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A COMPARATIVE STUDY ON THE PORTRAYAL OF
LESBIANS IN THIRTY SELECTED INDONESIAN AND
ENGLISH LANGUAGE SHORT STORIES
Presented as a Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
to Obtain the Magister Humaniora (M. Hum) Degree
in English Language Studies
Student Number: 096332018
THE GRADUATE PROGRAM IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE STUDIES
SANATA DHARMA UNIVERSITY
A COMPARATIVE STUDY ON THE PORTRAYAL OF
LESBIANS IN THIRTY SELECTED INDONESIAN AND
ENGLISH LANGUAGE SHORT STORIES
STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY
This is to certify that all ideas, phrases, sentences, unless otherwise stated,
are the ideas, phrases, and sentences of the thesis writer. The writer understands
the full consequences including degree cancellation if she took somebody else’s
ideas, phrases, or sentences without proper references.
January 23, 2014
LEMBAR PERNYATAAN PERSETUJUAN PUBLIKASI
KARYA ILMIAH UNTUK KEPENTINGAN AKADEMIS
Yang bertanda tangan dibawah ini, saya mahasiswa Universitas Sanata Dharma:
: Tira Mariana
Demi pengembangan ilmu pengetahuan, saya memberikan kepada Perpustakaan
Universitas Sanata Dharma karya ilmiah saya yang berjudul:
A Comparative Study on the Portrayal of Lesbians in Thirty Selected
Indonesian and English Language Short Stories
beserta perangkat yang diperlukan (bila ada).
Dengan demikian saya memberikan hak kepada Perpustakaan Universitas Sanata
Dharma untuk menyimpan, mengalihkan dalam bentuk media lain, mengelolanya
mempublikasikannya di internet atau media lain untuk kepentingan akademis
tanpa perlu meminta izin dari saya maupun memberikan royalti kepada saya
selama tetap mencantumkan nama saya sebagai penulis.
Demikian pernyataan ini saya buat dengan sebenarnya.
Dibuat di Yogyakarta,
Pada Tanggal: 23 Januari 2014
It is true that together somebody else success there are other hands hold you up.
It is true that we all need our friends
And it is completely true without love we are hopeless
Thus, here I would like to dedicate my deepest appreciation:
My beloved mother, and my very understanding and supportive husband for love,
praying, support, tolerance and sacrifices to provide me with amount of patience to stay
far away in different island for more than one thousand two hundreds and ninety days
during my study
Ibu Dr. Katrin Bandel and Ibu Dr. Novita Dewi, you are not simply supervisor and
lecturer but also inspiring figures for me. I really can’t count how much I have learnt
I would like to thank a number of people who have helped me during my study.
First of all, to my lecturers Dr. Mukarto, M.S, Prof. Dr. Bakdi Soemanto, Prof. Dr.
Soepomo.P, Dr. Novita Dewi, M.S., M.A. (Hons), Dr. Alb. Budi Susanto, S.J.
and Pasca Sarjana Staff especially, Bu Lely and Pak Mul, thank you so much for
I am grateful first and foremost to my supervisor, Dr. Katrin Bandel, and Miss
Alathea Rael Gore, my proof reader a Bilingual Teacher from Austin, Texas for
their constant support, correction, motivation, enthusiasm, and encouragement
during the long process of writing this thesis. They do not only read the entire
work a number of times but also provide crucial critical ideas and support for this
A Moslem brother, Muhammad Taha Billah (Lesotho), Eva Busch and Oliver
Kontny (German), Bazil Bumahiga (Tanzania) and my examiners Dra. Sri
Mulyani, M.A., Ph.D and Mutiara Andalas, S.J, B.Th., S.T.D. deserve special
thanks for critical discussion and suggestion to enrich this writing, as well as Dr.
G. Budi Subanar, S.J (Religion and Culture Program of Sanata Dharma
University) for his explanations about lesbianism in Bible.
My special thanks go to my colleagues and friends who have helped and
supported me intellectually and emotionally during my study and as I wrote this
thesis: Mba’ Ana (Yuliana Tri Nirmayanti, Malang) and Mba’ Ema (UGM) for
the ideas and discussion, encouragement, sources, books and the very helpful
lesbians and queer movies. Mba’ Lelly Sepniwati (Palangkaraya) for support and
help, Kak Novianti Taweru (Papua) for a very critical discussion in the last
minutes of the thesis accomplishment, Kak Uda (Mudalifa Mahmud, Gorontalo)
for books and support, Sr. Marylin and Sr. Suzan Ningfa for praying, Mas Yayan
(Lombok) and East Timor sister Nia Ximenes for being there when I was sick.
My deepest Gratitude to Uni (Noor Chairani, Yogyakarta) and her parents Bapak
Drs. Psi. H. Hasyim Abdullah, MSi and Ibu Hj. Siti Nur Isnaini, BAA, for all their
generosity for giving me a very comfortable and safe dwelling stay during the late
11 months in their home. Uni, thank you so much for taking me into your family. I
can feel the real spirit of having complete family which I have never had before
entering your home. And Bapak Sadino and Ibu Munti (Yogyakarta) family for
their kindness in providing help, care and support.
For endless academic support from Islamic Institute of Sulthan Thaha Saifuddin
Jambi: Bapak Prof. Dr. H. Adrianus Chatib (Jambi), Kak Diana Rozelin, M.Hum
(Jambi) and Kak Minsakutra, M.Hum (Jambi) for encouragement to continue and
finish my study.
Tira Mariana. 2014. A Comparative Study on the Portrayal of Lesbians in Thirty
Selected Indonesian and English Language Short Stories. Yogyakarta: English
Language Studies, Graduate Program. Sanata Dharma University.
The existence of lesbians and their rights in many countries remains a
controversial issue. Lesbians are labeled by the society as being abnormal,
sinners, mentally ill, etc. The discrimination, injustice and even violence toward
lesbians keep happening. As a response to these facts, literature is used as part of
lesbians’ struggle as a media to communicate, promote and campaign to this issue.
The purpose of this study is, first to reveal the portrayal of lesbians in Indonesian
and English language stories, starting from the way they perceive their feelings,
sexual desire or orientation and relationship up to the background in becoming a
lesbian. The second purpose is to find out the conflicts and the discriminations
experienced by the lesbians in their life. There are 30 selected Indonesian and
English short stories used in this study, taken from the lesbian websites and other
published short stories collections.
This study uses Comparative Literature Approach in analyzing the similarity and
the diversity of the way lesbians are portrayed. Lesbian Criticism and Queer
Theory are applied to examine the issue of lesbian and lesbianism as an identity,
as well as to reveal the complexity and the fluidity of sexuality represented
through the lesbian characters, their conflicts and discriminations experienced in
The first finding of this study shows several similarities and differences. The
differences are in Indonesian stories some lesbians perceive their feelings, sexual
desire and relationship as predestination and others perceive it as a forbidden love,
a mistake and a sin. While in English stories, lesbians perceive it as being
different. The similarities are that they perceive it as something natural, normal,
and unchangeable and not a mistake.
The second finding reveals that long term interactions, spontaneous or accidental
feelings, environmental factors and early exposure to homosexuality, unhappy
heterosexual married life, exploration and experiencing new sexual practice and
personal choice are the reasons why women become lesbians.
The last finding show that the similar internal conflicts experienced by lesbians:
are the feeling of confused in understanding and accepting their condition, being
happy but, guilty to live as a lesbian, and no courage to disclose their true
feelings. The external conflicts founded are the conflicts between lesbian and her
partner and her family. Meanwhile, lesbians are socially discriminated against but
at the same time their existence is tolerated. The discriminations are mostly
imposed on them because of religions, holy books and certain religious
institutions. Therefore, lesbians are often attacked and discriminated against based
on religious doctrines.
Tira Mariana. 2014. Studi Banding Tentang Potret Lesbian dalam Tiga Puluh
Cerpen Berbahasa Indonesia dan Inggris. Yogyakarta: Kajian Bahasa Inggris,
Program Pasca-Sarjana Universitas Sanata Dharma
Keberadaan lesbian dan hak-hak mereka merupakan isu yang kontroversial di
banyak negara. Lesbian dicap oleh masyarakat sebagai orang yang abnormal,
pendosa, sakit, dll. Diskriminasi, ketidakadilan dan bahkan kekerasan terus
dilakukan terhadap lesbian. Sebagai respon pada fakta-fakta ini, sastra digunakan
sebagai bagian dari perjuangan lesbian untuk mengkomunikasikan,
mempromosikan dan mengkampanyekan isu tersebut.
Tujuan pertama penelitian ini adalah untuk mengungkapkan potret lesbian dalam
cerpen-cerpen berbahasa Indonesia dan Inggris. Mulai dari cara mereka
memandang perasaan, hasrat atau orientasi seksual, dan hubungan yang mereka
bangun sampai latar belakang yang menyebabkan mereka bisa menjadi lesbian.
Tujuan yang kedua adalah untuk menemukan konflik-konflik dan diskriminasi
yang dialami lesbian dalam kehidupan mereka. Ada 30 cerpen berbahasa
Indonesia dan Inggris yang digunakan dalam penelitian ini. Cerpen-cerpen
tersebut diambil dari website lesbian dan kumpulan-kumpulan cerpen yang sudah
Penelitian ini menggunakan Pendekatan Sastra Bandingan dalam menganalisis
persamaan dan perbedaan tentang cara lesbian dipotret dalam cerpen-cerpen
tersebut. Kritik Lesbian dan Teori Queer digunakan untuk melihat isu lesbian dan
lesbianisme sebagai sebuah identitas, juga untuk mengungkapkan
kekompleksitasan dan kecairan sexualitas yang direpresentasikan lewat tokohtokoh lesbian, konflik-konflik dan diskriminasi yang mereka alami dalam
Hasil temuan pertama dalam penelitian ini menunjukkan beberapa persamaan dan
perbedaan. Perbedaannya yaitu dalam cerpen berbahasa Indonesia beberapa
lesbian mamandang perasaan, hasrat sexual and hubungan sesama jenis mereka
sebagai sebuah takdir sementara lesbian yang lainnya memandang itu sebagai
cinta terlarang, kesalahan dan dosa. Sedangkan dalam cerpen berbahasa Inggris,
lesbian memandangnya sebagai sesuatu yang membuat mereka berbeda.
Persamaannya adalah mereka sama-sama memandang perasaan dan orientasi
sexual sebagai hal yang alami, normal, tidak dapat berubah dan bukanlah sebuah
Hasil temuan kedua mengungkapkan bahwa penyebab yang menjadikan
perempuan menjadi lesbian adalah dikarenakan hasil interaksi jangka panjang,
perasaan yang spontan dan kebetulan terjadi, faktor lingkungan dan pengalaman
homosexual diusia dini, kehidupan penikahan hetero yang tidak bahagia, ingin
mengeksplor dan merasakan praktek seksual yang baru dan memang persoalan
Hasil temuan terakhir menunjukkan bahwa lesbian merasakan konflik internal
yang sama. Yaitu perasaan bingung dalam memahami dan menerima kondisi
mereka, bahagia tapi juga merasa bersalah dan tidak berani mengungkapkan
perasaan mereka. Konflik eksternal yang ditemukan yaitu konflik yang terjadi
antara lesbian dan pasangan dan keluarga mereka. Sedangkan secara sosial lesbian
didiskriminasi, tetapi diwaktu yang bersamaan keberadaan mereka tetap
ditoleransi. Diskriminasi yang ditujukan kepada mereka sebagian besar karena
agama, kitab suci dan institusi-institusi keagamaan tertentu menentang mereka.
Karena itu lesbian sering diserang dan didiskriminasi berdasarkan doktrin-doktrin
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE OF TITLE ......................................................................................... i
APPROVAL PAGE .................................................................................... ii
DEFENSE PAGE ........................................................................................ iii
STATEMENT OF ORIGINALITY ........................................................... iv
LEMBAR PERNYATAAN PERSETUJUAN PUBLIKASI KARYA
ILMIAH UNTUK KEPENTINGAN AKADEMIS ……………………...v
DEDICATION ………………………………………………………….... vi
ABSTRAK ................................................................................................... ix
TABLE OF CONTENT.............................................................................. xi
RESTLESSNESS VS LESBIANS’ STORIES
Background of the Study
Scope of Study
Significance of the Study
A. Review on Related Theories
1. Lesbian and Herstory
2. Lesbian Criticism
3. Queer Theory
4. Lesbians in Indonesia and in West
a. Lesbians in Indonesia: Movement and How They Are
Treated in Terms of Law
b. Lesbian in the West
B. Review on Related Studies
C. Theoretical Framework
LESBIANS’ PORTRAYAL IN INDONESIAN
AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE
A. The Ways Lesbians Perceive and Define Their Feeling,
Sexual Orientation and Relationship
1. Becoming a Lesbian as Something Predestined
2. Becoming a Lesbian as Natural, Normal,
Unchangeable and Not a Mistake
3. Being a Lesbian is Viewed as Forbidden Love
(Cinta Terlarang) and Sin
4. Being a Lesbian is Being Different
B. The Root of Herstory in Becoming a Lesbian
1. Becoming a Lesbian as a Choice
2. Becoming a Lesbian Purely because of
Spontaneous or Accidental Feelings
3. Becoming a Lesbian as a Result of
Long Term Interaction
4. Becoming a Lesbian because of Early Exposure to
Homosexuality and Environmental Factor
5. Becoming a Lesbian to Explore and Experience
New Sexual Practices
6. Becoming a Lesbian because of Unhappy
and Unharmonious Marriage Life
CONFLICTS AND DISCRIMINATIONS
A. Lesbian’s Internal Conflicts
1. Feeling Confused with Her Own
Feelings and Sexual Orientation
2. No Courage to Disclose Her Feelings
3. Happy but Guilty
B. Lesbian’s External Conflicts
1. The Problems Between a Lesbian and Her Partner
a. A Very Busy Partner
b. Butch and Femme Gender Role
among Lesbians and Their Partners
c. Between Dating and Serious Lifelong
Commitment in Lesbian’s Relationship
d. Social Gap and Jealousy
2. The Steps Taken by Lesbians to Overcome Problems
Due to Their Sexual Orientation and Relationship
a. “Coming Out” or “In the Closet”?
b. Pretending to Love Man and Getting Married Heterosexually
c. Lesbian vs Heterosexual Marriage:
Bisexual Not Merely the Answer
3. Lesbian and Family: Solutions Taken by the Family to
Overcome Lesbian’s Sexual Orientation and Relationship
a. Separating the Lesbian and Her Partner
b. “Cure” the Lesbian in Religious Institution
c. Forcing to Marry a Man
d. “Cure” Lesbian by Doing Corrective Rape
C. Lesbian vs Social Environment
1) Being Treated Badly or Unfriendly
2) Lack of Legal Responsibility and
Legitimate Rights for Each Other
D. Lesbian vs Religion: Being Attacked or
Discriminated Based on Religion and Holy Books
E. Lesbian vs Country and Legal Law Protection:
How Lesbians are Treated before Law
INTRODUCTION: PERSONAL RESTLESSNESS
VS LESBIANS’ STORIES
A. Background of the Study
“Hey, what are you going to research for your thesis?”
“I am doing research on lesbian in Indonesian and Western Literature.”
“Why do you bother conducting research on lesbian literature?Who is actually
the lesbian? The object of research or you yourself, as the researcher?”
I was shocked when someone asked me those questions. I was so surprised
at listening and responding to these comments. Should I also be considered as
lesbian because of my interest in studying lesbian literature? I opened this
paragraph by delivering a personal story of what happened to me when someone
asked me about the topic of my thesis. He automatically thought that I was a
lesbian, because I chose lesbian literature for my thesis topic. Why is it that when
someone does not know all the facts, they easily make unwise judgment without
confirming the information first? This example I personally experienced shows
that if we do not understand we will be mistaken.
Thus, we should seek
information, try to understand others to avoid misunderstanding among each
others and try to understand so that others will not mistake us too.
In October 2009, I was sitting in fear because of my decision to join a
Queer Film Festival. A shorter name for the Queer Film Festival is Q-Film. QFilm is a film festival organized by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender
(LGBT) activists to communicate their way of life to others outside of their
community. We were in a large comfortable building in one of universities in
Yogyakarta. It was around 8 pm. When we were ready to watch the film
scheduled by the committee, one of the committee members stood up be fore us.
She delivered a short speech to remind the audiences that this festival could be
under attack due to its content. Thus, she pointed out the location of the
emergency exits in case any sign of danger were to appear. The committee had
already been informed that the militant group; Islamic Defenders Front (FPI =
Front Pembela Islam), the Islamic fundamentalist group in Indonesia would come
to stop this program. And there could be a possibility they could use violence and
attack any of us who were at that place at that time. How ironic it is to live around
people and a majority society who are quick to label and judge somebody else,
without truly knowing what the essential issues are. At that time, I was
questioning myself. What if that night I had gotten injured or perhaps even died
only because of watching a QLGBT movie for the sake of my research? I know
that the FPI is notorious for its violence and anarchies actions.
We were watching the movie when suddenly one of the committee
interrupted to announce and apologize that we could not continue the program,
since the FPI was about to come. For this reason, the committee decided to end
the Q-Film Festival earlier to avoid being attacked by the FPI, which could harm
all of us. So, the Q-Film Festival ended abruptly without a closing statement or
ceremony, with the exception of a word of thank from the MC for coming that
night. Then, the audiences left the room through the emergency exits in a rush, but
calmly. The doors led to the ground floor and on to the parking area. I can still
feel my fear from that night. The last information I got in that night was that after
all those in the audiences left the university, the committee members had to hide
themselves in a hotel. The FPI’s attack was failed because they could not find
either the participants or the committees of this festival.
I grew up in the environment which people consider and label themselves
During my 22 years, I personally have had no homosexual
experience. However, since I have been here in Yogyakarta and far away from my
family and my “normal” life environment in Jambi, I have met homosexual
people, interacted with them and even made friends with them. I try to learn about
them so that I can understand them and their way of life. Many of them have had a
more difficult life than most heterosexuals. Moreover, I propose it is not sufficient
information to only know lesbian and the issue of lesbianism only from their daily
life. I choose to learn them from other mediums, thus from literary perspective, as
well. Literature gives a space for people to voice out their true options and ideas
when they do not feel they can voice it due to societal norms in their daily lives.
Through literature we can speak unspoken things without any fear.
It was in 2010 when I was introduced to lesbian literature. In those days
when I began to research lesbian literary work, many questions came into my
mind, because it was really new experience for me. What does it actually mean to
be a lesbian? How can a woman fall in love with another woman? Why are there
women who love women, as if there are no more men to love? Why do so many
people hate lesbians? Should lesbian sexual desire be denied? Why are they
considered to be people who are mentally handicapped, abnormal, evil, immoral,
etc? Why are they not accepted in their society or even among their own family?
Why should lesbians get married with men if they love women emotionally and
sexually? How can a married woman with children still be able to have sexual
experiences with another woman? Why is love and sexual desire to the same sex
considered to be evil and sinful? Is it wrong and a mistake if a woman loves
another woman? Then, if it is so, should they be punished? Who should punish
them? God? Society? The State? Nature? Or who? So, the only idea that came
into my mind then was: “Wow! Human sexuality is not as simple as I thought. It
is really complex”.
The existence of homosexual people in many countries remains a
controversial issue. They remain a minority community due to their sexual
orientation, not belonging to the common or majority sexual orientation
(heterosexual), they automatically get classified with negative images and
stereotypes. They are treated with injustice by society and even from the political
powers. Their tendency to have and express emotional and biological desire
toward the same sex is considered as abnormal. Society labels them with a variety
of stigmata or labels, such as abnormal, ill, sinful, dirty, evil, dangerous and other
labels. It is sad to see such discrimination, since all people, regardless of their
sexual orientation, or gender identity, should be able to enjoy the full range of
human rights without exception or exclusion from society. Yet, until today
homosexual people, especially lesbians, often get discrimination, such as social,
law, political, and cultural even religious discrimination.
For example, in Indonesia there is no law that exists to protect Indonesia
citizens from discrimination or harassment on the basis of their sexual orientation
or gender identity. LGBT people often suffer cruelty by the hands of the police
but it is hard to document due to victims refusing to give statements because of
their sexuality. Many LGBT people are often arrested, detained or charged due to
their sexual orientation and sometimes without clear reasons. In addition gays in
jails are sexually abused due to their sexual orientation, and often do not report it
due to being traumatized and fear of being sent back to prison to suffer further
abuse.1 In America, gay and lesbian still face many kinds of discrimination until
today, for example in military, in obtaining jobs and housing, in using public
facilities (hotels and taverns), in areas of family law (right to marry, retain
custody of their children, adopt children, or provide foster care), as victims of
police harassment and violent hate crimes, and in AIDS-related discrimination.2
Lesbians are under attack through violent crimes, physical and
psychological abuse, sexual violence. These can occur at homes, schools,
workplaces, in places of worship or in the neighborhood. We can see from the
media that this is a global issue. Sexual orientation or gender identity that is
outside of mainstream society leads to the discrimination of these individuals in
the form of bias, abuse, violence, imprisonment, torture, or even execution. It is
shocking to know that people are being killed because of their sexual orientation
or gender expression.
Laurent Erick, "Sexuality and Human Rights", Journal of Homosexuality 40. 3&4 (2001): 163–
Laurent Erick, “Sexuality and Human Rights”: 163-225.
In Indonesia, lesbianism seems to become public. At first, lesbians tried as
much as possible to hide their true identity, but now they come together in a
forum or organizations so that everyone is able to know about their existence. On
April 19, 1981 a lesbian couple, Jessie (25) and Bonnie (22) ‘came out of the
closet’ by holding their marriage in a Pub located in Blok M district, Kebayoran
Baru, South Jakarta and their ceremony was attended by 120 guests.3 Today there
are more than 30 LGBT organizations that spread over 21 big cities in Indonesia,
such as Jakarta, Manado, Makasar, Balik Papan, Pekan Baru, Lampung, Medan,
Banda Aceh, etc.
Therefore, many activists, not only homosexuals but also heterosexual
activists are still attempting to get equal rights for homosexuals. Moreover,
lesbians face double oppression from society; first because they are women and
second because of their sexual orientation. A variety of efforts is focusing on
lesbian and human rights in order to obtain the right to get married and protected
by law as heterosexual people do. The efforts come in the form of campaigns,
demonstrations, discussions and seminars, festivals. Also lesbian groups are
widespread on facebook and other internet sites, such as SepociKopi and
ReadTheseLips. These lesbian websites have become one of the objects of
research for this study.
However, many activists find their struggle has not been successful
enough because there is no immediate impact on lesbians and their rights. Thus a
new revolution of promoting this struggle is done through published literature.
Sri Agustine, “Rahasia Sunyi; Gerakan Lesbian Di Indonesia” , Jurnal Perempuan 58, (2008) :
Literature is being used as medium to express this struggle. All these ways are not
done simply to show their rebellion to societal norms but because the lesbians
desire to be accepted and treated equally. They dream of a society where they are
protected from any kind of violence and discrimination against them due to their
In the frame of literature, as commonly literary piece being functioned,
many lesbian authors or even non-lesbian authors also use literature as medium to
express their experiences about lesbianism and its world. These authors use
literary work to bring forth the issue of homosexual. There are many literary
works written to express their feelings mostly focused on the emotion of sadness,
anger, hope and dream. Their literature also demonstrates the problems and
conflicts they experienced in their social environment. Their writing is in various
forms such as poetry, short story, and complete novels. Some of their central
themes are related to identity, feminism, politics, culture, and abuse.
Their bigger dream of these authors is to bring this ‘marginalzied world’
and its issues to the surface and view of main stream society. Their purposes are
to end the injustices and discrimination through the writing of literary works.
Their mission is to fight the rights of homosexuals in order that they may be
treated equally and considered "normal", both socially and politically. As stated
by Manaf4 that the option of being "silence", which is expected to provide
security and comfort for lesbian women turn out to provide no protection. It can
be seen from the attitudes and discriminatory actions against lesbians, such as
Kamila Manaf, Pelangi Perempuan Kumpulan Cerpen dan Puisi Lesbian Muda, (Yogyakarta:
Institut Pelangi Perempuan, 2008), p. 8.
beatings, forced to marry the opposite sex, even to the extreme of raping which all
in the pretext of bringing their sexual orientation back to "normal". In contrast,
World Health Organization has stated that being a homosexual (gay and lesbian)
is a normal and natural way of sexual expression.5
Then Manaf continued to say that to the young Indonesian lesbians these
bitter experiences and injustices are the reasons why they prefer to ‘stay in the
closet’. Thus, voicing the sexual rights of lesbian should be equal with the rest of
society so that they can have hope for a better life will not be stopped. Heroic
activists usually do demonstrations through peaceful protesting. Some come to the
House of Representatives to have dialogue with the government to gain support
politically. Unlike the effort done by these activists, Institut Pelangi Perempuan
(Indonesian Youth Lesbian Centre), SepociKopi and ReadTheseLips use another
strategy. It is by voicing those issues through the publishing of creative writings in
the forms of poetry and short fictions written by young and adult lesbians.
As mentioned earlier, the stories published in SepociKopi and
ReadTheseLips as well as Institut Pelangi Perempuan (Indonesian Youth Lesbian
Centre) are the object of this study. SepociKopi is an Indonesian independent
online lesbian magazine. It was founded by two women who are concerned with
the movement of lesbians, Alex and Laskmi. In January 2007, they based a web
blog www.sepocikopi.blogspot.com. Early writings were merely personal
opinions written in their spare time. But it developed until the ideas that were
spawned critical and revolutionary to the Indonesian lesbian movement. These
Kamila Manaf, Pelangi Perempuan Kumpulan Cerpen dan Puisi Lesbian Muda, p. 8.
two women and their blog are now very influential. Their writings are followed by
other lesbian writers who continually broaden the breadth of topics ranging from
culture, lifestyle, and humanities. Their vision and mission is to inspire, reach out,
educate, move the hearts of the general public to possitive feelings especially
towards lesbians in order to improve their quality of life. They also have the
desire to create a broad and boundless virtual world lesbian community; in order
to inform like minded people of events, exchange of professional and acedemic
knowledge. SepociKopi wants to kindle more interest and education through
reading and writing trends, in the quality of the fields of information presented in
this lesbian magazine. Meanwhile Institut Pelangi Perempuan (Indonesian Youth
Lesbian Centre) collected the young lesbians’ writings and published it on 17 Mei
2008 in IDAHO celebration day (International Day Againts Homophobia). These
collections of poems and short stories were published to show the Indonesian
young lesbians’ struggle to fight against homophobia and all discriminative
actions done toward lesbians in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Read These Lips is different in that it is a collection of lesbian
short writings and creative works that are published into e-anthologies. It is
provided free of charge to all readers around the world. It is distributed via the
internet rather than through brick-and-mortar stores because the internet is a
medium that connects them more than any other in history and has the potential
to reach places that traditional print media may not. They want their readers to be
able to access their books anywhere and anytime. In spite of the availability of
new media and the world wide web, lesbians in more than half the world are still
hard pressed to find affirming representations of their sexuality and their
lifestyles. Read These Lips is part of a growing group of queer publishers and
supporters who provide safe spaces for lesbians through literature.
The presence of these writings as explained by Manaf is expected to be a
media campaign. And at the same time to enrich Indonesian literature on lesbian
issues which are still very few in number. These published works function not
only as medium for them to deliver their daily life experience which usually
create problems either within themselves, their family and society, but also to gain
sympathy from the readers.
It is also expected to be a better form of
communication with their family: father, mother, brother, sister, Indonesian
society and states; “Last but not least… our silence is not protecting us, and then
we choose to speak up.”6
Lesbian literature became a new issue in the 1990s. Popular lesbianthemed literature itself has appeared in Indonesia 25 years ago. Since that era there
have been efforts by Indonesian authors to introduce the lesbian through literature.
