Sunday, April 04, 2010

What Happened In Surabaya Should Never Stay In Surabaya

TransGriot Note: You think we have drama here in the States fighting some of our right wing opponents and our recalcitrant gay and lesbian frenemies for our rights, try being a GLBT activist in other parts of the world.

Fighting for your rights there can put you at risk for physical violence and possible death in addition to fighting faith based intolerance.

Here is Sass Rogando Sasot's account originally posted on her Facebook page about the recent ILGA Asia conference in Surabaya, Indonesia. It was interfered with and forced to cancel by the oppressive tag team of Islamic fundamentalists and Indonesian government officials.

Photos of Surabaya drama by Sylvia Tan


Thursday, 25 March

Singapore to Surabaya

Together with JJ, my fellow communication officer in Asia of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association (ILGA), I was in a hotel in Singapore when I read the news that the Indonesian Police in Surabaya ordered the cancellation of the 4th ILGA Asia Regional Conference. JJ then asked me to check my ILGA mail for any advisory. There was none. So we then proceeded to go to the airport.

While waiting for our flight to Surabaya, I took advantage of the free internet of the Changi Airport to check for updates about the conference. Aernout, my boyfriend, was online at that time. He expressed his concern and asked me whether I would still go to Surabaya. I told him, yes as we didn’t receive any advisory from ILGA not to go.

Aernout is very supportive of what I do, so even though he would rather asked me not to go he just said: “I know this is part of your calling…just be careful and text me as soon as you landed in Surabaya.” He also advised me to get a local sim card so he could easily contact me.

At the internet kiosk, JJ and I met another participant, a guy from India; and while waiting for our boarding call, I saw Agniva, a trans activist, also from India. We asked them whether they heard of the news. They said yes and “it was all over the news.”

When we were already on the plane and were given the arrival/departure card by the flight attendants, I asked JJ what we should say our purpose of going to Indonesia was. JJ told me to just say “convention” – human rights convention if specifically asked what kind – and “leisure”. And that was what we did.


There were people waiting for us at the airport. It wasn’t difficult to spot them as they were holding rainbow flags. They informed us that the conference was not cancelled and we were moving it from the Mercure to the Oval Hotel, although the conference will be held “underground”.

Upon arrival at the Oval Hotel, I saw familiar faces and gave them hugs. After all the exchange of sweetness, I immediately checked in, went to my room, and unpacked. Then I went to register for the conference. The registration area was somewhere in the basement of the hotel. The atmosphere was jovial. There were even girls at the registration area who were flirting with me as I pick up my conference kit and shirt. Then came my first ordeal of the day: Activating an Indonesian sim card.

The receptionist told me where to buy the sim card; she was even helpful enough to write on a piece of paper Bahasa phrases that I could show to the store so they would understand what I was looking for. The store was just at the back of the hotel. I got myself a Simpati sim card and two top-up vouchers. I inserted the sim into my phone and started using it. But Indonesian sim cards weren’t like those “plug-and-play” sim cards I was used to. Indonesian sim cards needed to be registered before you can use them. And I didn’t know this. I asked one of the local participants to help me sort it out. She was very helpful: She registered the sim card and made sure that I could already call, receive calls, and send and receive text. I immediately called my boyfriend to inform him that I was safe and there was no sign of danger anywhere.

I then browsed the contents of my conference kit, most specially the conference brochure. I checked the schedule of my presentation. I was one of the five speakers for the fourth plenary session: Transgender Rights in Asia, which was supposed to be on Sunday, the 28th of March. This ILGA Asia Regional Conference was such a significant one because this was the first time that transgender issues were discussed in a plenary. Asian transgender activists were so excited about this as our issues were being given this importance and attention. My supposed presentation was entitled “From Priestesses to Politicians: The Rise of the Transpinay”.

The brochure also has a section on how to get around Surabaya, which included LGBT-specific information. I smiled when I saw several transwomen-specific cruising spots under the “Meeting Place LGBT at Surabaya”. I feel happy to the single transwomen participants who fancy men – at least if they feel lonely and horny there are places to find an erotic/romantic companionship.

