Empty salons: Indonesia’s transgender women count cost of COVID | Coronavirus pandemic News

Medan, Indonesia – Iwan is transgender, and a “micro-minority” in Indonesia.

Earlier than COVID-19, he employed 4 different transgender individuals as hairdressers and make-up artists at his Anna Sui Salon in Medan in North Sumatra, however now he can afford to rent just one.

“We used to have 10 to 15 clients a day, now we haven’t had a buyer in over per week,” Iwan stated. “Perhaps we get one buyer each two weeks now. It’s been that manner because the pandemic began in March.”

Salon work and the marriage business are two of only some sectors in Indonesia that supply employment alternatives to those that are overtly transgender.

“Folks within the transgender group are nonetheless thought of ‘deviant’ in a lot of Indonesian society,” stated Irna Minauli, a psychologist in Medan. “They’re stigmatised and bullied. Nonetheless, they’re accepted in a number of slim sectors equivalent to the wonder business.”

Antonius Remigius Abi who teaches ethics on the College of Legislation at Santo Thomas Catholic College in Medan, tells Al Jazeera that, “a mistaken faculty of thought has constructed up that transgender individuals are ‘irregular’ in Indonesian society”.

The lecturer usually discusses the transgender group in his courses, and says that college students usually criticise the group primarily based on slim perceptions of sexual behaviour and gender id. All of this, he continues, has an impression on transgender visibility in civil society.

“From an moral perspective, each human being is equal and should be revered. Nonetheless, the transgender group are hardly ever accepted to work in public areas aside from salons or the leisure business in Indonesia,” he stated.

Iwan says their salon has not had a buyer in additional than per week as a result of individuals are frightened about getting magnificence therapies or having their hair carried out in the course of the pandemic [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Indonesia has been probably the most badly affected nation in Southeast Asia by the pandemic with greater than 20,000 deaths reported since March. The archipelago at present has almost 127,000 energetic confirmed instances of coronavirus, and the wonder business has been severely affected.

Compelled to shut

Whereas the Anna Sui Salon has employed dozens of transgender staff over time, Iwan says enterprise has been so gradual they now solely have Emmy, 40, who has labored as a hairdresser there for 10 years. They are saying it’s fortunate that Iwan owns the constructing the place the salon is situated and doesn’t should pay hire.

“If we had been nonetheless renting, we might have needed to shut by now,” Iwan stated. “I’ve pals within the transgender group who additionally personal salons and plenty of of them have needed to shut as they couldn’t afford to pay their hire any extra. Some of my pals have laid off all their workers and simply name them in on a contract foundation when somebody makes an appointment.”

Iwan says many transgender staff within the magnificence business use social media to get shoppers and do dwelling visits, one thing which is not common in the course of the pandemic when individuals are fearful of outdoors staff coming to their houses and unable to afford non-essential companies like magnificence therapies.

Shinta Ratri, the top of Pondok Pesantren Waria Al-Fatah in Yogyakarta, believed to be the primary transgender madrassa, or Islamic boarding faculty, on the earth, tells Al Jazeera many transgender individuals are struggling as a result of of the pandemic.

“The impression of COVID-19 has lowered the transgender group’s revenue by 60 p.c,” she stated. “They’re discovering it exhausting to pay for lodging they usually solely find the money for to cowl fundamentals like meals. That’s the reason many of them are so harassed.”

Shinta Ratri, proprietor of an Islamic boarding faculty for transgender women, has arrange a programme to assist these affected by the downturn in consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia [File: Kanupriya Kapoor/Reuters]

As it’s nearly unattainable for members of the transgender group to get jobs in additional steady sectors equivalent to schooling or the civil service, Pondok Pesantren Waria Al-Fatah has arrange a meals safety coaching programme for 20 individuals for 2 months to assist them diversify their employment alternatives.

“We now have additionally arrange a fundraising programme to assist pay prices for 60 members of the transgender group and have arrange psychological well being assist for 20 extra,” she added.


Throughout Indonesia, members of the transgender group usually have difficulties accessing formal authorities assist, as a result of of the stigma surrounding gender id and the truth that many of them are undocumented or have paperwork that don’t mirror their identities.

Each Iwan and Emmy are disparaging of the federal government response to COVID-19, saying that they’ve acquired no monetary assist or subsidies.

“We didn’t even get assist to pay our electrical energy payments. Nothing,” stated Iwan.

“But 4 authorities officers have simply been arrested for corruption, together with the social affairs minister whereas we’re struggling,” stated Emmy, who provides that they like to observe political commentary on TikTok since there may be little else to do on the salon.

On 6 December, Juliari Batubara, Indonesia’s social affairs minister, was arrested on corruption prices relating to meals assist earmarked for these affected by the pandemic after taking bribes from contractors in cost of supplying meals parcels.

Emmy has been a hairdresser at Iwan’s Anna Sui Salon for 10 years. They’re unimpressed with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic [Aisyah Llewellyn/Al Jazeera]

Each Iwan and Emmy say that they’re changing into ever extra fearful as the tip of the yr approaches, they usually fear that Christmas will hit them exhausting. “We’d have at the least 5 clients per day simply to do their make-up for vacation events. Nobody goes to come back now,” Iwan stated.

“If we now have to shut, the place will we work? We solely have the salon enterprise.”

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