The effort of those Indonesian writers in introducing and voicing this sensitive
world seems to be successful, if it is viewed from the response of Indonesian
society. For example, the production of some lesbian films which are adopted
from Indonesian novels which lesbians and their life become the themed centered.
Also a lesbian main character won an award Adikarya IKAPI and the Jakarta Arts
Council. The third champion Jakarta Arts Council in 2003, “Tabula Rasa”, set a
lesbian character as one of the main characters. In 2005, the novel of lesbian’s
Kamila Manaf, Pelangi Perempuan Kumpulan Cerpen dan Puisi Lesbian Muda, p. 8.
love story as the main element, “Jangan Beri Aku Narkoba (Detik Terakhir)”
((Don’t Give Me Drugs (Last Seconds)) by Alberthiene Endah, was chosen by
IKAPI Adikarya as the best teenage book.7 Then the response to lesbian literature
can also be said to have 'awakened' the world of Indonesian cinema through the
movie entitled “Detik Terakhir” was also created based on the novel “Jangan
Beri Aku Narkoba (Detik Terakhir)”.
In Indonesian literary world, there are some works in which lesbians and
the issues of lesbians face appear in the form of short stories, for example a story
written by Seno Gumira Ajidarma which was published in 1997, Dua Perempuan
Dengan Hp-nya, and novels Kembang Kertas Ijinkan Aku Menjadi Lesbian
(2007)” by Eni Martini, Tabula Rasa (2003), Jangan Beri Aku Narkoba (2004),
Garis Tepi Seorang Lesbian by HerlienaTiesn (2002), Suara Perih Perempuan
Lesbian dan Kawin Bule by Putri Kartini (2003), Gerhana Kembar by Clara Ng
(2007), Pelangi Perempuan Kumpulan Cerpen and Puisi Lesbian Muda Indonesia
by Institut Pelangi Perempuan (2008) and among others.
Short stories dealing with lesbian theme are interesting to be analyzed due
to the fact that lesbians and gay have become controversial issues in many
countries. Especially after knowing the real conditions of lesbians, it is interesting
to do research on how lesbians are portrayed in the literary works. It is important
to see what issues are pursued, how they struggle, how the lesbian are portrayed
Alex, “Wajah Novel-novel Lesbian di Indonesia”, 16 Agustus 2008
through literature, how they are focalized, etc. Homosexual, especially lesbian
literary pieces, have different and unique features compare to other literary works.
Lesbian literature is different because it usually shows the sexual orientation,
injustice and discrimination issues they get from their environment. Besides, in
English language short stories the authors openly reveal their identity even give
their photo. It is different in Indonesian stories where some of the authors usually
hide their true identity, by using pseudo name with no picture.
However, the homosexual literature, especially lesbian literary writings,
seem to be untouchable in the academic world. Neither in daily lives, such as
seminars, schools, academic institutions, even in universities these literature
works are not discussed. I personally have experienced the absence of our
professors and lecturers in pursuing homosexual literary works. During my own
studies in the undergraduate even in postgraduate, no gay or lesbian writings, such
as novels, short stories, or poems are used in a class discussion. The similar
situation also happens in America. Tyson tells us about uncomfortable atmosphere
in her class when lesbian and gay writings are conducted, since the stigma
attached to being thought as gay or lesbian is still quite strong in America today.
Thus, some of her students may be unwilling to express anything on the subject
until they see how the rest of their classmates respond. “As one of student told
me, after signing out a number of books on lesbian and gay theory form the
university library for a paper she was writing for my class, she wondered if the
students who waited on her at the circulation desk thought she were non-straight,
and to her embarrassment she found herself waiting to shout, “Hey, wait a minute;
I’m not a lesbian!”8 The situation experienced by this girl also happened to me as
I have narrated at the very beginning of this chapter. Then, Tyson continues to
explain that clearly in her college classrooms today, homosexuality is still
considered as an uncomfortable topic of discussion. And there are some literature
professors who simply avoid addressing lesbian and gay issues in college by not
specifically devoting a study on lesbian and gay writers. Moreover, at many
colleges, courses on gay and lesbian writers can be offered as “special topics”, but
they do not always occur as regular courses offering for English department
student.9 Homosexual writing is also part of literary world and it is a reflection of
society and cultural product, yet it is rarely discussed and therefore often
Thus, the absence of some literary classes on the subject of
homosexual or lesbian writers or themes reflects that this kind of literary piece
directly or indirectly has been ignored by the practitioners of literature.
Based on the reasons mentioned above, the reality of lesbians in the real
world and also their appearance in literature, I decided to examine the portraits of
lesbian in literary works. The idea of conducting this comparative study came
after several readings on lesbian literary works. Therefore, using the Indonesian
and English language short stories as the object of study was meant to find the
portrayal of lesbians not only in Indonesia but also in the Western countries which
are presented in the English language short stories. I analyze Indonesian lesbian
short stories taken from Institut Pelangi Perempuan and SepociKopi, while the
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, (New York: Routledge. Taylor&Francis Group: 2006),
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 318.
English ones are taken form ReadTheseLips. I found even though these literary
works are produced in different countries they have the same spirit, but at the
same time, they also have a variety of distinct characteristics. Therefore, it is
interesting to study the portrayal of lesbian through literary works since they
represent the lesbian world. The issues varies, not only limited in sexual
orientation and identity issues but also the issues dealing with the way lesbians
view her feeling, the way they conduct their relationship and life, background of
being a lesbian, problems and discrimination.
B. Scope of Study
Given the reasons outlined above, I focus my analysis on first, the way
lesbians perceive and define their feeling, sexual orientation and relationship and
the background or reasons of becoming a lesbian as depicted in the stories, and
second, conflicts and discriminations experienced by lesbians. The conflicts
discussed are the internal conflicts within the lesbians themselves psychologically,
in reacting and understanding her same-sex feeling and sexual orientation; and the
external conflicts which happen between lesbians with their partners and family as
well as discriminations experienced by lesbians in their life. The Lesbian
Criticism and Queer Theory will be used in this study. Thus, this research focuses
on the lesbian literary texts, i.e the texts which describe about lesbians, their
relationships, life, and that using lesbians as the main characters, regardless of the
authors’ sexual orientation.
C. Research Questions
There are two formulated research questions related to this research to be
1. How are lesbians portrayed in Indonesian and English language short
2. What kinds of conflicts and discriminations are faced by lesbians as shown
in those Indonesian and English language short stories?
D. Significance of the Study
Since this research deals with homosexual piece of writings, especially
describing lesbian relationships, this research can enrich and enlarge the
knowledge of other genres of literature about homosexual literature to the readers.
The study examines lesbians’ personal experience with their family, partner,
society, culture and the state. The readers can catch and understand the portrait of
lesbians, through the lesbian characters, their relationships and life which are
represented in the literary work.
Through this research, the readers learn about lesbians’ life and
relationship, their suffering, difficulty, discrimination and injustice that they
suffer, and the way they are treated by society. This study includes the Indonesian
and English language short stories. The readers hopefully understand who actually
lesbian is. Because, by having the understanding on homosexuals and their life,
people can be more tolerant and wise in their behaviour and reactions to lesbians.
It should be realized that all phenomenon are created and risen up from many
factors and different reasons. It is expected that by increasing knowledge, one can
minimize negative stigma and misunderstanding toward lesbians, especially
before judgment occurs. Misjudgment is normally done by people to this minor
group of people. Thus, I hope the reader would come to the understanding that
everybody is equal; that everyone would like to be appreciated and accepted the
way they are. Thus, the marginalization among human being due to their sexual
orientation can be avoided, and the harmony of life is created. Being minority
does not constantly mean “different”, “abnormal”, “evil”, and “social illness”
because they are different to the majority.
This study may also encourage other researchers and practitioners of
literature to be more aware of the variety of literary works to create a broader
view of research. Instead of doing research on heterosexual authored works only,
more research on homosexual author’s writing or text is expected to encourage the
other literary students to find more research topics develop perspective and theory
Since the result of this study provides new or other perspective of viewing
the lesbians and their relationships, the understanding of the readers are reshaped
so as to become more empathetic and expand their understanding on human
sexuality so that social equality can be gained. When we read, we will learn to see
life from a variety of perspectives and avoid unwise single interpretation or
judgment of the issue being read. Last, but not the least, this research is expected
to raise awareness and encourage the lecturers and students to feel free in
discussing homosexual literary works in their literature class.
E. Research Method
This research is qualitative. It used qualitative method because the data
were delivered and explained descriptively. As this study was a comparative
study, there were some steps of research procedures used in this research.
Firstly, I did the data collection through library research. Short stories
were chosen to be the material objects. But I applied close reading on several
short stories and read critically the Indonesian and English language short stories,
in order to get a better understanding on the portrayal of lesbians, to grasp the tone
and the issues in the stories. Finally, I chose to study 30 short stories to be the
material objects in this study. I collected all data by reading, marking and making
notes on words, sentences, paragraphs, dialogues, and important statements of the
characters and in the narratives.
Secondly, I analyzed the data by identifying, classifying, describing,
interpreting and explaining the data. Then, I compared the data in these short
stories to find similarities and differences among them. Applying the theories
chosen, I cross-checked the information obtained from the fiction with other
sources, such as sociology, culture, and history texts, encyclopedias, journals, etc.
The last was evaluation and contextualization. This last step was done to the study
This study used 30 selected short stories as the material object. The
primary data in this research were taken from 17 Indonesian and 13 English
language selected short stories with lesbians and their life themes as well as
lesbians as the main character.
The Indonesian lesbian short stories were taken from “Pelangi Perempuan
Kumpulan Cerpen and Puisi Lesbian Muda Indonesia” published by Institut
Pelangi Perempuan (2008). In this book all the authors are lesbians. Other
Indonesian lesbian short stories were taken from the collection of selected short
stories published in Lesbian Weblog SepociKopi, www.sepocikopi.com, written
by heterosexual and homosexual authors. The Indonesian short stories were “Bilik
Religius” (Lez Moslem), “Bunga Sakura di Hati Nia” (Sakura), “Gak Penting
Banget gitu loch” (Little Dyke), “Ketika Langit Senja” (Alvi. AH), “Menggapai
Langit Ke-7” (Estha Vadose), “Putus” (NV), “Potongan-Potongan Di Kartu Pos”
(Agus Noor), “Tahi Lalat Di Punggung Istri Ku” (Ratih Kumala), “Hari Ini, Esok
dan Kemarin” (Maggie Tiojakin), “Un Soir du Paris” (Stefany Irawan), “Sebilah
Pisau” (Cok Sawitri), “Saga” (Shantined), “Lelaki Yang Menetes Di Tubuhku”
(Ucu Agustin), “Lesbi” (Tommy F. Awuy), “Rahasia Bulan” (Clara Ng) and
“Lari” (Nuage Kusuma). The English translation versions of the Indonesian
language short story quotations are translated by the writer herself while
presenting the original.
The English language short stories were taken from the collection of
selected lesbian short fiction entitled “ReadTheseLips”, published
www.readtheselips.com. Vol. I (2007): “The Blush” (Renee Strider), “The
Women’s Pool” (Beatriz Copello), “Getting Home” (JL Nicky), “The Eyes of
March” (A.K Niken), “Hearth Break” (Shady Lady), “Memory Puzzle” (Anne
Azel), “Driving Philosophies” (Anne Azel). Vol. II (2008): “To Dance With No
Music” (Lois Cloarest Hart), “Serious” (Lorenza Martelli). Vol. III (2009):
“Where There’s Smoke” (J.E Knowles), “True Love” (Georgia Beers), Vol. IV
(2010): “Sing If You’re Glad” (Rachel Green) and “A Day in Vermont” (R. G.
Emanuelle). Over all, there were 30 short stories that become the object of
research in this study. In quoting the stories in the analysis chapter, the writer used
abbreviation listed in a table below to refer to the title of the stories and
pagination (page number) only.
Table: List of Short Stories
INDONESIAN LANGUAGE SHORT STORIES
“Bilik Religius” (BR)
“Bunga Sakura Dihati Nia” (BSDN)
”Sakura in Nia’s Heart”
“Gak Penting Banget Gitu Loch”
” Not That Important”
“Ketika Langit Senja” (KLS)/
“Menggapai Langit Ke-7” (MLK-7)
“Reaching the Seventh Heaven”
“Hari ini, Esok dan Kemarin” (HIEK)
“Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday”
“Lelaki Yang Menetas Ditubuh Ku”
"The Man Who Hatched in My Body"
“Potongan-Potongan Cerita Dikartu Pos”
“Story Fragments on Post Cards”
“Sebilah Pisau Roti” (SPR)
“A Bread Knife"
“Tahi Lalat Di Punggung Istri Ku”
“The Mole in My Wife’s Back”
“Dua Perempuan Dengan HP-nya”
"Two Women and Their Cell Phones"
“Un Soir Du Paris” (USDP)
“An Evening in Paris”
“Rahasia Bulan” (RB)
“The Secrets of the Moon"
Tommy F. Awuy
ENGLISH LANGUAGE SHORT STORIES
“The Blush” (TB)
“The Women’s Pool” (TWP)
“Getting Home” (GH)
“The Eye of March” (TEOM)
“Heart Break” (HB)
“Memory Puzzle” (MP)
“Driving Philosophies” (DP)
“To Dance With No Music”
Lois Cloares Hart
“Where There’s Smoke” (WTS)
(American, Upper East
“True Love” (TL)
(Canadian, living in New
“Sing If You’re Glad” (SIYG)
“A Day In Vermont” (ADIV)
R. G. Emanuelle
I chose all these selected stories to be the main data, because each story
depicted and represented the lesbian in different perspectives and views.
