Back Home

6 August 2019

(CW: familial and political LGBT discrimination)


I saw you for the first time in 8 months today. 

I still got that bitter feeling in my stomach-chest         (the back of my mouth grippy/stuck, an airlock) 

that I felt when I saw you for the last time 

all those months ago. 

Your face from a distance was a shape I still remember, 

with crevices I knew     so     well

though those fingertip memories

are useless to me now. 


I wanted to run, 

to run/disappear/set myself on fire— 

I wanted you to notice me but not say anything, 

I wanted you not to see me at all. 


The wet stone beneath my sneakers felt unstable, like it couldn’t bear holding me upright as I turned my head and walked in the other direction. I walked away and it felt like the sky was tilting and all I wanted to do was call my mum but I couldn’t because—


because to her you don’t exist.


In Indonesia, gay equals dirty. 

I remember my mum’s friends gossiping

(dark eyes darting,

pink lips pursing around sour words)

about another woman’s daughter who went to the USA

about how it ‘turned her gay’

“she shouldn’t bring it back here.”

In my country, the government wants to convict us for living our truths. 

141 men were arrested for dancing—


All they were doing was dancing.


Where I come from, one of my aunts runs a campaign against LGBT propaganda.

When I first heard

I broke down and cried;

salt-stained bedsheets

and crusted eyes.

No part of me wonders

if I could change her mind.

Back home, my mum doesn’t know she exists. 


It’s autumn of 2017, and we’re out on our first date. Eight days earlier, five women were arrested in Medan for a kiss on the lips. We walk down the pier at sunset, the horizon bleeding honeyed red into the sea like the anger on the faces of the men who rushed into their home, who raided their things and pulled them out onto the streets. Nothing was found but the women were evicted, kicked out and shamed, nothing to say, no comment— (and they’re me, you see, they’re all me)

The wood railing left splinters in my hands.


“Things didn’t work with her,” I’d planned to say to my mum when I told her, “but that doesn’t make me any less of what I am.”


I’ve got a boyfriend now, and he’s different and better—is better too harsh?—better for me. He’s got things she didn’t have: patience, a sense of humour, a dick. But when I’m the happiest I’ve ever been somehow the bitterness tastes worse, my own blood spilling on streets I’ve never walked, and my mother still thinks this is the only relationship I’ve ever been in; 

I don’t think my aunt would let me near her children if she knew; 

  three trans women were hosed down outside of a salon in Lampung; 

    legislators have called for the death penalty.


(where is my country going? and

will there ever be any place for me?)

So I kept walking. 

One response to “Back Home”

  1. Luki Purwanto says:

    This piece is truly moving. Well done!

Leave a Reply to Luki Purwanto Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *