Keeping It Real in the Closet
I was in the same room with my childhood idol recently.
He’s no heartthrob with a muscled body of a boxer and a ‘cum-hither’ face of a porn star. He was the first Indonesian gay I know to have come out in public; the first real life character to my gay ‘imagined communities’.
I stumbled seeing his picture inMatra (Indonesia’s much tamed version of Playboy) amid articles on early ejaculation and pictures of femme fatales wearing mini skirts. Confused and angst-ridden, I must’ve been 11 and probably just had my first ‘teenage dreams’ and voila! There he was, Dede Oetomo – an oversized bespectacled man in an unassuming shirt.
I thought to myself then, really? He looks so normal! His relaxed smile destroyed my mental picture of gay men pictured by the media then – effeminate and part of the AIDS-ridden community.
Most profoundly, he made me believe that there were others like me. To put things into perspective, this was the late 80’s; we had no Internet let alone a search engine such as Google. Finding countertype information about gays in Indonesia was like spotting a campy queen in the sea of hooligans.
A respected academic and a staunch gay rights activist, Dede was indeed a trailblazer for the gay community in Indonesia, and he was the first man in the country to have led an open life in public beyond the stereotypical settings.
Fast-forward 20 years (20 years plus-plus to be vaguely exact), I am still living a semi-closeted life.
Seated in the back corner of a spacious meeting room, I saw Mr Oetomo in person for the first time. He was giving a speech during the launching of a report on LGBT rights. While praising the report, he also called on members of the gay community in Indonesia to be more open. He said the more people come out of the closet; the less prejudiced people would become towards gays.
I couldn’t agree more, but, sadly, I’m one of those cowards who are still living inside this half-opened closet.
I envy and admire the young generation who can be frank to public. I envy how they could liberally express their talent, artistry and writings with no pseudonyms and without constant fear of beingouted.
Out Generation Giving Hopes
These people are giving gay youth hopes and a sense of belonging to a community they may never have met before. They provide healthy platforms for gay youths to assert their identities, beyond sex-crazed online dating sites. They also attempt to intellectualize gay issues with much stronger authority than before.
There’s Rio Damar, the founder of Melela.org, an LGBT-website dedicated to coming out issues. Then there’s Lucky Kuswandi, a talented filmmaker whose works are synonymous with urban woes. Our much-loved Magdalene website has also published LGBT writings by openly gay writers such as Amahl S Azwar and Paramita Mohamad.
So, why put the padlocks to my closet? What’s with the pseudonym?
The truth is, I’ve been open to my close friends for as long as I remember. Some of my colleagues may question and wonder about my sexuality judging by the music I listen to (They caught me watching Lady Gaga on YouTube, alas!) But they may stop short of confirming their suspicion due to my ‘horrendous’ table manner.
Nonetheless, I’m not ready to drop the truth bomb to my family, especially to my dearest mother. I don't think I will ever be. No matter how much I tried, my tongue turned stiff every time the thought crossed my mind.
As I was writing this article, I paused for while to check my sleeping mother. I could hear the booming harmony of her snore before stepping into her room. There she was, unperturbed and at peace with herself, partially covered by her favorite blanket. At 70, the deep wrinkles on her round face softened slightly while she was in deep sleep.
As I stood at the door, I tried to imagine telling her that I was gay, but then a little spasm hit me. I realized then, I couldn’t even make a mental picture of coming out to her.
My mother is a religious woman who comes from an entirely different generation. She would look at homosexuality through religion lenses, rather than science and logic. She’s the most unselfish woman I know and she would never disown me. Nonetheless, she would blame herself for who I am today.
Though her mind is as sharp as razor wire, physically she’s frail and the doctors are treating her for a number of ailments.
The Price of the Truth
Yes, she and I deserve nothing but the truth. But no, I will not impose my values on her. Not while she already struggles with the nerve pain in her face, not when her heart is already swollen, not when she already struggles with knee pain, unable to walk for more than 5 minutes.
I’m not ready to walk away from her. That is never an option and I find it unnecessary to confront her views just for the sake of my ego. I will never forgive myself either for seeing my mother living with guilt.