Moreover, different authors were a combination of homosexual and heterosexual
authors as to help me find more varieties of how lesbians were portrayed from
each view point. The stories chosen were all published in the 2000s in order to
obtain relatively current issues of lesbianism. Meanwhile, the secondary data used
to support this research were found in essays or articles, journals, books, cyber
data, and the previous research results.
Since this study focused on the portrayal of lesbians, the way they
perceive their feelings, sexual desire or orientation and relationship, the
background in becoming a lesbian as well as the conflicts and the discriminations
experienced by the lesbians in their life their internal and external conflicts,
Lesbian Criticism and Queer theory was applied in this study.
A. Review on Related Theories
1. Lesbian and Herstory
Lesbian [ˈlɛzbɪən] is a girl or a woman who is sexually and/or
romantically attracted to the same sex, namely to other girls or women. A lesbian
is sometimes called as a gay woman, or a homosexual woman, but the word
lesbian is usually preferred. “Lesbian is a term most widely used in the English
language to describe sexual and romantic desire between females. The word may
be used as a noun, to refer to women who identify themselves or who are
characterized by others as having the primary attribute of female homosexuality,
or as an adjective, to describe the characteristics of an object or activity related to
female same-sex desire”.10
Lesbianism is defined by Humm as the condition of emotional and sexual
relationships between women or between self-identified lesbians.11 Faderman in
Surpassing the Love of Men use this lesbianism term to describe women writers
and thinkers throughout Western history who had feelings of love for, emotional
attachment to, or sexual attraction to, other women.12 Lesbianism is similar to
sapphism or female homosexuality, the quality or state of intense emotional and
Mayahuskee, “Label Me Lesbian: A Guide to Types of Lesbians”. A lesbian Journal (February
Maggie Humm, The Dictionary of Feminist Theory, (Columbus: Ohio State University Press,
1990), p. 117.
Maggie Humm, The Dictionary of Feminist Theory, p. 117.
usually erotic attraction of a woman to another woman. First used in the late 16th
century, the word "lesbian" referred to the Greek island of Lesbos.
However, the more common usage of lesbianism describes a female
homosexual which was coined by a lesbian poet Sappho (c. 610 – c. 580 BC) in
the late 19th century who commonly wrote homo-erotic poetry. Thus, lesbian is
recognized as a romantic feeling between women. In other words, it can be
defined as a sexual relationship of a woman with another woman, either in longterm relationships or simply in short-term ones. The issues concerning the
lesbians in Europe and North America happened at the turn of the 21st century in
terms of legal recognition for same-sex unions, child-rearing rights, women's
health-care, taxes, inheritance, and the sharing of medical benefits with a
partner.13 Brooten uses the “lesbian” term to refer to “a woman who behave like a
man (i.e., usurps a male culturall role) and is oriented towards female companions
for sex”.14 She explains that this definition accords with the Roman-period
cultural conceptualizations of female homoeroticism.
2. Lesbian Criticism
Humm defines lesbian feminism as “a belief that women-identified
women, committed together for political, sexual and economic support, provides
an alternative model to male/female relations which lesbians see as oppressive”.15
According to Charlotte Bunch, Ti-Grace Atkinson, and Andrienne Rich, lesbian
feminism engages both a sexual preference and a political choice because it
Maggie Humm, The Dictionary of Feminist Theory, p. 117.
Bernadette J. Brooten, Love Between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female
Homoeroticism, (Chicago&London: The University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 17.
Maggie Humm, The Dictionary of Feminist Theory, p. 117.
rejects male definitions of women’s lives. Both the institution and the ideology of
heterosexuality are attacked by Lesbian feminism because of considered as being
centre of patriarchy. Thus, lesbian feminism is a movement of female or a variety
of feminist belief and practice which emphasize on sexual and or political goal. It
is a cultural movement and critical perspective that questions the position of
women and lesbians in society in the 1970s up to early 1980s.
There is historical background why lesbian feminist rising. One of them
was influenced by the dissatisfaction of some feminists within the feminist
movement itself. Feminist movement is considered unsuccessful to answer the
whole range of women problems, because it neglected the sexual oppression of
women or lesbian. Around 1970s, a variety of groups within the feminist
movement initiated to convey their dissatisfaction with a collective feminism that
they increasingly saw as shaped by the interests of the dominant group within the
movement: white, middle-class, collage-educated, and heterosexual women16.
Consequently, the groups that did not or could not identify with this mainstream
progressively separate itself from the conventional feminism to formulate their
own feminism. The examples of some independent groups of feminist are black
feminists, Chicana feminists and lesbian feminist. As maintained by lesbian
feminists, the mainstream feminists questioned the traditional views of gender,
although they are failed to question the traditional views of the same-sex relation.
Thus, lesbian feminism turns away from the conventional feminism to pursue its
own separate trail.
Hans Bertens, Literary Theory: The Basics, (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 218-219.
Lesbian criticism and feminist criticism initiated efforts to fight patriarchal
oppression. There are differences among the two types of criticism, i.e. feminist
and lesbian criticisms. The initial criticism gives major concern on “sexism” in
patriarchal domain, whereas lesbian criticism deals with both sexism and
heterosexism. Therefore, lesbian critics address the issues of psychological,
social, economic and political oppressions encouraged by patriarchy and
According to the history, since the mid-1980s, lesbians have contested the
marginalization fostered by heterosexual feminist; while color and working class
lesbians have refused to be marginalized by white middle-class lesbians. Hence,
Tyson emphasizes that “This criticism therefore has remained one of the richest
and exciting issues of research and political activity”.18 One of the highly
interesting questions is the definition of lesbian itself and how someone can be
identified as a lesbian.
In answering the above mentioned question, there are a number of critical
opinions from different literary scholars. Similar to this question is “can a lesbian
be defined as a woman who has sex with another woman?” If this question is
answered based on heterosexualism, this would mean that virgins who thought of
themselves as heterosexual would have no right to call themselves heterosexuals
unless and until they had genital sex with man.19 Therefore, it brings us to the
conclusion that one’s sexuality must be defined in terms of one’s sexual desire
and sexual activity.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 323.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 323.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 323.
According to Tyson, a more appropriate definition of a lesbian is “a
woman whose sexual desire is directed toward women”.20 According to her
opinion this definition has an advantage in identifying a heterosexual married
woman as a lesbian. Because of the fact that there are some married women who
were romantically and sexually attracted to women rather than to men even
though they may have loved and respected their husbands,. For example, Virginia
Wolf who had affair with Vita Sackville-West when she was still legally married
with her husband.21
Another focus of lesbian criticism is “romantic friendship” in 19th century
in Britain and America. In this kind of relationship there is passionate attachment
and tenderest love expressions, but there is no evidence of sexual activity or
desire. Therefore, it is not reasonable to argue that expressions of passion such as
“I love you my darling, more than I can express, more than I am conscious of
myself”, are indicating sexual desire, or a kind of sexual activity. Tyson explains
that at this period of time is known for its overblown sentimentally and excesses
of verbal expression, and effusions of physical affection between women. All of
those things were accepted, even encouraged, by patriarchy as charming displays
of women’s “overemotional nature”.22 Therefore, from female romantic
friendships perspective in this 19th century, it is treated as an appropriate subject
for lesbian analysis, whether or not they involved sexual desire or activity.
Tyson states that defining sexual activity or sexual desire today has a risk
of ignoring an important dimension of women’s life. That may be well understood
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 324.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 324.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 324.
by lesbians. She indicates that in order to do away with this ignorance and to
promote solidarity among all women, some lesbian theorists have suggested that
lesbian identity is not limited to the sexual domain. In contrast, lesbian identity
consists of directing one’s attention and emotional energy to other women and
having other women as one’s primary source of emotional and psychological
support.23 Andrienne Rich calls this a “lesbian continuum”. She says: “it includes
a range - through each woman’s life and throughout history - of woman-identified
experience, not simply the fact that a woman has had or consciously desired
genital sexual experienced with another woman”.24 Women-identified experience
can be emotional bonding through shared work or play, the giving and receiving
of psychological support, and the shared experience of joy in life. Then, Berry
also explores that this lesbian continuum “designates a wide variety of female
behavior, running, for instance, from informal mutual help networks set up
women within particular professions or institutions, through supportive female
friendships and finally, to sexual relationships.”25 Meanwhile Zimmerman
emphasizes that it is as interconnections among the various ways in which women
Furthermore, some lesbian theorists argue that by denying men access to
their bodies, lesbians deny patriarchy and heterosexuality as its main component.
This means lesbianism could be a tool, a tool that is used to end patriarchy and
heterosexuality. Such kinds of lesbians are sometimes called separatists since they
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 324.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 325.
Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory,
(Manchester&New York: Manchester University Press, 1995), p. 142.
Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, p. 142.
try by all means to disassociate themselves from all men (esp. male domination),
including gay men, and from heterosexual women or even from the lesbians who
do not share their view.27 That is the reason why from the separatism perspective
lesbianism is not merely an issue of personal sexuality. It also has a political
mission. However, separatism is not only a way of fighting patriarchy and
heterosexuality. It also means to save other purposes in the lives of women, to
provide protection and security for women. For example, it serves as the provision
of shelters for beaten (physical abuse) women, divorce, women studies programs,
legalization of abortion and many other issues facing women.28
Another more critical question is in what way a literary work can be
acknowledged as a lesbian text. Responding to this problem, Tyson remarks the
complexity in indicating whether a particular writer is a lesbian or not. Hence, we
cannot depend on the author’s sexual orientation to categorize a text as a lesbian
text, especially after given the preceeding definition of that term (lesbian).
Furthermore, she states that “Even if we know it, we cannot be too sure to tell
whether or not we are reading a lesbian text”29.
In spite of the complexity, Zimmerman provides three categories to
determine the lesbian text. The first category emphasizes on the sexual orientation
of the author, whether she is a lesbian or not. The second one implies on the
content of the story, whether it tells about the life of a lesbian or not. The final
category concentrates more on the theme of story, whether it talks about the
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 325.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 325.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 326.
“vision” of lesbianism or not.30 Based on these categories, lesbian literature can be
defined as works which deal with lesbian and or lesbianism. It involves lesbian
characters, plot or theme portraying lesbians and their life as well as their
relationship written by lesbians and non-lesbian authors.
3. Queer Theory
Queer means strange or unusual.31 The word ‘queer’ itself means across –
it come from the Indo-European root-twerkw, which also yields the German quer
(transverse), Latin torquere (to twist), English athwart … Keenly, it is relational,
and strange.32 Queer is a word used as an offensive way of describing a
homosexual. It is used as a taunt against gays and lesbians. The word was later
adopted by its own so that the element of mockery disappeared. Tyson explains
that the word queer is ‘adopted as an inclusive category for referring to a common
political or cultural ground shared by gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and all people
who considers themselves, for whatever reasons, non-straight’.33 According to
Tyson, the homophonic word queer, though that this ‘term is a tool for oppression,
but it is also a tool for change’. Thus, it is used by gay men and women
themselves as an approach within their own discipline “to demonstrate that
heterosexists shouldn’t be allowed to define gay and lesbian experience.”34 For
example; “You don’t tell us who we are - we tell you who we are! “We’re not
Peter Barry, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory, p. 146.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 5th ed, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995),
Julian Wolfreys, Literary Theories: A Reader And Guide, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University
Press,1999), p. 532.
Louis Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 334.
Louis Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 334.
afraid to be seen”, “We are proud to be different!.” Or “We’re here, we’re queer –
get used to it!” is used as a very popular slogan.
Alexander Doty defines several different meanings of queer. To him it
has come to mean many things. First, it is used simply as synonym to refers to
lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Second, it is an “umbrella term” used to
called “non-straight” positions.” Third, it is used to describes any non-normative
expression of gender, including straight. Fourth, it is used to describe “nonstraight things” not clearly sign-posted as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender
but that bring with them a possibility for such a reading, even if incoherently.
Fifth, it is used to locate the “non-straight work, positions, pleasure, and reading
of people who don’t share the same sexual orientation as the text they are
producing or responding to.” And the last, according to Doty “queer” may be a
particular form of cultural readership and textual coding that creates spaces not
Queer theory is a field of critical theory that emerged in the early 1990s
out of the fields of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) studies and
feminist studies. In Queer Theory, queer word had a wider meaning than just
another word for homosexual. What is meant with all sorts of queer sexual
orientation outside of normative heterosexuality. Queer theory allows us to view
the world from perspectives other than those which are generally validated by the
Alexander Doty, Flaming Classic: Queering the Film Canon, (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 6.
dominant society.36 According to Tyson, “in queer theory, sexual categories
cannot be defined by such simple oppositions as homosexual or heterosexual.
Queer theory defines individual sexuality as a fluid, fragmented, dynamic
collectivity of possible sexualities. She explains that since sexuality is a dynamic
range of desire”. Someone’s sexuality may be different at different times over the
area of his or her live. ‘Thus, sexuality is completely controlled neither by our
biological sex (male or female) nor by the way our culture translates biological
sex into gender roles (masculine or feminine). Sexuality exceeds these definitions
and has a will, a creativity, an expressive need of its own’37 Wolfreys emphasizes
that queer theory can redress such omissions and others, by including the voices
of people whose lived experiences involve non-vormative race, gender, and sexual
identity/practices. Queer theory can strech the limits of current thought and
possibly revolutionize it 38.
Queer theory expands its focus to encompass any kind of sexual activity or
identity that falls into normative and deviant categories. It offers a collective
identity to which all non-straight people can belong. Queer theory starts from
critical analysis of the idea that any given sexuality is natural and immutable.
Queer theory questions traditional constructions of sexuality and sees nonheterosexual forms of sexuality as sites where hegemonic power can be
undermined. Queer theory's main project is exploring the contesting of the
categorization of gender and sexuality, that identities are not fixed – they cannot
be categorized and labeled – because identities consist of many varied
Julian Wolfreys, Literary Theories: A Reader And Guide, p. 527.
Louis Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 335.
Julian Wolfreys, Literary Theories: A Reader and Guide, p. 528.
components and that to categorize by one characteristic is perhaps a mistaken.
