Teenage Sex Change Accepted by Conservative Muslim Society in Indonesia

Bekasi, on the island of Java, is a highly conservative Islamic society where religious conflicts are common.

And where 14 year old Priya Jati met our reporter Mohammad Irham.

On the light green painted walls, Priya Jati shows old photos of himself, a chubby faced little girl wrapped in a head scarf or hijab.

“This one was at one of my relatives wedding. I had to greet the guests. I had to wear make-up and I couldn’t stand it, it was uncomfortable.”

Ever since Priya was 13 he knew that he wasn’t like the other girls.

“I’ve had this feeling since grade eight. I really wanted to wear shirts and trousers for boys. I really felt uncomfortable wearing a head scarf. So I always wanted to take it off., it was hot.”

That is why a few months ago Priya changed his gender from a girl to a boy, officially changing his name from Esty to Priya Jati which means “real man” in Indonesian.

Priya is lucky because his family was very supportive of his decision to change genders.

Sutrisno, Priya’s father shows me the documents from the operation and Bekasi District Court’s decision on child gender reassignment.

Despite his initial misgivings, Sutrisno was willing to lose his only daughter.

“When my daughter was in kindergarten I noticed that she played like a boy. She played soccer, marbles, and kites. So she was closer with the boys. When she was in the seventh grade, she didn’t grow that fast. But she started to in grade eight. She said to her mother that there was something strange with her genitals. Her mum wondered this happening to our child? Her genitals were abnormal and a penis grew. “

In the operation, Priya’s penis growth was removed and his vagina was sewn.  

After that he was given hormone injections. Now he has a deep voice like a boy.

The school bell rings at Priya Jati’s junior high school.

At School, Priya Jati’s sex change was announced in front of hundreds of students and teachers.

The Principle, Eka Kertawijaya auctioned off his head scarf, uniform, and hair.

“I took off the head scarf and started cutting her hair. I auctioned it to the teachers. The first cut was sold for nine US dollars and the second one was for around five US dollars. Then I took her clothes off and her head scarf was sold for 18 US dollars. So the money that we made was raised for his future.”

During the declaration, Priya was nervous and stressed.  

But after he was happy because from then on everyone in his community knew what happened to him and there was no need to hide his change.

Priya Jati’s friends don’t care about his sex change. They still play with him.

“I prefer him as a boy…because he was destined to be a boy, and if when he became  he will be complete.”

Other students agree.

“He’s nice, and strong. He always asks us to arm wrestle him, and he always wins. Nobody in our grade can bet him (laughs).”

Every evening Priya Jati plays football with his friends near the local mosque. All the boys are joking and playing together with him.

Today he is the goal keeper.

Priya is a devout Muslim and he studies Islam at Al Mutaqqin Mosque, near his home.

Priya’s religion teacher, Abdul Karim said Priya’s case can be accepted in Islam. Only changes from male to female are prohibited or haram.

“According to our religion even if those people have done lots of good things and been on haj lots and lots of times they will not be counted. They will not go to heaven or even get a little taste of heaven. Their place is in hell, forever.”

Priya Jati is now happy to be himself.

He feels like a normal male and he hopes that he can be accepted by society.

Earlier this month, he declared his first love for a girl from another class.

“It was love at first sight. I asked someone to say hi to her for me and then she said hi back. So I asked for her mobile phone number and we texted each other. She told me that she broke up with her boyfriend and I tried to comfort her. Then we got to know each other a lot better and I fell in love and asked her to be my girlfriend.”

Priya and Syifa are still dating. They just celebrated their one-month anniversary.

Post Saturday, 27 November 2010 Asiacalling

Salam Damai dari Timur

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