Back in the room with my childhood idol. I tried to reach out to Mr Oetomo in person but I was too nervous. At some point he was mobbed by a group of reporters and I stood there listening to his rant. I really wanted to thank him for being the brave person that he was, for choosing an honest dignified life that others didn’t opt. And most of all for making me feel less displaced as a teenager.
The best thing I can do now is to keep it honest and real in my little closet I have. I may be in the closet, but I’m not hiding. I may be in the closet, but I don’t seek to settle in a loveless heterosexual marriage.
I may not be open to my mother – like ever – but I give no lies and excuses on who I am to my (real) friends. I may be in the closet (for now), but it doesn't make me less honest and content than those who have come out.
I’m glad that the Indonesian gay youth today has no shortage of role models. These openly gay characters are making positive impact and creating connection to the youth. Compared to my teenage years, the public scene these days is much more dynamic and jubilant.
For now though I just have to stand on the sidelines, like a child who peeks through the blinds at delicious rainbow cakes.
About Downtown Boy AKA DB
Named after a classic hit by Petula Clark, DB is a twenty something hipster trapped in a thirty something gay man's body. He's a regular office worker in Jakarta and his hobbies include listening to oldies and doing physically challenging sports. He used to do martial arts but was forced to stop after he hurt his lower back. All of his friends suspect the injury was triggered by something fishy.
MH17 crash: 'Total shock' at Aids researcher deaths
At least six passengers who died on board the crashed Malaysia Airlines plane were travelling to a major international Aids conference.They include Prof Joep Lange - a prominent and popular researcher and a former president of the International Aids Society (IAS).IAS said they would have "truly lost a giant".Delegates who have already arrived at the conference in Australia said they were in "total shock".Early reports suggested that at least 100 delegates had been killed, but that figure has now been revised to six.They were named by the IAS as Pim de Kuijer, Lucie van Mens, Maria Adriana de Schutter, Glenn Thomas, Joep Lange and his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren."The extent of our loss is hard to comprehend or express," said IAS President Francoise Barre-Sinoussi. "We grieve alongside all of those throughout the world who have lost friends and family in this senseless tragedy."More than 14,000 scientists, campaigners and politicians are meeting at the Aids 2014 conference in Melbourne.Joep Lange was a professor of medicine at the University of Amsterdam and has been involved in HIV research since the virus emerged in the 1980s.He trialled antiretroviral therapies, which have transformed HIV into a manageable disease.He also worked on preventing the virus passing from mother to child during pregnancy and labour.Prof Lange is described as a leader in his field and between 2002 and 2004 was president of the International Aids Society.'Great loss'
Prof Peter Riess, who also worked at the University of Amsterdam, told the BBC: "Joep was a close colleague and friend of mine. Everyone here in Melbourne is in total shock at what happened."In the early eighties when this strange new disease hit Amsterdam, both Joep and I were training at the time and were confronted with this new disease which then went on to shape our scientific and medical careers."He's been really involved from the very beginning."The plane, carrying 298 people, crashed in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.Dr Jeremy Farrar who leads the Wellcome Trust medical research charity said he was "deeply saddened" by the deaths on flight MH17."Joep was a great clinical scientist, and a great friend of the Wellcome Trust who has long been a valued adviser."He was also a personal friend. He is a great loss to global health research."'Big heart'Zoya Shabarova, an adviser for the Aids Healthcare Foundation, was flying to the conference via Hong Kong.She told the BBC: "It's a really terrible loss, unbelievable, he was a person with such a big heart. My colleagues and I, we can't comprehend this, it's a terrible loss to the HIV programme, the people, the patients."I want to send deep condolences to his family and all those on the flight."Speaking about the loss of another delegate, Glenn Thomas, of the World Health Organization, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said: "For the time being we would like to give his family time to grieve."We have lost a wonderful person and a great professional. Our hearts are broken. We are all in shock.""The global HIV community is a close community - standing up for non-violence, dignity and human rights. People will be devastated - but I am sure everyone will pull together and continue to fight the AIDS epidemic."Credit: MH17crash
HIV re-emerges in 'cured' Mississippi girl
A baby girl in the US born with HIV and believed cured after very early treatment has now been found to still harbour the virus.Tests last week on the four-year-old child from Mississippi indicate she is no longer in remission, say doctors.She had appeared free of HIV as recently as March, without receiving treatment for nearly two years.The news represents a setback for hopes that very early treatment of drugs may reverse permanent infection.Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told US media the new results were "obviously disappointing" and had possible implications on an upcoming federal HIV study."We're going to take a good hard look at the study and see if it needs any modifications," he said.Analysis