Queer struggles aim not just at toleration or equal status but at challenging those
institutions and accounts. For example, a woman can be a woman without being
labeled a lesbian or feminist, and she may have a different race from the dominant
culture. Queer theorists argue that a woman should be classed as possessing an
individual identity and not put in the collective basket of feminists or of colour or
Queer theorists focus on problems in classifying individuals as either male
or female, even on a strictly biological basis. Queer theory developed out of an
examination of perceived limitations in the traditional identity politics of
recognition and self-identity. In particular, queer theorists identified processes of
consolidation or stabilization around some other identity labels (e.g. gay and
lesbian); and construed queerness so as to resist this. Queer theory attempts to
maintain a critique more than define a specific identity. Queer theory is grounded
in gender and sexuality. Due to this association, a debate emerges as to whether
sexual orientation is natural or essential to the person, as an essentialist believes,
or if sexuality is a social construction and subject to change. Tyson points out that
‘for queer theory, our sexuality is socially constructed rather than in born’. It is
socially constructed to the extent that is based on the way in which sexuality is
defined by the culture in which we live. That belief is behind efforts to read
literature from the past, not just in terms of our own definitions of sexuality, but in
terms of those definitions operating in the culture from which that literature
Queer theory address the political ramifications, the advantages and
dangers, of culturally ‘fixed’ categories of sexual identities and the ways in which
they may, in the term given such potent currency.40 ‘Queer theory’ has been
claimed and refuted as the filed in which we might most productively explore
what is at stake for politics and people identified in terms of a range of sexualities,
troubling not only the oppositional categories of heterosexuality/homosexuality,
but also those of the apparently stable ‘same-sex’ labels of gay and lesbian too.
‘Queer Theory’ has been claimed as giving voice to those elided or marginalized
by ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ studies – bisexuals, transsexuals, sado-masochists, for
example – and yet also refuted for silencing such voices.41
In term of literature, Michael Warner explains that almost everything that
would be called queer theory is about ways in which texts shape sexuality.42
Tyson states that “a queer text reveals the limits of traditional definitions of
gender and sexuality”. It uncovers the problematic quality of the representations
of sexual categories. In other words, it shows the dynamic and broad range of
human sexuality is failed to be represented in a satisfactory manner. 43
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 336.
Julian Wolfreys, Literary Theories: A Reader And Guide, p. 524.
Julian Wolfreys, Literary Theories: A Reader And Guide, p. 526.
Michael Warner, From Queer to Eternity: An Army of Theorits Cannot Fail, Voice Literary
Supplement, (1992), p. 19.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 337.
4. Lesbians in Indonesia and in West
a. Lesbian in Indonesia: Movement and How They are Treated under
the Law in Indonesia
In his book “The Gay Archipelago” Boellstorff explains that in the year
900, 1400, 1900, or probably even 1960, no one in the Indonesia archipelago
called themselves gay or lesbi.44 “Only since the 1970s or so, people in Indonesia
called themselves gay or lesbi, yet many Westerners sought a clear temporal
trajectory connecting gay and lesbi with “indigenous” homosexualities.”45 Then
he continues to explain that by the early 1980s gay and lesbi existed in the
archipelago as nationally distributed subject positions.46
In 1982 the first gay rights interest group was established in Indonesia.
The "Lambda Indonesia" and other similar organizations arose in the late 1980s
and 1990s. Today, some of the major LGBT associations in the nation include
"Gaya Nusantara" and "Arus Pelangi".47 The gay and lesbian movement in
Indonesia is one of the oldest and largest in Southeast Asia.48 Lambda Indonesia
activities included organizing social gatherings, consciousness-raising and created
a newsletter, but the group dissolved in the 1990s. Gaya Nusantara is a gay rights
group which focuses on homosexual issues such as AIDS. Another group is the
Tom Boellstorff, The Gay Archipelago. Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia, (Princeton, New
Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 36.
Tom Boellstorff, The Gay Archipelago. Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia, p. 35.
Tom Boellstorff, The Gay Archipelago. Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia, p. 36.
Laurent Erick, “Sexuality and Human Rights”:163–225
Yayasan Srikandi Sejati, which was founded in 1998. Now, there are over than
thirty LGBT groups in Indonesia.49
Lesbian’s existence in Indonesia has yet to gain recognition and
acceptance from society. As explained by Baden and Leon that lesbian, gay,
bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia face legal defiance and
discrimination. Traditional customs disapprove homosexuality and cross-dressing,
which impacts public policy. For example, Indonesian same-sex couples and
households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for any of the legal
protections available to opposite-sex married couples. The importance in
Indonesia for social harmony leads to duties rather than rights to be emphasized,
which means that human rights along with homosexual rights are very fragile.50
They add that the national criminal code does not prohibit private, noncommercial homosexual relations between consenting adults. A national bill to
criminalize homosexuality, along with cohabitation, adultery and the practice of
witchcraft, failed to be enacted in 2003 and no subsequent bill has been
reintroduced.51 Therefore, international efforts are done by several countries to
create and protect LGBT rights. Yogyakarta, Indonesia, hosted a 2006 summit on
LGBT rights that produced the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of
International Human Rights Law in Relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender
Sri Agustine, “Rahasia Sunyi: Gerakan Lesbian di Indonesia”, p. 63.
Offord, Baden&Cantrell, Leon, "Homosexual Rights as Human Rights in Indonesia and
Australia". Journal of Homosexuality, 40 (2001): 233 — 252.
Offord, Baden&Cantrell, Leon, "Homosexual Rights as Human Rights in Indonesia and
In Indonesia, homosexuality is an issue that is often spoken about in the
legislation field reported by Doug Ireland52 in his articles entitled “Indonesia:
Gays Fight Sharia Laws” in 2002. The Indonesian Government gave Aceh
province the right to introduce Islamic sharia, albeit only to Muslim residents.
Additionally, Widodo "Dodo" Budi Darmo53 informs that in 2004, the city of
Palembang introduced a regional law that proscribes homosexuality as an act of
prostitution that 'violates the norms of common decency, religion, and legal norms
as they apply to societal rule’. That law says that included under the term 'act of
prostitution' are 'homosexual sex, lesbians, sodomy, sexual harassment, and other
pornographic acts’.54 Dodo said that this regional law was part of a chain of
similar laws across Sumatra and Java that base themselves on Sharia law from the
Qur’an. And there have been 52 regions that have adopted or put forward such
sharia law from the Qur’an which criminalizes homosexuality.55
As explained by Dodo, homosexuality in Indonesia is not a legal offence
but remains taboo in a country where 88 percent of Indonesia's quarter of a billion
people identify themselves as Muslims. He continues to explain that Indonesia's
Ministry of Justice and Human Rights is in the process of amending the Criminal
Code, to criminalize homosexuality56. According to homoerotic act enacted in
Indonesia, homosexuality is defined as an act of prostitution. Thus homosexual
Doug Ireland, a longtime radical journalist and media critic, runs the blog DIRELAND, where
this article appeared Oct. 18, 2006. The article was originally written for Gay City News, New
York City's largest weekly gay newspaper.
The director of campaigning for Arus Pelangi
Doug Ireland, “Indonesia Fight Sharia Laws”, 15 September 2013
Doug Ireland, “Indonesia Fight Sharia Laws”, 15 September 2013
Doug Ireland, “Indonesia Fight Sharia Laws”, 15 September 2013
people can be sent to jail because of their homosexual practice belongs to a
Even without such formal inclusion or criminal sanction in
Indonesian law, Islamic law already profoundly affects and dictates social mores
(mores are culturally based) on the subject of homosexuality. This leaves
homosexuals in Indonesia extremely vulnerable to persecution justified by
religious proscription of that identity. According to Dodo, such individuals are
unable to seek protection for fear of their sexual orientation being revealed or
This is the irony that LGBT people fall outside the law but are subject to it.
While Indonesia has allowed private and consensual sexual relations between
persons of the same sex since 1993, it has a higher age of consent for same sex
relations than for heterosexual relations (17 for heterosexuals and 18 for
homosexual).58 The National Constitution does not explicitly address sexual
orientation or gender identity. It guarantees all citizens various legal rights,
including equality before the law, equal opportunity, and humane treatment in the
workplace, religious freedom, freedom of opinion, peaceful assembly, and
association. Such legal rights are all expressly limited by the laws designed to
protect public order and religious morality. Same-sex relations are not prohibited
according to the national Penal Code. The only provision to deal with such
relations is found in article 292 which prohibits sexual acts between persons of the
Doug Ireland, “Indonesia Fight Sharia Laws”, 15 September 2013
LGBT World Legal Wrap up Survey
same sex, if committed with a person under the legal age.59 In addition Johan
explains that eventhough Indonesia applies the Napoleon code of law, which is
not against homosexuality, in practice the rights of homosexuals are not valued. It
is not guaranteed or protected by law. Therefore, institutional discrimination
against lesbian and gay happens in Indonesia, such as individual civil right;
marriage, inheritance and taxation.60
b. Lesbian in the West
The history of lesbianism in West is narrated by Tamsin Wilton. Wilton
was a school teacher, a book shop manager and arts administrator. And she was
involved in other arts work such as TV studio. And she was none as “emphisiatic”
heterosexual. This is because she started falling in love with a woman in her late
thirties. And then since then she decides that a lesbian life suited her much better.
She even engaged in Master of Science in Gender and Social Policy, and then
ultimately she became the first professor in human sexuality in UK, an honorary
member of the gay and lesbian association of doctors and dentists.61
Wilton was internationally known for her work on the political and
personal aspects of lesbian identity and sexuality, the social and cultural issues
surroundings aids and complex relationship between sexual behaviors, identities,
and wellbeing. On the issue of when the idea of the lesbians as a sexual identity
Pasal 292 Kitab Undang-Undang Hukum Pidana (KUHP): mengatur bahwa orang
dewasa yang melakukan perbuatan cabul dengan orang lain yang sama jenis kelaminnya
dengan dia yang diketahuinya atau sepatutnya harus di duganya belum dewasa, diancam
dengan pidana penjara paling lama 5 tahun. ((Article 292 The Book of the Law of Criminal Law
(Penal Code): the adults who commit obscene acts with another person of the same sex who is
suspected as minors are punished by a maximum imprisonment of 5 years)).
Rizki Theodorus Johan, The Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship Official
Conference Proceedings 2011, (Osaka, Japan: LibrAsia, 2011)
Steven Seidman, Nancy Fischer&Chet Meeks, ed. Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies,
(London and New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 154.
emerged, Wilton wrote that the idea of “lesbianism” emerged as a part of what she
called “the sexological project” and that was in 19 century. According to the new
science of sexology, homosexual people were said to be the members of third sex.
There followed a notion of homosexuality and lesbianism as conditions or as
referring to distinct human types with the purpose of rescuing them from the
earlier idea that same-sex activities were immoral and should be criminal.62
Wilton continues to narrate the life of lesbians in 1950s and early 1960s in
Great Britain. She said lesbians’ life in the UK during those days was very risky
and underground affairs (secretly). There were few places where women could
meet and there were very few lesbians since most of them used to hide their
sexual orientation. Tamsin pointed out the fact that she was lucky to have lesbian
couple neighbors; namely Eliza and Iris who met during the 2nd World War when
Iris left her abusive husband. From the life of Eliza and Iris, Wilton was able to
become aware that most of women lived secret life full of stress and worries as
According to Wilton, women’s movement in the 1970s changed the
meaning and social life of lesbian. In those days lesbian identity was politicized
and that resulted in the more powerful position of women and that marked the end
of strong impact of patriarchy. Furthermore, women-only social events were held
in every town and city and there were far more places where it was safe for the
lesbians to socialize. Therefore many women began to experiment with lesbian
relationship (positive at this time). Nevertheless, as a result of Leeds
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies,ed., p. 154.
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies,ed., p. 155.
Revolutionary Feminists (LRF), lesbian relationships began to suffer whereby
political lesbians was experienced as an insult (taboo) and an attack on lesbians
sexuality by women whose lesbian identities and relationship pre-dated
feminism. “Everything from butch/femme to s/m was labeled ‘male-identified’,
and lesbians who took part in such activities were pushed out of feminist space”.64
Wilton in that very same year attended Annual Lesbian Strength March in
London and she said that she was surprised to find that “politically right-on”
lesbian feminists handing out leaflets demanding that women in s/m gear or
wearing leather were excluded from the march, and from the party at the Lesbian
and Gay Centre where they march was to end up. Furthermore, there were
HIV/AIDS pandemic and some lesbians published some statements that
IHV/AIDS has nothing to do with lesbians. Some lesbians including Tamsin,
however made some academic researches about health risks involve in same-sex
relationship and they also provide educational material for the couples about safer
ways of having sex and injecting street drugs.
Wilton also gave description of lives of lesbians in the contemporary
world and that of in the 1970s and 1980s. She emphasizes that the meaning of
sexual identity has changed. The author points out that even though there is still a
lot of homophobia, popular youth culture regards homophobia as silly and uncool.
Furthermore there are images of girls snogging each other everywhere. But
according to Wilton this is not enough to say lesbians are free. This is because
there are troubling ethnic and class issues whereby for example: the “urban”
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, ed., Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies, p. 155.
music in corporate elements of serious homophobia especially “raga” music from
Jamaica. Therefore, Tamsin concludes that lesbian relationships from minority
ethnic communities are not so easy.
Wilton goes on to content that in TV shows nowadays lesbians characters
televised, for instance in soap opera Brookside and she observes that
obligatory for every soap opera to have at least one gay character and one or two
acknowledgement of sexual diversity. She said the young lesbians she met in
Britain are more relaxed and free and do not know how painful is it to hide one’s
sexual orientation in order to survive like lesbians in the past used to do. She goes
further to point out that those girls do not feel that having had sex with men in the
past and even the present era disqualifies them from being a ‘real’ lesbian.66
On the aspect of how today’s lesbians and those in the past years relate to
their bodies, Wilton singled out some differences. She indicated that the first time
she saw eyebrow-full of steel rings at Gay Pride in 1989 and she felt a bit
surprised. She observes that indeed nowadays piercings are routine on almost
everyone, how she pinpoints that she is one of the few exceptional.