This was one of those rare moments that I’d seen information like this. Let’s be honest, conferences aren’t just all about discussing serious stuff, they are also events where you can meet people. There have been a lot of relationships – erotic, romantic, or both – that bloomed in conferences. It’s very easy for lesbians (whether they are transwomen or not) or gay men to, you know, have a little something-something during these conferences. Moreover, cruising spots guides usually feature those relevant to mostly gay men. For transwomen who fancy men, there would usually be no information on where to find men who fancy them. Perhaps people just assume that these men can be found in “gay” bars. Of course, transwomen of any culture know that this is very rarely the case. (Well, of course, I also hope to find transmen-specific cruising spots in the future.)

The brochure, and the fact that warias (a close equivalent of the term transwomen) in Indonesia can live openly, almost just like in the Philippines, gave me an impression that Surabaya and Indonesia in general is a relatively safe place. And I thought that the protests against the conference were just a minor hiccup and that the news about the threats might just be a media exaggeration. Hence, I felt safe and even went by myself to one of the famous malls in Surabaya. Nonetheless, I remained vigilant.

When I returned to the hotel, I borrowed someone’s laptop to check my mail and update my Facebook status. I read an email sent by Hender, a friend of mine from the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP); she’s also the President of UP Babaylan, the first university-based LGBT organization. She is also one of the participants and a speaker in the youth panel. This youth plenary panel is another first in the ILGA Asia Regional Conference. Hender informed me that she was already at a train station in Jakarta, waiting for her train to Surabaya.

We, the communications team in Asia of ILGA, sans Douglas Sanders who hadn’t yet arrived, then had a meeting about how we were going to go about our presentation the following day, the “Enhancing Communication: The ILGA Communication Project in Asia”. I volunteered to do the powerpoint slides that would accompany our presentation. Since my laptop was still useless, I borrowed Agniva’s. But before making the powerpoint slides, I decided to take a nap as I was so tired. While in my deep sleep, the phone in my room rang. It was JJ, informing me to go to the registration area for the “security meeting” of the conference. I immediately went down.

The registration room was already almost full when I arrived. The atmosphere was still relaxed and full of smile. I saw more familiar faces and four more Filipino LGBT activists. The conference organizers led the security briefing. They told us that 1) the protestors already knew where we are; 2) that we have already received threats from several radical groups in Indonesia; 3) that there was a mass demonstration that happened that day in front of the Mercure Hotel, the original venue of the conference; 4) that we were no longer following the original programme, that they would just inform us of the programme and of the rooms where the sessions would be held as we would no longer hold the sessions in the function rooms; 5) we shouldn’t carry around us any paraphernalia related to the conference, they also advised us not to expose them even in our hotel rooms; and 6) the security strategy that was in place: intelligence, communication system, and evacuation plans.

While the briefing was going on, I surveyed the room and looked for Hender – she wasn’t there. It made me so worried. I immediately asked one of the supposed co-panelists of Hender in the youth plenary. No, she hadn’t heard from Hender also. I then expressed my worry to other Filipinos in the room. After the security briefing, I told Agniva, the trans activist from India, about my concern. She then asked me what time did Hender email me from Jakarta. I said sometime in the morning. “Well, the train ride takes ten hours Sass,” said Agniva. That gave me a sigh of relief. But still I was nervous. I didn’t feel that safe, especially that during the open forum of the security briefing a seasoned Indonesian activist told us that there had been an incident of violence during the candle-lighting event in Yogyakarta in 2000, which also happened inside a hotel.

When I went back to my room, I immediately hid all things related to the conference – T-shirts, IDs, brochure, readings. Then I called Aernout to inform him of our security briefing and that we were still going to continue the conference. “Okay, be safe baby. I love you,” he said, ending my first night in Surabaya.

Friday, 26 March

A text message coming from Aernout woke me up that day. I went on with my usual morning ritual. Feeling confident that day, I donned a suit over a dress and wore my almost 7-inch peep toe pumps.

I went down for breakfast. But before munching on croissants, I looked around the restaurant to see any sign of Hender. She wasn’t there yet. I shared the table with Justus Eisfeld, co-director of Global Action for Transgender Equality, and Gloria Careaga, one of the secretary generals of ILGA. I told them that I was really impressed about how this conference dedicated an entire plenary session and several workshops for transgender issues. We talked about the need of pushing transgender issues more. In the middle of our discussion, I saw Hender. I was relieved.

After breakfast, we then proceeded to the fourth floor for the opening of the conference. After the speeches from the organizers, we went to the hotel rooms of the workshop of our choice. There were three simultaneous workshops that morning: Strategizing for Regional LGBT Advocacy; Homophobia, Transphobia, and Domestic Violence; and Fridae Forum on Reaching Out to Queer Asia. Hender and I attended the second one.

