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10 March, 2012

Did you know that when Barack Obama was eight or so, his family living in Indonesia, his mother hired a transgender cook and nanny named Evie? Evie's still alive -- by luck and by caution -- and she spoke with a reporter whose clumsily written article is full of illuminating information.

I learned this via A Bitch For Justice, as I learn so many things.

From the source article by Niniek Karmini, Associated Press:

Evie ... has endured a lifetime of taunts and beatings because of her identity. She describes how soldiers once shaved her long, black hair to the scalp and smashed out glowing cigarettes onto her hands and arms.

The turning point came when she found a transgender friend's bloated body floating in a backed-up sewage canal two decades ago. She grabbed all her girlie clothes in her arms and stuffed them into two big boxes. Half-used lipstick, powder, eye makeup — she gave them all away.

"I knew in my heart I was a woman, but I didn't want to die like that," says Evie, now 66.... "So I decided to just accept it. ... I've been living like this, a man, ever since."

...[Trans* people in Indonesia] have taken a much lower profile in recent years, following a series of attacks by Muslim hard-liners. And the country's highest Islamic body has decreed that they are required to live as they were born because each gender has obligations to fulfill, such as reproduction.1

"They must learn to accept their nature," says Ichwan Syam, a prominent Muslim cleric at the influential Indonesian Ulema Council. "If they are not willing to cure themselves medically and religiously" they have "to accept their fate to be ridiculed and harassed."

As the article will make plain, it's a problem specific neither to any one social institution nor to any one country. (Before we cast blame overseas, let's please clean up at home.) But, thanks to an accident of history, Evie is getting some press today; and, meanwhile, the man she helped to raise has made the absurdly accomplished Amanda Simpson the States' first openly trans presidential appointee.

1: I'm struck by the absurdity of valorizing reproduction when the world is already overpopulated. We should be treating childless people as role models.

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