Sunday, September 6, 2015

Must Watch: "Love Me" by Photographer Juan Pablo Ampudia

Mexican photographer Juan Pablo Ampudia has compiled images and video he took of the waria (trangendered) fueled nightlife in Bali into a wonderful two minute video titled "Love Me." Waria is a combination of Indonesian words wanita (woman) and pria (man). For some, waria is merely used to describe nightclub performers who dress in drag. However, the term is widely embraced by the transgender Indonesian community as a whole. The article Defining Waria by Inside Indonesia does a better job explaining the nuances of the term than I ever could.

Juan Pablo Ampudia writes:
Being waria in Indonesia, where religion plays a dominant role in society, and where almost 90 percent of the population are Muslim, is not an easy thing. Homosexuality is not punishable by national law and is generally considered a taboo subject by both Indonesian civil society and the government. Although homosexuality is not criminalized, neither marriage nor adoption by LGBT people is permitted, a recent poll shows 93 percent of Indonesians feel that homosexual couples should not be accepted, are generally tolerant towards homosexuals but prefer not to talk about it. 
The male to female cross dressers for a long time have played their parts in Indonesian culture. Numerous Indonesian traditional performances often featuring transsexuals as an object of jest, humor and ridicule. Even today, gay and transsexuals can be found performing in Indonesian television and entertainment industry. In Indonesian view, it is quite acceptable to have transsexual or cross dresser entertainers or public figures. It is usually considered as a funny things, unless it happen in their own family. The status of transvestite, transsexual or other transgender (TTT) persons in Indonesia is complex. Cross-dressing is not, per se, illegal and some public tolerance is given to some transgender people working in beauty salons or in the entertainment industry. However, the law does not protect transgender people from discrimination or harassment and it also does not provide for sex reassignment surgery or allowing transgender persons to gain new legal documents after they have made the transition. Most discrimination is directed at transgender women, who face challenges with stable employment (ones who do not hide their gender identity often find it difficult to maintain legitimate employment), prejudice, and housing. 
In Seminyak, a mixed tourist / residential area on the west coast of Bali, Bali Joe's Bar takes the cake. Through fun and recreation, the talented characters who work there, raise their voices to show to their country and to the society that they exist, and aided by international tourism, raise awareness among young Indonesians that we are all equal and we are more than gender, that it’s okay to be gay, and that we all want to be loved and accepted regardless of any condition embracing and being proud of who you are.
You can watch the "Love Me" video below. Also, be sure to check out Juan Pablo Ampudia's other photography on his Website and Facebook. And, if you have Instagram, give him a follow there, too. It's spectacular.

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