Independent Writer and Researcher
Hendri Yulius (He, him, his) is an independent writer and researcher based in Indonesia. He completed an MA by Research in Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney and Master’s in Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. His articles on gender, sexuality, and cultural politics have been published in The Jakarta Post, New Mandala, Asian Correspondent, and Indonesia at Melbourne, among others. He is currently completing a monograph on Indonesia’s queer activisms.
「 Aspirational Migration, National Attachment: Trans Mobility and National Belonging in Indonesia 」
Popular trans narratives and representations have been deployed within the frame of “transition”, “migration”, and “movement.” Such frames largely indicate prevailing cultural understandings of trans subjectivity, which are built upon the assumption that there is always a concrete destination, in the form of embodiment and identity, that serves as the ultimate goal for trans subjects. Stories about trans travelling abroad to obtain gender affirmation surgery is not difficult to find in popular discourses. Nevertheless, critics have shown that, as access to hormone and other medical procedures for gender affirmation is unevenly distributed among trans subjects, the overemphasis on this identity-reification attainable only for middle-class (and often, white and able-bodied) trans individuals thus reflects the entanglement between trans politics, conspicuous consumption, and class-based position. Complicating the above accounts, in this paper I attempt to factor in the narrative of “national belonging and identity” into the current debates on trans mobility. Drawing on an archive of celebrity transgender stories, popular trans discourses, and multiple publications from queer activist organizations in Indonesia, I situate Indonesian transgender mobility as a form of aspirational citizenship, in which trans subjects not only seek for the improvement of their life but also reify their national value and identity, which positions “individual contribution or good deeds” (prestasi) as part of cultural values of being an Indonesian. In doing so, those trans subjects specifically demonstrate that they have worked hard to attain certain “achievement” outside their hometown or home country that allowed them to contribute to their family’s needs. At the heart of the notion of “prestasi” is not only an individual’s good deeds and family orientation, but equally important, the various ways the individual constructs the value of the self through material displays, achievements, and contributions. As such, rather than assuming and abstracting that trans mobility has always been imbricated within neoliberal-capitalist logics, I am here seeking for a more situated engagement with the questions of national identity and attachment in the face of globalization, including the allegedly globalizing neoliberal forces.