By James Gallagher, Health editor, BBC News websiteThere was huge hope that the "Mississippi baby" would live a life free of the HIV.Antiretroviral drugs can keep the virus in check in the bloodstream, but HIV has hiding places - known as reservoirs - in the gut and brain.If treatment stops, then the virus emerges from its reservoirs and begins its assault afresh.Doctors had hoped that starting drug treatment within hours of birth would prevent the reservoirs forming.This seems not to have been the case.This case was never going to lead to an HIV-cure for infected adults, who begin treatment months or years after infection.The Mississippi baby has become a reminder of how difficult HIV is to defeat and how distant a cure really is.Genetic mutationThe child, nicknamed the "Mississippi baby", did not receive any pre-natal HIV care.Because of a greater risk of infection, she was started on a powerful HIV treatment just hours after labour.She continued to receive treatment until 18 months old, when doctors could not locate her. When she returned 10 months later, no sign of infection was evident though her mother had not given her HIV medication in the interim.Repeated tests showed no detectable HIV virus until last week. Doctors do not yet know why the virus re-emerged.A second child with HIV was given early treatment just hours after birth in Los Angeles in April 2013.Subsequent tests indicate she completely cleared the virus, but that child also received ongoing treatment.Only one adult is currently believed to have been cured of HIV.In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV. He has shown no signs of infection for more than five years.Credit: Cured
Same sex dance ban plan sparks row
A proposal which could prevent same-sex dance partners from competing against mixed-sex couples has caused a row in the world of ballroom dancing.
The British Dance Council (BDC) is to debate a rule change which would define a partnership as being "one man and one lady... unless otherwise stated".The BDC denied it was banning same-sex couples from competing, but said it wanted to "regulate the situation".However one dancer accused the BDC of "condoning discriminatory behaviour".BDC president Bryan Allen said the proposal came after complaints some mixed-sex dancers were "unfairly disadvantaged" in competitions against all-male couples who are physically stronger.He told the BBC the rule was not intended to prevent same-sex couple from competing, but would allow organisers to host mixed-sex only competitions if they wished, in addition to the same-sex only contests currently held."If this was passed there'd be very few, if any, competitions just for mixed sex couples - however it would establish equality," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.'No evidence'Heather Devine, the current European same-sex senior women's champion, said a rule change "would mean same-sex couples wouldn't be allowed to compete unless a particular competition organiser says they can"."It effectively means it's up to organisers and depends on the feeling of the other competitors, which sounds like condoning discriminatory behaviour," she said.She also dismissed the idea all-male competitors were at an advantage in the ballroom."There is an exception in the law which allows discrimination in sporting situations if men, on average, are bigger and stronger and therefore at an advantage to women."I don't see any evidence of this in ballroom dancing - if it was the case we'd see the top competitors being big, strong couples and actually the opposite seems to be true.She added: "I don't think we can use this exemption to say two men can be excluded from an important competition just because they are potentially bigger and stronger."Mr Allen conceded the proposal "could have been better worded", but insisted any change would not be discriminatory."The BDC has a strict policy of equity - we prohibit discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, race, colour, disability, sexuality, religion or political opinion and remains absolutely one of our priorities," he said.The proposal is due to be discussed by the BDC's board of directors on 21 July.Same-sex dancing on television
Israel's Dancing with the Stars was the first version of the hit franchise to feature a same-sex dance partnership in 2010.TV personality and sports journalist Gili Shem Tov was paired with professional dancer Dorit Milman on the show. They finished fifth out of 12 contestants.Austria's version also featured an all-male pairing in 2011 of presenter Alfons Haider - who himself used to host the show - with professional Vadim Garbuzov. They missed out on a place in the final, finishing in fourth place.The BBC has said it would not rule out a same-sex dance couple on Strictly Come Dancing, but "currently has no plans for it".Credit: Dance Ban
Scientists probe 'sex addict' brains