The workshop had two presentations and was moderated by Anna Kirey (Kyrgyzstan). First one was about domestic violence among LGBT relationships in Indonesia, presented by Desya Pusponegoro (Indonesia). It was followed by the presentation of Ging Cristobal (Philippines), LBT Violence across Asia: Scenarios, Challenges, and the Future.

After the workshop, we were told that there wouldn’t be any more workshops for that day and that we could just use the day for sightseeing. We then went down to have snacks. Hender and I shared a table with two Indonesian participants who also attended the same workshop we were at. We talked about my boyfriend, what it was like to live in Surabaya, and what was there to see in Surabaya. Since Hender was into and had a knack in learning foreign languages, she asked harmless to naughty Bahasa phrases from them. Before our snack finished, Hender already knew the useful phrases she needed to know in order to ensnare an Indonesian guy – she was even christened an Indonesian name, “Ayu”, which they say is the Bahasa for “sweet”. They told me that I didn’t need one as my name “Sass” sounds like an Indonesian name; and I was told that I had the same aura of Dian Sastrowardoyo, an Indonesian actress.

After our snacks, Hender and I separated ways. She went to the room of our Indonesian friends. And together with JJ and Douglas Sanders, my fellow Communication Officers in Asia of ILGA and Stephen Barris, I had a meeting with the two secretary generals of ILGA, Gloria Carreaga and Renato Sabbadini. It was already lunchtime when we finished our meeting.

While we were in the middle of our lunch, one of the local organizers announced, “Please go now to your rooms, you can bring your food there. They are already here.” We then rushed to our hotel rooms with our lunch. While we were waiting for the elevator, we saw some of the protestors entering the hotel.

After finishing my lunch in my room, I went to Hender’s room. We then decided to go down to the first floor of the hotel where we could see what was happening in the lobby. There were also a few participants on the first floor, which included Ging Cristobal who is also from the Philippines. I tried to look down and see what was going on in the lobby. One of the protestors outside the hotel saw me. He gestured that he would beat me up by raising his clenched fist towards me. I immediately retreated.

I read it somewhere that we Filipinos are so good in using humor to cope with any stressful and traumatic situation. I couldn’t agree more. While we were on the first floor, Hender and I were joking about going down and introducing ourselves to the protestors ala “Miss Gay” beauty pageant contestants: “Standing in front of you is a 19-year old stunner that goes by the name of Claudine Barrrreeeeettto!”. Then we sarcastically said that perhaps these people needed only to see something beautiful in their lives. To us Filipinos, this was a way of lightening up an otherwise tense situation. To others, this might be seen as an act of foolishness and lack of appreciation of the seriousness of the situation. Another participant who just didn’t get it approached Hender and told her in an ominous tone: “You don’t really want to further agitate them.”

Then we heard angry screams at the lobby. That made us rush back to our rooms. Hender and I went to my room. Hender was simply the epitome of cool. While we were at my room, Hender asked me to iron her hair; she wanted to have fabulous straight hair, if ever the fundamentalists attacked us. But what made me laugh more was her next statement. She opened the curtains of the windows and said: “This is so boring. I want to go out. We shouldn’t waste the beautiful Surabaya weather by staying in this hotel room.”

I was so eager to know what was the situation outside the hotel. I then asked Hender whether she knew any room that faced the front of the hotel as my room faced the back of the hotel. She suggested a room that was on the sixth floor. We went up and rang the bell. It was the room of some of the Chinese participants. They were videotaping what was happening outside: more police cars were arriving. The Chinese participants asked us what we thought of the situation. Hender and I expressed our fear about our safety that was being aggravated by the fact that we didn’t know what was really happening.

Then someone knocked on the door. One of the Mongolian participants entered and told us to pack our things for we would prepare for our evacuation. First, we doubted it for the last instruction that was given to us was just to stay inside our rooms. The room’s phone rang and it was confirmed: We had to pack.

Hender and I went down to our floors to start packing. After I packed everything, I went to Hender’s room and asked her to go down with me to the first floor, just to know what was really happening at the lobby. There were Indonesian participants on the first floor. They told us to just go back to our rooms. While on our way up, we saw several suspicious looking Indonesian men climbing up the stairs. Hender whispered to me “Scary!”. With a come-hither look in their faces, the men said “Hi” to us. I didn’t mind them and hurriedly run up the stairs. Then I noticed that Hender was no longer behind me. I heard Hender talking to the guys: “Hello! Sorry we’re lost…”

I shouted, “Hender!” When Hender was already with me, she told me that the guys said “It’s okay” and one of them caressed her hair.


