identity.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Murtagh, Ben. "Genders and Sexualities in Indonesian Cinema: Constructing Gay, Lesbi and Waria Identities on Screen". Asian Journal of Social Science. Vol. 43, No. 4, 2015. (web archive)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kortschak, Irfan: "Defining Waria" (2007-09-08). insideindonesia.org. Inside Indonesia.
  3. Sarazen, Lauren: "Waria: Transgendered Communities". lensculture.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Indonesia's Transsexual Muslims (Documentary)". youtube.com.
  5. Becker, Andrea. "Hidden for Their Protection: Gendered Power, Provocation, and Representation in Dangdut Competition Television". Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. Vol. 176, No. 1, Brill, 2020.
  6. "ASEAN SOGIE Caucus". aseansogiecaucus.org.
  7. Sharyn Graham Davies. "Im/moral healthcare: HIV and universal health coverage in Indonesia". Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters. Vol. 28, No. 2, Taylor & Francis, Ltd., May-2020. (web archive)
  8. "Waria Pride Flag" (2021-06-12). pixilart.com.
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