The first study to investigate brain activity in "sex addicts" has uncovered remarkable similarities with people addicted to drugs.There is some controversy about whether people can become addicted to sexual behaviours, including watching porn.University of Cambridge researchers performed brain scans on 19 men watching pornographic videos.They showed the same reward centres of the brain were activated as when addicts see their drug of choice.Two of the men in the study had lost jobs through watching pornographic material at work.Four of them say porn was a gateway drug to escort agencies and fetishes.They were all obsessed with sexual thoughts and behaviour, but it is uncertain that they are "addicts" in the same way as a smoker is addicted to nicotine.Some researchers argue their traits more closely resemble an impulse control or obsessive compulsive disorder.Brain scans
A team of researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to observe the changes in brain activity caused by watching pornographic videos.They compared the brains of people with compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy people.The results, published in the journal PLoS One, showed higher levels of brain activity in the three parts of the the brain: the ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and the amygdala.These are all areas that become excited in addicts when they see their drug of choice.Dr Valerie Voon, from the University of Cambridge, told the BBC: "This is the first study to look at people suffering from these disorders and look at their brain activity, but I don't think we understand enough right now to say it is clearly an addiction."We don't know if some of these effects are predispositions, meaning that if you have greater activity in these areas are you more likely to develop these behaviours or if it is an effect of the pornography itself - it's very difficult to tell."She added that the earlier people were exposed to drugs the more likely they were to develop into addicts.However, Dr Voon cautioned there was insufficient evidence to advise on the impact of teenagers watching porn on the internet.'Lies and deceit'
Paula Hall, the chair of the Association for the Treatment of Sex Addiction and Compulsivity, said the internet was now providing non-stop sexual novelty.She told the BBC News website: "What I'm seeing is increasing numbers of young men who cannot maintain an erection because they've wrecked their appetite with pornography, their arousal threshold goes up so a mere mortal doesn't do it anymore."The damage to a couple's relationship can be huge, the lies and deceit, not having sex with partner as they appear to present with a low sex drive as they're on the internet all the time."The might stop engaging in family activities as it's a chance to have the house to yourself, porn is often where it starts and it's a bit of a gateway drug to sex workers."However, she said it was still controversial to say such people were addicts and the field was poorly researched.Dr John Williams, the head of neuroscience and mental health at the Wellcome Trust charity, says: "Compulsive behaviours, including watching porn to excess, over-eating and gambling, are increasingly common."This study takes us a step further to finding out why we carry on repeating behaviours that we know are potentially damaging to us."Whether we are tackling sex addiction, substance abuse or eating disorders, knowing how best, and when, to intervene in order to break the cycle is an important goal of this research."Credit: Sex Addict
Healthy gay men urged to take HIV drugs - WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging all sexually active gay men to take antiretroviral drugs to reduce the spread of HIV.The organisation says the move may help prevent a million new HIV infections over 10 years.Officials warn rates of HIV in this group remain high across the globe.But activists suggest this could discourage the use of condoms - one of the best methods to stop the virus spreading.According to the WHO report, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population.'Exciting approach'Health experts say offering antiretroviral drugs to all at-risk men - known as pre-exposure prophylaxis - will provide an additional way to prevent infection, together with condom use.When taken consistently by people at high risk, studies show the medication can reduce the chances of getting HIV by up to 92%.And scientists say encouraging this group of men to take these pills could lead to a 25% reduction in new cases across the globe.Dr Rosemary Gillespie, of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "We already know if someone has HIV, using treatment drastically reduces the likelihood of them passing it on, as does using condoms."The idea of treatment as prevention is not new, but the idea of extending treatment to HIV-negative people from high-risk groups is."Pre-exposure prophylaxis is an exciting approach, and likely to be one of a number of ways in which we can reduce the spread of HIV in the future."However, we need to evaluate how effective it will be in preventing HIV among gay men."'Progress threatened'She says until the results of UK trials are known, condoms and regular testing remain the best weapons against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.And while the number of people dying of Aids is falling sharply, the WHO says key populations need more attention.According to the report, transgender women are almost 50 times more likely to have HIV than other adults, a level similar to that seen among people who inject drugs.And sex workers are 14 times more likely to have HIV than the general population."Dr Gottfried Hirnschall of the World Health Organization said: "Failure to provide services to the people who are at greatest risk of HIV jeopardises further progress against the global epidemic and threatens the health and well-being of individuals, their families and the broader community."Credit: HIV