Hender and I went to the hotel room of Ging Cristobal. Agniva was also there. We told them what happened with us on the stairs. We were all lamenting that we didn’t really know what was really happening. Then Aernout called.

I told him what was going on. He was so worried about me. I told him to monitor any news updates about this conference as we didn’t know what was happening as we didn’t have internet connection in our hotel rooms. I told him to post my Indonesian phone number on my facebook wall so that my friends could contact me.

Because he was on the train, Aernout texted my friend Nadine, who lives in London, to ask her to post my Indonesian number on my facebook wall. Nadine then called me and asked whether we were safe. I then gave my phone to Hender and uttered one of her funniest punchlines in Surabaya: “Hi Nadine! The only thing that’s safe here is the sex!”

After some time, Aernout called me again, updating me of the news he read about our ordeal, which included the news about students protests against the conference and the threat from the fundamentalists to raid every hotel in the Surabaya to make sure we wouldn’t be able to hold our conference. He then offered to call the Philippine consulate in Surabaya to inform them that we were in the hotel. I told him to just give me the number. He then said that he wished that he were in Surabaya to take care of me. He told me that if possible, next time he’d like to accompany me. He then asked how was Hender. I then gave the phone to Hender. Then Hender joked to Aernout that we would just go down to the lobby wearing swimsuits and high heels because that might be able to calm the protestors.

I then called the Philippine consulate in Surabaya. Mr. Sagrado, the honorary consul in Surabaya, talked to me. I informed him of the situation and that there were several Filipinos in the hotel. I then asked his contact numbers just in case we need help from them.

Aiyah, a friend of mine who lives in Boracay, also called me. She made sure that we were okay. She advised us to just stay in our room and to be very careful about dealing with the fundamentalists. She also told me that Aernout was keeping her informed about our situation and STRAP, the organization I belong to in the Philippines, was already alerted of what was happening in Surabaya.


I felt that we needed international press to be in Surabaya, just in case something happened to us. After all, all the news about this was just coming from the Indonesian press. I asked Ging whether it would be a good idea to inform international media such as CNN or BBC about what was happening. I told her that I could ask Aernout to find a way to be able to inform them. Ging then called the room of Grace Poore of IGLHRC. Ging asked Grace whether it was okay to inform international media. Grace said that we shouldn’t as there were no instructions from the local organizers to do that.

Then JJ called, asking me to proceed to Room 309.

Room 309

I immediately went to Room 309, our planning room. The local organizers were there, as well as the board members of ILGA Asia, the secretary generals of ILGA, and us, the communication officers. Tesa de Vela, representative of Isis International who is also from the Philippines, was facilitating our meeting.

The atmosphere during this time was still light, tension was still contained. Tesa was still calm during this time, telling us to just consider the situation as a hands-on training on the dangers of being an activist. She then told us that the conference was already cancelled. She then went on discussing two options: 1) We can stay in the hotel until the 30th; and 2) Those who would like to leave early can do so, their security as they go to the airport will be guaranteed by the police, but those participants should shoulder the expenses of rebooking their flights.

We then planned our communication strategy on how we would disseminate this information to the participants. We also formed two committees. One committee was in-charge of going from room to room to inform the participants of the situation and the options. Another committee, the committee I belong to, was composed of the communication officers in Asia plus one of the local organizers. We were in-charge of drafting the chronology of events, which would serve as our communique.

The floor was then opened for questions and clarifications. I was one of those who asked a question. I told them that it wasn’t enough to tell the participants about the options. I told them that the participants deserved to know what was really happening, as they didn’t have any clue about the entire situation. I also told them that we should also clarify to the participants our exact relationship with the police for according to the news the police couldn’t guarantee our safety.

In between our discussions, members of Indonesian police kept entering our room to talk with the local organizers. Honestly, I didn’t feel at ease with them entering the room. At one instance, two police officers entered the room – one of them had three stars embellishing his shoulders. All talks with the police were in Bahasa, keeping a lot of us in the dark.


Then there was this piece of paper, being signed by one of the local organizers. It was a signed agreement between us and the fundamentalists, an agreement that included that we shouldn’t issue any media statement.

