The second day of the International Consultation on Church and Homophobia began with a thought-provoking Morning Prayer. After breakfast, Dr Dédé Oetomo delivered a presentation that examined the LGBTIQ movement in Indonesia and the involvement of religions. He gave a summary on the formation of groups such as the Himpunan Wasam Djakarta (Jakarta Association of Transgender Women) in the 1960s, the Persatuan Waria Kota Surabaya (Surabaya City Association of Transgender Women) in 1978, Lambda Indonesia in 1982, Persatuan Lesbian Indonesia in 1986, and GAYa NUSANTARA in 1987. Oetomo noted how “often you have things in society that are buried, or not acknowledged.” He also mentioned the existence of the “bissu” as one among five genders. Offering a brief theological thought, Oetomo quipped that “if we don’t know God’s gender, we should be all genders.”
In the following session, Prof. Dr Siti Musdah Mulia presented a Muslim view on sexual minorities. She mentioned some current issues and interpretations regarding men and women in Indonesian Muslim communities. These included the beliefs that a woman’s existence is not important as they are only the second human being, that women are seductresses, weak in faith, subordinate to men, incomplete human beings, and that theirs bodies and passions must be regulated (by men) to avoid promiscuity and inordinate sexual drives. Thus, it is little surprise that transwomen are of even less importance. Mulia mentioned the irony that “human rights defenders are still homophobic.” As conservative Islamic interpretations condemn LGBTIQ identities and practices, Mulia proposed a recognition of sexuality as a positive aspect of human life. She asked if Islamic teachings could become more accommodating of and humanistic towards LGBT persons. She noted that Islamic law does not speak about sexual orientation, but sexual behaviour. Hence Islamic law is directed towards freely chosen deeds, not predestination in nature. She questioned conservative, homophobic interpretations of the Qur’an, which she named as “the big obstruction of LGBT in Islam.” The third session of the day, “Understanding Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities and Expressions (SOGIE)” was presented by Yulita Molyganda, who used the genderbread diagram to expound her points.
Four parallel workshops were held in the afternoon. These included Rev. Dr Donald E. Messer’s workshop on “Ministering to LGBT People,” Dr Danny Irawan Yatim’s workshop entitled “Remaja, Keluarga dan Seksualitas” (Youth, Family and Sexuality), Dr Septemmy Lakawa who examined “Seks, Cinta dan Tubuh” (Sex, Love and the Body), and testimonies by several members of the LGBT communities.
In the late afternoon, Dr Bambang Subandrijo delivered a paper entitled “Christian View on Sexual Minorities.” He asserted that “there is no passage of the Bible that speaks about LGBTIQ explicitly and specifically.” For Subandrijo, Genesis 19: 1-11 and Judges 19: 16-26 deal with hospitality and the threat of rape, and not with consensual sex. Leviticus 18: 22 and 20: 13 deal with “murder and the degradation of the male person within the context of the patriarchal system.” Romans 1: 26-27 speaks of “the motivation behind the sexual relation,” particularly “the absence of love and faithfulness as the essential foundation of every sexual relation.” 1 Corinthians 6: 9b-11a treats the matter of “the improperness of sexual behaviours.” Paul, as such, does not condemn sexual orientation but sexual depravity. 1 Timothy : 8-10 is concerned with the deviation of sexual behaviour. Subandrijo concluded by affirming that “LGBTIQ is not one’s will and choice, but a gift of God that should be accepted as it is.”
Session 7 consisted of a panel comprising Rev. Philip Peacock, Rev. Dr Vincent Rajkumar and Rev. Christopher Rajkumar. They aired some issues on homophobia and “clobber” passages, the role that churches can play in addressing homophobia and inculcating healthy attitudes to sexuality, homosexuality as a challenge to the patriarchal, heteronormative, capitalist modern state, and ecclesiastical issues on homosexuality in the Indian context. The day ended with Evening Prayer.
© Joseph N. Goh | josephgoh [at] josephgoh [dot] org