Wilton also gives out some differences on the politics of lesbianism in the
UK and in the US. She indicates that since Britain is a monarch, there is no
written constitution and everything lies within Her Majesty’s discretion and not
people as citizens, therefore it is difficult to establish Lesbian and Gay rights. The
author points out the fact that European Union has been their salvation since they
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, ed., Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies, p. 156.
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, ed., Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies, p. 156.
had come up with human rights legislation which prohibits discrimination on the
grounds of sexual orientation.
Comparing US and UK on the representations on gays and lesbians,
Wilton says that the issue of lesbian visibility, it is the same in UK as in the US
since almost all films shown in cinemas in Britain are from Hollywood. However
she indicated that there are some independent bodies producing gay and lesbian’s
films in countries such as Australia, e.g. “Desperate Remedies” and “Priscilla”.
Other countries producing films include Europe, China, Iran and India.67
She pointed out that major difference lies in television networks. For
example, since Channel Four and BBC are independent commercial channels,
especially channel four, broadcast the first-ever weekly magazine program aimed
at lesbian and gay audience in 1989.
In conclusion, on the differences between lesbian life in the US and UK,
Wilton says that indeed there are differences as well as similarities. She says that
since Britain is geopolitically closer to countries like Sweden, Denmark, and
Holland, whose attitudes to sexuality are tolerant, cultured and sophisticated, the
welfare state is beneficial to British lesbians. She also emphasizes the fact that
Britain is far much smaller than US gives rise to the aspect that lesbians’ demands
for acceptance have to be based on philosophical and political arguments about
justice, fair play, and equality, rather than on economic power. Finally, she
alluded to the fact that attitudes towards sexual orientation seemed to change for
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, ed., Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies, p. 157.
the better quite dramatically with the demise of Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher’s Conservative administration.68
B. Review on Related Studies
Research about homosexuality in literary works has been widely discussed
by many scholars, especially by western scholars in the western fiction. To
mention some, the previous existing research related to lesbian literature is done
by Christine A. Jenkins entitled “Young Adult Novels with Gay/Lesbian
Characters and Themes 1969-92: A Historical Reading of Content, Gender, and
Narrative Distance”69. In this research she used sixty young adult novels as
samples from 1969 up to 1992 with gay/lesbian characters and themes. She
examined the historical trends within this group of sixty novels, its gender
representation and narrative distance. However, this research discussed only in
American young adult novels and within 1969-92 period of time. In this research
result, we only can see the representation of American gay/lesbian and in old
In this research, Jenkin successfully revealed about demographics of
Gay/Lesbian people based on their race, class, location, vocation, gender and
appearance, gay/lesbian teen characters, gay/lesbian adult characters, their
problems and pattern, and narrative distance and gender. She found from sixty
novels that most of gay/lesbian people are white and middle-class. Only three of
the sixty books portray African-American color gay/lesbian people. In addition, to
Seidman, Fisher&Meeks, ed., Handbook of the New Sexuality Studies, p. 162.
Jenkins Christine, Young Adult Novels with Gay/Lesbian Characters and Themes 1969-92: A
Historical Reading of Content, Gender, and Narrative Distance, (1993)
that gay/lesbian working-class of American women appear in two novels and
about British men working class in two novels. Most of novels take place within a
white, middle-class community, and in rural areas and small towns, urban and sub
urban location. Slightly over half of the young men characters are twenty-two
years old, slightly less than half men are eighteen years old and almost all of the
young women are nineteen years old.
The Indonesian research includes a study conducted by Ayu Abriyani
Kusuma Pertiwi entitled “Lesbianisme Dalam Novel (Studi Semiotika tentang
Makna Lesbianisme Dalam Novel Gerhana Kembar karya Clara Ng)”. This study
reveals that lesbians are like common people in general who have hopes and
dreams, feelings of being happy, disappointed and fear. They also feel the feeling
of guilt because they consider themselves break the natural destiny of human
being that God has predestined by being and living as lesbians. A research
conducted by Rizky Theodorus Johan entitled “Discovering the “Others”:
Contemporary Novels and Short Stories”70 becomes another related previous
research in this study. This research examines the homosexual’s (gay and lesbian)
identity representation in selected Indonesian novels and short stories the analysis
of characters, settings, and conflicts. It also addresses the dominant homosexual
image in each writings, the problems facing homosexuals in Indonesia, the
writings' transgression of the dominant heteronormative Indonesian society, and
the features of the contemporary Indonesian homosexual writings.
Rizki Theodorus Johan, The Asian Conference on Literature & Librarianship Official
Conference Proceedings 2011, (Osaka, Japan: LibrAsia, 2011)
However, this study discusses different topic. This study is carried out to
find new issues. This present study is to reveal the issues of lesbianism not only
in Indonesian stories but also English language stories. Since it is a comparative
study, it is done to find out the portrayal of lesbians in Indonesian and English
stories: the way they perceive their feeling, sexual orientation, and relationship,
the background for becoming a lesbian. The internal and external conflicts as well
as discriminations which are experienced by lesbians portrayed in the short stories
are presented as well, which are not discussed by the previous researchers. This
research is meant do some exciting and never-before-done work in Indonesian and
English language lesbian literature. Therefore, we can get some information of the
issues of lesbianism not only in the Indonesian language short stories but also in
the English language short stories. Moreover, the sample in this study uses the
recent lesbian literary work. The material objects of this study are short stories
published within 2000th in order to gain the recent condition and situation of
lesbian’s life and the issue of lesbianism in current period of time. Thus, these
research results are used as references in this study.
C. Theoretical Framework
Given that this study aims to analyze the portrayal of lesbians in
Indonesian and English language stories, Comparative Literature Approach is
used. It is used to analyze and examine the similarity and the diversity of the way
lesbians are portrayed in 30 selected Indonesian and English short stories. This
study applies Lesbian Criticism and Queer Theory. The Lesbian Criticism is
applied to examine the issue of lesbian and lesbianism as an identity, specifically,
from the way lesbians characters perceive and define their feelings, sexual desire
and relationship, as well as the reasons for becoming a lesbian. By applying Queer
Theory this study is meant to reveal the complexity and fluidity of sexuality
represented through the lesbian characters’ identity as lesbian, their conflicts and
discriminations experienced in their life.
PORTRAYAL OF LESBIANS IN INDONESIAN AND
ENGLISH LANGUAGE SHORT STORIES
“All creation is… a visible sign of the invisible divine presence…
All creation mediates and expresses something of the mystery of God to those who
can read the signs”
This chapter discusses how lesbians are portrayed in thirty selected
Indonesian and English language short stories in order to answer the following
question: What is exactly meant when one is a lesbian as portrayed in these
literary works? How do they perceive and define their feelings, sexual orientation
and relationship? And what are the cause factors or reasons for being a lesbian? In
this chapter, we can find the way lesbians are represented through their characters,
and the way they view their feelings, their desire or sexual orientation, and their
relationships to the same sex. This chapter also discusses the backgrounds which
made the woman characters choose to become a lesbian. At the same time, I am
going to present the similarities and the differences among the stories as well as
the depiction of the characters.
There have been many debates on whether being a lesbian is a “given”,
construction or even both of them. It has been debated for a long time if being a
lesbian is caused by environmental factors, such as broken home family,
upbringing, child molestation, traumatic experience and many others. It can also
be sometimes perceived as a hormonal factor which has inherited from relatives,
just like the way hair and skin color are inherited. It can also be out of pure love,
and as a matter of personal choice. As narrated by Kulkarni that the debate
generally constellates four positions: first, the essentialists argue that sexual
orientation and/or gender are innate, essential, and “eternal” features of an
individual identity. Second, the social constructionists argue that sexual
orientation and/ or gender are socially and historically constructed. Third, the
interactionists/synthesizers argue for a concept of identity that bridges
postmodernists/poststructuralists generally argue against the concept of identity
altogether. Although some postmodernists/poststructuralists are attempting to
develop new ways of thinking about it and have begun theorizing on the concept
of lesbian identity.71
A. The Ways Lesbians Perceive Their Feeling, Sexual Orientation and
This part discusses how lesbian characters in the short stories of focus
view themselves and how they define their feelings, sexual orientation and
relationships. There are four points of views found in the Indonesian and English
language short stories under study. Lesbians view and define their feelings, sexual
orientation and relationships as (1) something which has been predestined, (2)
something natural, normal, that cannot be changed, hence not a mistake, (3)
forbidden love and sin, and (4) being someone different.
Claudette Kulkarni, Lesbian and Lesbianism. A Post-Jungian Perspective. (London and
Newyork: Routledge, 2002), pp. 68-69.
1. Becoming a Lesbian as Something Predestined
One representative of defining a lesbian as something predestined is found
in the Indonesian language short story entitled “Putus”. This short story strongly
implies and explores, that sexual orientation is something that God has ordained
and thus it cannot be changed. Being a lesbian is viewed as a permanent sexual
orientation. In the Indonesian language short story the word “takdir” or “nasib”
(destiny) is often used to describe a situation which has religious meaning. As
illustrated in “Putus” by NV, a teenage lesbian, Sarah is portrayed as someone
who considers that being a lesbian is something that has been predestined by God
or that is inborn. She believes that she has been born to be that way. She uses this
argument when she tries to defend herself to her brother:
"Brother, you do not be petty. God did not create something for
being contradicted. No one would wish to be born end up like me. If
I undergo what God has outlined where lies the fault in it?"
There is a deeper reason why the lesbian character in this story considers
that to become a lesbian is something predestined. The concept of predestination
is an issue in the Indonesian language short story which also contains elements of
religious faith. Predestination is the belief that people have no control over events
because these things are controlled by God or fate.73 Predestination is the theory
or belief that everything that happens has been decided in advance by God and
“Mas, kamu jangan picik. Tuhan tidak menciptakan sesuatu untuk dikontradiksikan. Tidak ada
yang berharap dilahirkan bernasib seperti aku. Jika aku menjalani apa yang telah Tuhan gariskan
dimana letak kesalahannya?”
Cambridge Advantage Learner’s Dictionary, 3th ed.
that humans cannot change it. 74 This predistination belief is clearly portrayed in
“Putus” through Sarah characterization. She argues that she has become a lesbian
because it is part of God’s Predestination.
In other words, becoming a lesbian is not a mistaken action because she
was born as a lesbian exactly the way God has predestinated her to be. But this
story also offers different view in contrast to religous doctrine in general, that is
strongly against homosexuality. This story seems to declare that becoming a
lesbian is not only simply predestination from God. Thus, since it is part of
destiny it means that Sarah is right and what she does is not a sin.
As such, this story is strongly related to religious values especially that of
Islam, since the main lesbian character Sarah is a Moslem. Sarah defines her
feelings and sexual desire as her fate. The way she defines it can be understood
as religious belief. Since one of last 6 pillars of faith (Rukun Iman) in Islam is
Belief in the Divine Decree either be it good or bad, after (1) Belief in God (2)
Belief in Scriptures (3) Belief in Angels (4) Belief in Prophets, and (5) Belief in
Life after Death. Through its lesbian character, this story tries to criticize society
and Islam to prove that becoming a lesbian is not something negative. They do
this in order to show those who normally judge homosexual people, as a sinner
who will end up in hell. Since as a Moslem, she only does what God has
predestined to her; therefore, it is not her fault. She has no control over the
matter that she has been predestined to be born as a lesbian.
A S Hornby, Oxpord Advance Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, 5th Ed, (Oxpord
Newyork: Oxpord University Press, 1995), p. 908.
In “Rahasia Bulan” by Clara Ng, the same term predestination or “takdir"
in the Indonesian language short story is also found. They view their desire for
the same sex as predestination. Diana has been married with her husband for
seven years and has a kid. She later falls in love with a woman named Estella and
have been together for five years. She mentions that predestination which causes
them to fall in love and commits to this same sex relationship. “Heat waves
crashing, intertwining, forcing the two women had to surrender to the call.
Destiny drags them”. (RB, 37)75 This story tries to deliver that emotional and
sexual desire between human whether it is the same or the opposite sex is part of
2. Becoming a Lesbian as Natural, Normal, Unchangeable and Not a
For many years in many countries, there has been a periode where
homosexual people are considered abnormal and mentally disturbed as well as in
Indonesia. The spirit of lesbians’ struggle to be considered normal appear in
several Indonesian language short stories; “Putus”, “Saga”, and “Sebilah Pisau
Roti”. The issue of being a lesbian is viewed as something natural and normal,
thus it cannot be changed. It is found that the lesbian is portrayed as someone who
does not regard herself as abnormal or suffers from mental illness because of her
homosexual desire and practice. Lesbians do not want to be considered as people
who suffer mental illness because of their homosexual desire and practice. They
consider the feelings of love and desire to the same sex as natural, unlike the
“Gelombang panas menerjang, pilin-memilin, membuat dua perempuan harus menyerah kepada
panggilan itu. Takdir menyeret mereka.”
majority of straight people which in fact view this type of relationship as a
mistake, abnormal and immoral. In society they are considered as social illness or
problem (penyakit masyarakat) which against the norms of society in Indonesia.
Thus, they do not want to be considered as abnormal people because of their love
for the same sex. They do not want to be judged as a sinner because to them it is
pure love. The issue in these short stories is clearly proclaimed as reaction toward
society in life who tends to consider lesbian as abnormal because of their sexual
orientation. As it is depicted in a dialogue “Putus” story, between Lesbian
character Sarah and her brother:
“Mom and Dad do hope you become normal”.
"Do not press me by convicting me abnormal, brother.
I'm not ill. I just fell in love with Eva. I never hurt Eva as it is
done by a man to his girlfriend. I use my body to protect her.
Which mentally ill person could do that? Think about it, Bro!”