Church of England General Synod backs women bishops
The Church of England has voted to allow women to become bishops for the first time in its history.Its ruling General Synod gave approval to legislation introducing the change by the required two-thirds majority.A previous vote in 2012 was backed by the Houses of Bishops and Clergy but blocked by traditionalist lay members.The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said he was "delighted" but some opponents said they were unconvinced by the concessions offered to them.The crucial vote in the House of Laity went 152 in favour, 45 against, and there were five abstentions. In November 2012 the change was derailed by just six votes cast by the lay members.In the house of Bishops, 37 were in favour, two against, and there was one abstention. The House of Clergy voted 162 in favour, 25 against and there were four abstentions.AnalysisBy Robert Pigott, religious affairs correspondent, BBC News
It is hard to exaggerate the significance of today's decision at the York Synod.It breaks a hitherto unbroken tradition of exclusively male bishops inherited from the first Christians almost 2,000 years ago.Some Anglicans see it as a "cosmic shift" - arguing that the Church's theology has been changed by its acceptance that men and women are equally eligible to lead and teach Christianity.With the decision, the Church is acknowledging the importance secular society places on equality, signalling that it wants to end its isolation from the lives of the people it serves.The legislation leaves traditionalists relying largely on the goodwill and generosity of future women bishops, a source of anxiety for many, but heralded by some as a sign of a new culture of trust and co-operation in the Church.With the even more divisive issue of sexuality on the horizon, the Church will need that culture as never before.Before he announced the vote, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu, asked for the result to be met "with restraint and sensitivity". But there was a flurry of cheers when it was announced.The result overturned centuries of tradition in a Church that has been deeply divided over the issue.It comes more than 20 years after women were first allowed to become priests. More than one-in-five of priests in the church are now female.The motion will now go before Parliament's ecclesiastical committee, which examines measures from the Synod. The Synod would then meet again on 17 November to formally declare that women can be bishops.'Big moment'
The first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.The vote followed after almost five hours of debate at the University of York.The Dean of Salisbury, the Very Reverend June Osborne, said it was a "historic day".She told the BBC: "I don't think you can overstate the fact that the Church of England allowing women to take up the role of bishop is going to change the Church."I think it's going to change our society as well because it's one more step in accepting that women are really and truly equal in spiritual authority, as well as in leadership in society."The Reverend Lindsay Southern, from the parish of Catterick with Tunstall, North Yorkshire, said "it's been a really long journey but we were so pleased with the graciousness of the Synod debate".But Lorna Ashworth, a lay member of the Synod who voted against women becoming bishops, suggested it was "not going to be a smooth road ahead".She said she had no plans to "run away" from the Church but predicted there could be "difficulties" in a number of areas, such as those involving new priests opposed to the changes.Another lay member, Susie Leafe, director of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said she was "very disappointed" by the vote."There is still at least a quarter of the Church for whom this package does not provide for their theological convictions," she said.The motion had the backing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Prime Minister David Cameron.Speaking in the debate, Archbishop Welby said Church of England bishops were committed to meeting their needs should the legislation be passed.It contained concessions for those parishes that continue to object to the appointment of a women bishop - giving them the right to ask for a male alternative and to take disputes to an independent arbitrator.In a statement issued by Lambeth Palace later, Archbishop Welby said: "Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing. The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds."The Archbishop of York said it was a "momentous day".He said: "Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today: the office of Bishop is open to them."Mr Cameron said it was a "great day for the Church and for equality".And writing on Twitter, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg praised Archbishop Welby's "leadership" on securing the Yes vote, adding that it was a "big moment" for the Church of England.Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was "wonderful news".But Prebendary David Houlding, a member of the Catholic Group on the General Synod, who voted against the legislation, expressed concerns at the potential impact the result could have on relations with the Catholic Church.The Anglican Communion has the largest Christian denomination in Britain and a presence in more than 160 countries. Women bishops are already in office in a number of provinces including the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.Credit: England