Tesa asked the lawyers in the group whether that was legally binding. Douglas Sanders said no and iterated that the cancellation of the conference was illegal under Indonesian law.


We then went on doing the tasks assigned to us. Our committee went to the room of JJ to draft “the chronology of events”. Douglas Sanders drafted it. Douglas joked to me that this ordeal just added more color to my story as a transgender activist. To which I replied, “I can already imagine how I will start the sentence in this chapter of my life: While I was walking in my almost 7-inch heels, the fundamentalists arrived.” This made us both laugh. Renato Sabbadini, one of the secretary generals of ILGA, then arrived to assist in drafting the communiqué.


It was already dinner, and we were already hungry. We asked Renato whether it was safe for us to go down and have dinner at the restaurant. Renato said he would check and call us if it was okay to go down.

In a few minutes, he called us and informed us that it was okay to go down; we just had to avoid passing through the lobby by using the stairs going to the restaurant. So we did.


While we were at the restaurant, members of Indonesian media entered the hotel and were trying to take video footage. The hotel management asked them to get out. The presence of the media inside the hotel agitated the protestors; some of them went inside the hotel and started shouting. The hotel just told us that dinner would just be served in our hotel rooms.

I immediately left the restaurant and went to Room 309 again.

When I went back to Room 309 the atmosphere was now more tense. There were now more people in the room. They also called all the participants to gather there.

There were new developments. Tesa said that they had gathered reports that in the next day more protestors would gather in the hotel and they might be armed. The original plan was scratched. We had to evacuate the hotel. They told us their strategy on how we were going to do this: They had already identified several safe houses and small hotels in Surabaya to which we would be housed until the time of our flights out of Surabaya; and we have to go out in small numbers.

People got confused. Several concerns were raised. “What about our security?!!” Room 309 was a nerve waiting to explode.

I was on the verge of crying. When Ging saw that, she said, “Just cry later.” I held back my tears. We both know that if anyone had started to cry in that room an avalanche of emotional breakdown would had been triggered.

The committee assigned to convey the new information to all the participants went on doing their task.

Participants also started to evacuate by themselves. Several funding agencies were also being called to fund the return tickets of the participants.

I told Hender that we better go back to our rooms, get our bags, and just meet again in Room 309.

When I entered my room, it was the time I palpably felt my fear. I left the door open as I tried to reach my bag. I was so afraid that when I went inside, someone would just be there and try to hurt me.

Upon getting my bag, I called Aernout and told him about the situation. It was the time that I started breaking down. I told him about the threats of the fundamentalists. I told him I felt so defeated, that we didn’t even give up a fight. And the hate of the fundamentalists were just too much: before I only encountered these kind of people in the news but having experienced them in real life was another level of a disheartening experience. I also told him that everything was becoming more and more confusing as information changed almost every 30 minutes. Aernout kept me calm and assured me that I would be safe. He urged me to just find a way to get out of Surabaya immediately and to not fully trust the police.

During my conversation with Aernout, I saw one of the participants getting out of her room. Her eyes were still red and swelling. We gave each other a hug.


Packed dinners were brought to Room 309.

Everyone was keeping their calm all throughout the ordeal. But the fear of the participants was so palpable. The corridors felt longer. Lights felt dimmer. And the air felt heavier.

Then it was announced that the fundamentalists were already going from floor to floor, making sure that we’re no longer holding any conference or that we are already leaving the hotel. It was clear. They want us out. Several times we had to keep quiet inside the room so that the fundamentalists who were walking around our floor wouldn’t hear us.


Eva Lee (China) had just come back from her duty of going from room to room to inform the participants of the latest developments. I saw her trying to contain her tears. I asked her to sit beside me. I gave her a comforting hug.


Ging entered Room 309 and announced that the Philippine consulate would fetch all the Filipino participants and house them to safety. It felt like I was lifted out of a well I had accidentally fallen into. But I felt sad about the people we were going to leave at the hotel. And I couldn’t help but feel guilty about just leaving them there. And what about those participants who came from a country that aren’t sympathetic at all of LGBT people? Would their consulates take care of them?

Ging then told Hender and I to proceed to her room. Hender and I said our goodbyes to the people in the room. Then I informed Aernout that the Philippine consulate was already going to fetch us.