Sarah said while pointing her head. “But, you remain wrong. It is
a mistake before public, little sister” (P, 130)76
In “Sebilah Pisau Roti” by Cok Sawitri a lesbian character named Dewi
(the lesbian main character’s friend) views her romantic feeling and sexual desires
for her girlfriend’s as a natural way of life. Dewi does not want to spend her time
busy defining her sexual orientation and relationship as normal or abnormal thing.
As she narrated in the quotation below:
“Ayah dan ibu sangat mengharapkan kamu normal.
“Jangan tekan aku dengan memvonis aku abnormal, Mas.
Aku tidak sakit. Aku hanya jatuh cinta dengan Eva. Aku tidak pernah menyakitinya seperti yang
dilakukan seorang laki-laki kepada pacarnya. Aku memakai tubuh ku untuk menjaga dia. Orang
sakit jiwa mana yang bisa melakukan itu? Pikir Mas!” Sarah menunjuk kepalanya
“Di mata khalayak kamu tetap salah, Dek.”
Because we are open, honest and consider such feelings are
natural. Even if sexual contacts between us happen, what can we
avoid? It’s an instinct, Sis!” 77 (SPR, 95)
Through this story, still through characterization of Dewi, the author tries to
criticize the lesbians who feel that having homosexual desire is a normal or
abnormal matter. In other words she wants to say: ‘stop feeling being normal and
abnormal because you love the same sex. That having homosexual desire is a fact
and it is natural. And she strengthens her argument by comparing the
heterosexuals to people who come to prostitution house to do sex everyday and
betraying their spouses, husband or wife which is considered normal only because
they do it to the opposite sex:
Mold in your heart a civilization with new values, for this is fact.
It is human. Why should feel normal or abnormal. Could cheating,
going to harlotry or having sex every day freely everyday be
considered normal because it is done in such a hetero (sexual)
way? (SPR, 95)78
In two Indonesian language short stories, “Putus” and “Saga”, portray
lesbian as one who cannot change her sexual orientation, although she has been
placed in Islamic Boarding Schools for years to help her change her mind. Her
parents intentionally put their daughter in religious school for fear that her sexual
orientation may be considered as ill and perverted behavior. Therefore, she must
be “cured” with strong religion and religious therapy. “His younger sister attends
Karena kami terbuka, jujur, dan menganggap perasaan seperti itu wajar saja. Bahkan kalau
pun terjadi hubungan seks di antara kami, apa yang bisa kami hindari? Ini naluri, Mbak!”
Buatlah di hati mu peradaban dengan nilai baru karena ini kenyataan. Manusiawi. Untuk apa
jadi merasa normal atau tidak normal. Apa yang selingkuh, ke rumah border atau ngeseks setiap
hari dengan bebas itu jadi normal karena dilakukan secara hetero?
school in another city, in an institution that is hoped by parents can change Sarah,
more precisely to cure her.79 (P, 122). As time goes on, after spending time in the
religious school, it is successful in changing Sarah’s appearance. Especially the
way she dresses, which becomes more religious. She also gains a better
understanding on Islam, becoming more educated than her father. However, in
terms of changing her sexual orientation or desire, she still fails as described as
“Sarah wanted to be given an opportunity to talk about herself.
She wanted to say from many changes of herself, one thing
remains the same. She remains a lesbian who does not need to be
healed.” (P, 127)80
The concept that sexual orientation cannot be changed is also an issue
briefly portrayed in “Saga” by Shantined. Different from the previous story in
“Putus” where lesbian character cannot change her sexual orientation even though
she has been put in a religious institution, “Saga” portrays a different case. Here,
the main character—who actually is a lesbian since the beginning—has to get
married with a man even though she has no feelings, neither love nor sexual
desire towards a man. By marrying the man, she hides her sexual orientation from
her parents and family. In order to make them think that she has changed into a
“normal” person—she likes and loves man, although it is a lied, as depicted in the
...when my love relationship to Lorena was caught by my parents.
And necessarily was I the number one prisoner in my hometown. I
… adiknya bersekolah di kota lain, di sebuah lembaga yang diharapkan kedua orang tuanya
bisa mengubah Sarah. Lebih tepatnya menyembuhkannya
Sarah ingin diberi kesempatan berbicara tentang dirinya. Ia ingin mengatakan bahwa dari
sekian banyak perubahan ada satu yang tetap kukuh. Dia tetaplah seorang lesbian, bukan
pesakitan yg perlu disembuhkan
then was secluded, not allowed to meet Lorena. How hurt my
feeling was that time. And the pain was almost faded when I knew
man by man stopping by for me. I actually dully felt for them. But
in order to maintain my reputation in front of parents and
relatives, I pretended as a normal woman, who adores men, even
though my heart is tied only to Lorena, ... Until Erald, the richest
and the most modern handsome widower in my village; softly
forced to propose me. I just gave in. (S, 85)81
The quotation above shows that there is a moment where the main
character has to give up to the social expectation and family pressure when it
comes to marriage demand in life. Even though, this action totally is opposite to
her personal will and sexual orientation. Thus, she actually uses it to hide her true
sexual identity. This main character finally agrees to marry a rich widower and
lives in an unhappy married life for 10 years. However, an interesting issue is
pursued in this short story. After ten years living in her unhappy married life, one
day she meets a woman named Aini. Soon, they fall in love and unite in romantic
relationship. “I feel ‘back home’ when I knew her a month ago. And I feel more at
home when we agreed to live our days together in the bonds of affection.” (S,
In this short story, the lesbian character clearly describes her feelings
openly. She gets her happiness back by fulfilling her desire for a woman,
something which she repressed for 10 years. “My happiness is erupting again, as
“… ketika hubungan cinta ku pada Lorena ketahuan oleh orangtua. Dan serta merta jadi
pesakitan nomor satu di kampung ku. Aku lalu dipingit, tak diperbolehkan bertemu dengan
Lorena. Betapa sakit perasaan ku saat itu. Dan sakit itu hampir pudar ketika ku kenal lelaki demi
lelaki yang singgah menghampiri ku. Aku hampa rasa pada mereka sebenarnya. Tapi demi
menjaga reputasi di depan orang tua dan sanak keluarga, aku tampil seolah perempuan normal,
yang memuja lelaki, meski hati ku tertambat hanya pada Lorena,… Hingga Erald, duda ganteng
paling parlente dan modern di kampung ku secara setengah memaksa meminang ku. Aku
Aku merasa “pulang” ketika mengenalnya sebulan yang lalu. Dan merasa semakin pulang
ketika kami sepakat menjalani hari-hari kami bersama dalam ikatan kasih sayang.
well as the sense of freedom, free from any press of sorrow.” (S, 81)83 She finally
feels that she has found her real own world again. In other words, for 10 years,
she feels wounded and absolutely unhappy to life in her heterosexual marriage,
because she becomes someone else. As she narrates below:
There is a sense of independence in my heart. After so long
being shackled by Erald ... Saga, the world of my story, now
the wanderer again eventually. For the sake of a wounded soul.
The same situation is also experienced by lesbian character in an English story
entitled “Serious” by Lorenza Marteli:
Now, sitting across from me was a beautiful woman, a real,
honest to God, beautiful WASP of a woman. Blond hair, blue
eyes, champagne glass tits, round ass, gorgeous lips. And after
years in the desert, years away from an oasis, I just had to
proposition her. Now, I am not the prepositions type. But,
fortunately, sometimes, the groin rules over the head. (S, 109)
The expression “after years in the desert, years away from an oasis”
reveals that this lesbian character does not live her own life nor to become who
truly she is. Everyday, for many years, she lives behind a mask, pretends to be
somebody else, and to feel “okay” with that. But, it is only a lied. She has to live
by hiding the truth that she loves women, that she needs a woman emotionally and
The short stories above clearly address the issue that sexual orientation
cannot be changed. It can be seen through the lesbian characters in “Putus”,
“Saga” and “Serious”. From these short stories, it can be concluded that lesbian
Meletup lagi rasa bahagia ku, sekaligus perasaan merdeka, terbebas dari segala impitan duka.
“…Ada rasa merdeka dihati ku. Setelah sekian lama dibelenggu oleh Erald… Saga, dunia kisah
ku, kini kembara lagi akhirnya. Demi jiwa ku yang luka.
sexual repression, which is curtailed by religious doctrine and marriage bond, is
unable to change one's sexual orientation. Forcing lesbians to marry with a man is
not going to change their sexual orientation. Perhaps marriage or religious
doctrine is capable of repressing lesbians’ feelings or sexual desire toward the
same sex for a certain period of time. But, it is not successful at removing,
eliminating, or changing lesbians into heterosexuals.
The concept of sexual orientation as something natural and issue which is
unable to be changed in the short stories above is not in line with one of the Queer
theorists, Judith Butler. Butler sees gender and sexuality as something that is
never essential, always unfixed, not innate, and never natural. She says that it is
constructed through performativity – as a “stylized repetition of acts”.85 As
portrayed in the short stories earlier, the way lesbian views their sexual orientation
gives another idea that sexual orientation is part of human life which comes
naturally, essential and basic thing that unable to be changed. Through the lesbian
characters, the author tries to challenge the concept set by queer theorists who
question the traditional belief of sexual construction that sexuality is a given,
natural, essential, immutable, fix, and permanent. Queer is a criticism whether
sexual orientation is natural or essential to person. However, both Indonesian and
English language story promote the same traditional concept of sexuality as
natural and immutable. Therefore, no matter how hard people try to ‘cure’ the
lesbian characters in order to change their sexual orientation into heterosexual,
either through religious doctrine or marriage bond, it will not be successful.
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, (London: Routledge, 1990), p. 141.
3. Being a Lesbian is Viewed as Forbidden Love (Cinta Terlarang) and
Some Indonesian language short stories portray that the lesbian characters
view of being a lesbian as a sin and forbidden love (cinta terlarang). Being
homosexual is considered as a sin because of religious doctrine; thus, religion is
against homosexuality in general. From the beginning of human creation by God,
Adam and Eve, the only blessed love and sexual relation is the one between a man
and a woman, as husband and wife. In “Menggapai Langit Ke Tujuh” by
EsthaVadose, the lesbian character honestly acknowledges her feelings, sexual
orientation and relationship with her partner as her sins (dosa-dosaku). “My big lie
to my mother will probably never be paid by me, but I hope God still hear all
prayers and forgiveness requests for my sins this far”. (MLKT, 111)86
The same depiction is also found in “Hari Ini Esok dan Kemarin” by
Maggie Tiojakin, where the lesbian character mentions her sexual desire and
sexual intercourse with her lover as a sin. “I am staring the wall of the motel
where I and she had often left those sin paths. Narrow. Unsightly”. (HIEK, 37)87
As narrated in the story this lesbian couple normally meets secretively. They
usually travel somewhere and spend time together in a motel. They have to hide
their relationship because the narrator has a husband.
The lesbian character in “Mengapai Langit Ke Tujuh” explains that her
homosexual relationship is considered as forbidden love relationship. “Marion is
‘Kebohongan ku yang besar pada ibu ku mungkin tidak akan pernah terbayarkan oleh ku,
namun aku berharap Tuhan masih mendengar segala do’a dan permohonan ampunan untuk dosadosaku selama ini.
“Ku pandangi kamar motel di mana aku dan dia telah sering meninggalkan jejak dosa. Sempit.
Tak sedap dipandang”.
the one knowing every detail of Kirana’s life story and her love journey of that has
been deemed forbidden, illegal, unblessed”. (MLK-7, 111)88 The same issue is
also portrayed in “Bukan Hari Kemarin” by Nisrina Lubis. A lesbian couple, a
street musician woman, named Tia and the narrator who works as an office staff in
one of companies unexpectedly is engaged in relationship. They meet every night
in the bus on the way home from office. They get down from the bus together and
Tia always accompanies the narrator walking up to reaching her home, either
walking behind or beside her, often without saying a word during the walk.
However, one night when the narrator reaches her home, doubtfully the narrator
openes her fence and Tia also follows her to get into the house. In that night, they
introduce each other and talk a lot. Since that night, the street musician woman
always stops in the narrator home before she goes home and always lands her kiss
on her cheek or sometimes on her lips.
“Ohh…I need to talk to Tia privately. I consider my relationship
with her is not a common friendship. Don’t we always have
mutual desire to always meet each other? She always looks into
my eyes romantically, the ways which are different to the way she
looks at Gito or other people. And the kisses which she sometimes
does on my lips. Also some intimacies which almost lead us into
the wave of a forbidden romance... Oh, I want to ask for clarity.
The issue of considering the same sex love as “forbiden love” relationship
because of the fact that this kind of love relationship and sexual intercouse is
‘Marionlah yang selama ini mengetahui tiap detail kisah hidup dan perjalanan cinta Kirana
yang selama ini dianggap terlarang
“Aku ingin bicara empat mata dengannya. Selama ini aku mengangap hubungan ku dengan Tia
bukan sekedar pertemanan biasa. Bukankah kami sama-sama punya keinginan untuk selalu
bertemu walau tidak janjian terlebih dahulu? Tia selalu menatap ku dengan hangat. Bukankah dia
berbeda cara saat menatap Gito dan orang lain? Juga dengan ciuman yang sesekali mendarat di
bibir ku? Juga beberapa keintiman yang hampir membuat kami nyaris terhanyut dalam percintaan
terlarang…Oh, aku ingin meminta kejelasan”.
forbidden by religion, are not supported by family, not accepted by society, by
culture, by law and by the state. Above all it does not belong to a heterosexual
relationship. Those lesbian characters actually know and realize what they are
doing is wrong and sinful, but they just cannot fight for their feelings and desire.
They know this act is forbidden. Consequently, they perceive their relationship as
forbidden love relationship (cinta terlarang) and consider it as a sin.
