Falling into the Lesbi WorldDesire and Difference in Indonesia

Falling into the Lesbi WorldDesire and Difference in Indonesia

Evelyn Blackwood

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824834425

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

This book offers a compelling view of sexual and gender difference through the everyday lives of tombois and their girlfriends (“femmes”) in the city of Padang, West Sumatra. While likening themselves to heterosexual couples, tombois and femmes contest and blur dominant constructions of gender and heterosexuality. Tombois are masculine females who identify as men and desire women; their girlfriends view themselves as normal women who desire men. The book shows how these same-sex Indonesian couples negotiate transgressive identities and desires and how their experiences speak to the struggles and desires of sexual and gender minorities everywhere. It analyzes the complex and seemingly contradictory practices of tombois and their partners, demonstrating how they make sense of Islamic, transnational, and modern state discourses in ways that seem to align with normative gender and sexual categories while at the same time subverting them. The book reveals the complexity of tomboi masculinity, showing how tombois enact both masculine and feminine behaviors as they move between the anonymity and vulnerability of public spaces and the familiarity of family spaces. It demonstrates how nationally and globally circulating queer discourses are received and reinterpreted by tombois and femmes. Their identities are clearly both part of yet different than global gay models of sexuality. In contrast to the international LGBT model of “modern” sexualities, this work reveals a multiplicity of sexual and gender subjectivities in Indonesia, arguing for the importance of recognizing and validating this diversity in the global gay ecumene.