Ging’s Room

Several police officers just left the room of Ging when Hender and I arrived. Ging, JJ, Agniva, and an Indonesian activist were in the room. The Indonesian activist told us that we would be safe soon. She also told us that she would be staying at the hotel until all the participants were gone. She also apologized for what was happening and told us that if ever we needed anything she would just be in her room. When she left, the Philippine consul called Ging. He told Ging that the head of the police assigned in securing the Oval Hotel told him that we were safe in the hotel: meaning, there was no need for the consulate to fetch us.

We all objected to the assessment of the police. It was clear to us. We were not safe, we didn’t feel safe, and we didn’t know whether we could ever trust the police. We just want to get out of the hotel as soon as possible. Ging also told the consul that the fundamentalists were already going from floor to floor. We didn’t feel secure at all. However, the consul seemed keener to believe the police than us.

We thought of another plan. Luckily, JJ knew someone from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). JJ told her contact of what was happening. To cut things short, the DFA called the consul and ordered him to fetch us by himself.

While JJ and Ging were busy arranging our exit from the hotel, I was busy arranging our return flights to Manila. Aernout was on the phone helping me. He checked the soonest available flights from Surabaya to Manila.

Ging was also arranging to get support from an international funding agency to pay for our flights. But it took a while for them to confirm. As a safety net, I asked Aernout to just pay and book for our flights; we would just pay him as soon as we got the fund. Aernout agreed. He then asked me to text him our passport details.


The consul arrived in our hotel room. At last, we can now leave the hotel. There were several police officers that escorted us to the lobby of the hotel. We waited for a few minutes at the lobby while the driver of the consul get their car. We saw several fundamentalists that were still at the lobby. I saw one of them smiling a mocking triumphant smile as we walked out of the hotel.

When we arrived at the house of the consul, Ging got a call from the Urgent Action Fund for Women, telling her that they would be booking and pay for our return tickets. I then told Aernout that there was no need to buy our tickets anymore.

As soon as I lay down on the bed, I immediately fell asleep. My body just gave up from all the stress, tension and terror.

Saturday, 27 March

Since our flight back to Manila was in the late afternoon, we decided to buy souvenirs before going to the airport.

After buying our souvenirs, we got our stuff from the house of the consul and went straight to the hotel in a taxi. We were too early for our flight. JJ and Hender decided to buy some Indonesian delicacies. Hender told me that while they were at the store, someone asked her where they were from. When she said “from the Philippines”, the attendant told her, “Oh, the Conference?” We felt a bit scared.

When we were about to enter the airport, we saw Tesa, Myrza, and their little daughter arrived. Tesa told us that the lives of the local participants might be endangered as the fundamentalists got hold of the list of the name of all the participants.

Sunday, 28 March

We knew that the Surabaya crisis wasn’t finished yet. When we were back in Manila, we found out that the office of the Gaya Nusantara, the local organizer, was sealed by the fundamentalists and the staff are now working at home. Moreover, the Ministry of Religious Affairs are now considering to file criminal charges against the local organizers. The crime: Blasphemy.


“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” the cliché goes. But we know that this isn’t true with Surabaya for the terror, the pain, the tension we experienced in Surabaya are lingering on. Some of us are still trying to process what happened. Tears were shed and are still continue to be shed by others. Personally speaking, I can still feel the trauma and I’m afraid I am making my boyfriend unfairly experience the effects of this trauma by making mountains out of ant hills – hopefully, his patience and understanding will not run out sooner than the pace of my full recovery.

What happened in Surabaya is one of those ominous signs that religious fundamentalism is on the rise. What happened in Surabaya is a victory that will surely inspire those people who are against our existence to strengthen their delusion that their delusions have more right to exist in this world than us. But what happened in Surabaya will also be a source of strength to those who are still finding the courage to stand up.

This is a reminder that our work is not yet done and how much work is still waiting for us. Wake up! This ordeal is telling us. Wake up and reclaim your freedom!


My warmest gratitude:
To the local organizers for doing their best! Your bravery is admirable!

To the honorary Philippine consulate in Surabaya, thank you for fetching us from the hotel and for sheltering us.

And to Aernout Schram de Jong, my ever-supportive friend, affectionate lover, and reassuring warmth, thank you for staying with me all throughout this ordeal by calling me almost every 30-minutes. This ordeal made me realize how deeply in love I was with you and how deeply you cared for me…

Sass Rogando Sasot is a transpinay transgender rights activist. She is one the Communication Officers in Asia of ILGA; a columnist for Outrage Magazine, the Philippines first online LGBTZine, and one of founders of the Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines (STRAP), the first transgender rights and support advocacy group in the Philippines.

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