4. Being a Lesbian is Being Different
In the two English language short stories, “The Woman Pool” and
“Memory Puzzled”, lesbian characters view themselves as someone who is
different ones. They feel different to others because of their feeling and desire
towards the same sex. It is different because they realize that their sexual
orientation is different from people in common. Feeling that lesbian makes one
different is first reflected in the short story entitled “The Women’s Pool” by
Beatriz Capello. This story tells about a 17 year old teenage girl who falls in love
with an older woman whose age is 45 years old. This teenage lesbian is depicted
as not having a good social relationship, because she has no friends. She does not
have friends because she knows she is different. Her being different because she is
the same sex lover and she thinks others will never be able to understand her
because of this matter. She states openly about her differences in the quotation
To the beach with my friends.” I have no friends. They
wouldn't understand me. I'm different.
What is it about her that makes me love her the way I
do? Infatuation! Yes, mother would say infatuation. I asked
her how it feels to be in love.
“At your age infatuations are common.”
“Don't get pregnant, whatever you do.”
“Love! Real love was what I felt for your father.”
“One day you'll meet a nice boy and you'll love him
as I loved your father!”
What a lot of shit. Sad news, mother…I'm different. You
know I like women. (TWP, 23)
In this story the main character describes herself as being “different”. She
says that she does not have friends because they will not understand she is
different. She likes woman. It shows that the character wants some friends with
other women at the pool, but she is certain that they will not understand her sexual
orientation. She is different because she does not like man, she likes woman.
Different to the case above, in “Memory Puzzles” by Anne Azel, the
lesbian character has already felt and realized that she is different since she was a
kid, of 8 years old. “I was not un happy, just confused and different from other
kids.” (MP, 79) This depiction reflects that even though this lesbian character
knows that she is different from others, she deals with it. She feels confused with
her feelings especially, because at that time she is just a kid. Perhaps she is not
able to figure out her feeling. She realizes she is different from others because her
feeling toward the same sex. Nevertheless, according to the story, her feeling of
lesbian has been there since childhood.
In conclusion, I find that in Indonesian language short stories, lesbian
characters perceive their feeling and sexual orientation as destiny, as something
natural, normal, unable to be changed; hence, it is not a mistake. They also view
their relationship as a sin and forbidden love. In contrast to Indonesian language
short stories, the lesbian characters in English language short stories do not
perceive their feeling and sexual orientation like the way lesbians perceive their
feeling in Indonesian language short stories. They feel they are different because
they have homosexual desire which do not belong to the common sexual
orientation and practice. The issue in English language short stories is not viewing
sexual orientation, feeling to the same sex and relationship as a given or destiny,
something natural, normal, unable to be changed, hence it is not a mistake and as
forbidden love as well as sin. In Indonesian language short stories, it is clear that
the concepts of homosexual desire and relationship are framed in religious
doctrine influences, whereas in English language short stories such concept does
not even exist.
B. The Root of Herstory in Becoming a Lesbian
This part discusses the backgrounds for becoming a lesbian based on the
stories that I discuss. I look at the reasons or the causes which make woman
become a lesbian. Becoming a lesbian may include one of these factors: (1)
personal choice, (2) spontaneous or accidental feelings, (3) a result of long term
interaction with another woman (a close friend turns a lover), (4) an early
exposure to homosexual and environmental factors, (5) experiencing or exploring
new sexual practices, and (6) unhappy and inharmonious marriage life.
1. Becoming a Lesbian as a Choice
In four Indonesian language short stories, a choice is the background for
the characters to become lesbians. These short stories clearly imply that being a
lesbian is matter of personal choice, a conscious and free choice. We can find
through these examples how lesbians reflect her feelings and sexual orientation as
a choice. In other words, they choose their sexual orientation. However, it can be
interpreted that they actually feel and realize that they have homosexual desire
naturally and then they choose to respond or follow their desire. The homosexual
desire which arises naturally to those lesbians can be associated with a given or
destiny as has been discussed at the beginning of this chapter. Yet, in terms of
whether they want to answer this homosexual desire and to live that way, it is a
matter of choice. In other words, even though naturally they have homosexual
desire, when they decide not to respond and follow it then they can life not as
homosexual. Therefore, between destiny and choice might not be seen as two
different things. The homosexual desire which arises in someone’s heart can be
understood as destiny, but to accept or to repress it into act or lifestyle is part of
In “Bilik Religious” by Lez Moslem, the lesbian character, Dila has to
end up staying in a religious institution after her parents found the truth about
their daughter’s sexual orientation. They found her diary revealing their
daughter’s relationship with her lover. Since that day the family who used to live
in harmony becomes cold toward each other. Consequently, Dila has to be
quarantined in a religious institution to get religious therapy which her parents
believe can change Dila’s choice about her life to live as homosexual. The
quotation below shows that for Dila being a lesbian is part of her life choice:
Previously, she was already shufted with religious sermons to
change her life choices. … But her desire to be with the woman
she loved has trample feet on a choice, the choice that has led her
into a religious quarantine chamber where now she had been
staying for a month. (BR, 32-33)90
The religious institution depicted in the story in which by Dila herself calls it as
Bilik Religious (Religious Chamber) inclusive of teaching actually cannot change
someone’s personal choice, especially in regard to sexual orientation. “Dila
inwardly thinking, religious throngs are incapable to change the choice of four
teenagers”.91 (BR, 41) The four teenagers Dila means here are her and her lover as
well as a gay couple whom she meets in that religious institution.
In “Menggapai Langit Ke-7” by Estha Vadose, Kirana, the lesbian
character also states that being a lesbian is her personal choice, part of her life
choices. Thus, she is ready to face any consequences of the choice she has made
for her life.
”This time let me sacrifice the feeling of my heart for my mother’s
good. I will consider this burden, which will remain there in my
heart and life as the consequence of the life choice I made... this is
the way of life I choose and I have to be resposible for this”.
This same issue is also portrayed in “Sebilah Pisau Roti”. The lesbian character
would like to make her friend view her feelings as normal. She wants her friend
to be honest to herself that indeed she is a lesbian. She has to be brave to make
choices about her desires. She convinces her friend that being a lesbian is part of
Sebelumnya, ia sudah dijejali kotbah reliji untuk mengubah pilihan hidupnya. … Namun
keinginannya untuk terus bersama perempuan yang dikasihinya telah memijakkan kakinya pada
sebuah pilihan; pilihannya itu telah menuntunnya memasuki sebuah bilik karantina relijius, yang
kini sudah ia diami selama satu bulan.
Dalam hatinya Dila berfikir, jejalan reliji tak mampu mengubah pilihan empat orang remaja
yang terlahir sebagai manusia bisa.
Biarkan kali ini aku yang berkorban perasaan demi kebaikan ibu ku. Beban yang akan selalu ada
di benak dan hidup ku ini aku anggap sebagai konsekuensi dari pilihan hidup yang aku buat… Ini
jalan hidup yang aku pilih
one’s personal choice. Thus, she does not need to think it as a normal or an
abnormal action; it is all the matter of a choice. “Do you think those who are gay
and lesbian odd? No, not at all! We are the one who are odd, you know! Are they
wrong? No? Because being homosexual is a matter of a choice!”. (SPR, 95)93
Different to the previous short stories, in “Bunga Sakura di Hati Nia” by
Sakura, the lesbian is portrayed as someone who experiences a traumatic
experience with men. First traumatic is the fact that she has irresponsible father
and her own experience with her x-boyfriend. Nia who is now working in Japan
never meets her father. The only story she knows about her father is that he leaves
her mother and moves to Japan after her mother get pregnant. The facts about her
father and her own bitter experience with her x-boyfriend cause traumatic feelings
in her life. She does not want to open her heart or have any romantic relationships,
either with men or women. Because of her traumatic experience it is difficult for
her to trust anybody, including her own close friend who truly loves her, An.
Actually she also has feeling toward her. But, she always rejects her. “She wants
to protect you, Nia. Your trauma will not end except you are the one end it!”
Then, at the end of the story, she realizes that she loves An. She tries to
be honest to herself about her feelings. She makes decision to be in relationship
with An. Then she chooses to be with her to the rest of her life.
Apa kamu pikir mereka yang jadi gay, jadi lesbian aneh? Tidak! Kita saja yang aneh! Mereka
salah? Tidak! Ini persoalan pilihan!
“Dia ingin menjaga mu Nia. Trauma mu tidak akan pernah berakhir kecuali kamu sendiri yang
“Tomorrow, I will start my new life with you An. I know the risks
I have to be responsible for choosing her as my partner in life.
Mom might be extremely shocked, probably. But, I’ll hide this
secret. Because, sometimes the forcing truth brings no good.
Forgive me, Mom! I can fool others but I can’t fool my self
anymore about my feelings. Love is a choice and a choice is a risk
in life. (BSDHN, 87)95
This story pursues an issue of having traumatic experience with a man and
choice can be understood as one package. Because of a traumatic experience
with men, a woman can choose to become a lesbian and to live that way. Being a
lesbian as a matter of personal choice is depicted clearly in these stories. I found
this issue in the Indonesian language short stories but not in English language
stories. It is my understanding that the Indonesian literature would like to voice
that love and sexual orientation is part of one’s life personal choice. In the
context of Indonesian language short stories, lesbians are expected to repress or
ignore their sexual orientation. The lesbian characters in the short stories that I
have analyzed consciously choose not to repress their homosexual desires, but to
follow it. As it is their choice, it is absolutely followed by consequences. Some
consequences are sweet and others are bitter ones. However, they are ready for
the consequences. Therefore, lesbians demand to be accepted by the society and
to be be given a place around them as who they are.
However, since being a lesbian is part of choices that are made in life,
lesbians should be fair in this case. It is understood that lesbians who
Besok akan ku jalani hidup baru bersama mu An. Aku tahu resiko apa yang harus ku tanggung
jika memilih An sebagai pasangan hidup ku. Mungkin ibu akan syok berat. Tapi aku akan
menyimpan rahasia ini. Karena kadang kejujuran tidak membawa kebaikan, jika dipaksakan. Ibu
maafkan aku. Karena memang hati ku tak bisa di bohongi. Aku tak bisa menghianati perasaan ku
sendiri. Cinta itu adalah pilihan dan pilihan adalah resiko dalam hidup.
spontaneously feel homosexual desire, have freedom to choose whether they
want to ignore or repress their homosexual desire and tries to avoid doing
homoerotic act or they want accept it and to live this way. In my opinion, when it
comes to social environment in which lesbians demand to be accepted, society
also has the freedom to choose whether they want to accept or decline the
existence of lesbians in their environment, since, again it is all the matter of a
choice, which everybody has right to maintain a position.
2. Becoming a Lesbian Purely because of Spontaneous or Accidental
In the two English language short stories, “Serious” and “The Eyes of
March” by A.K.Naten, the process of becoming a lesbian is portrayed as
accidently happening. The lesbian characters explain being a lesbian is purely
because of feelings which arise naturally, innocently and happen without any clear
reason or being planned. It just happens spontaneously. The desire toward the
same sex they illustrates purely because of feelings.
But then, well, it happened rather accidentally. (S, 108)
Hell, I hadn’t planned to get involved with her in the first
place. None of it had been planned… It just happened.
It had started out innocently, really. (TEOM, 65)
However, unlike the English language short stories, in “Bukan Hari
Kemarin”, the lesbian character meets a street musician on a bus on her way home
after work. At the beginning she thinks that the street musician is a man, but in
fact she is a woman. She is surprised when she sees her singing beautifully, a
woman street musician with beautiful and soft voice. This moment where the first
time they see each others is captured as follows:
I rose my head to see his face. I was surprised; oh, he is not a
man! Coincidentally her eyes found mine. Her slight smile
made my heart rustling. I avert her eyes. (BHK, 45)96
When their eyes meet as narrated in the story, she feels her heart beat in a
different way. And the same feeling rises again when she gives the money, Rp.
5000, to her after she finishes singing. This is a big amount of money for a bus
street musician who is usually only given coins or Rp. 1000 (this story is
published in 2008). Once again, their eyes meet which makes her heart beat fast
“That what I put inside their can. Those singers were shocked
and tend to return the money I gave, but I quickly shake my
head. The guitar player then sent a smile. Why did my heart beat
faster? Moreover we got out of the bus together”. (BHK, 45)97
In “Lesbi” by Tommy F. Awuy, Gesty, the lesbian character explains to
her parents about how she becomes a person whose emotional and sexual
tendency is to the same sex. She tries to explain to her parents who are seriously
shocked when Gesty discloses the truth about herself. She tells her secret because
of her parents’ pressure, especially her father’s. Her parents always corner her to
marry a man. She explains that she gets the feeling of love for the same sex
without any influences. She is unaware of how this feeling has grown in her. She
“Ku angkat kepala dan hendak melihat wajahnya. Aku terheran; oh, dia bukan seorang lakilaki! Kebetulan pandangannya bertemu dengan ku. Senyumannya terulas membuat jantung ku
berdesir. Aku membuang muka.
“Itu lah yang ku masukkan dalam gelasnya. Pengamen itu terkejut dan bermaksud
mengembalikan uang ku, tapi cepat-cepat ku gelengkan kepala. Si pemain gitar kembali
melemparkan senyuman. Kenapa lagi-lagi jantung berdebar? Apalagi kemudian mereka turun
bersama dengan ku”.97
does not know what the causes are. The only thing she knows that suddenly she
falls in love with another woman.
“Please forgive me, Mom, Dad! You must be disappointed,”
Gesty broke the silence with her low voice. “This fact is not
artificial. There is no influence from anyone else. I just falls in
love with same sex spontaneously.” (SepociKopi.Com)98
The same issue is also portrayed in “Putus” by NV. The lesbian character
explains to her brother that she becomes a lesbian because she just falls in love
with Eva. There is no other explanation. The narrator states she feels comfortable
with Eva. She feels that she becomes herself with this woman, not someone else.
She is purely falling in love. Meanwhile in “Ketika Langit Senja” by Alvi A.H,
the lesbian character reveals that having feeling toward the same sex is not merely
because of bad or traumatic love experience with a man. She explains that the
feeling she has with her female friend is just flowing naturally and purely
innocent. She argues that it is not because she has just broken up with her
boyfriend who betrays her.
Neither a feeling grown to release me from my pain while at
the same time I was betrayed by man had I loved. The feeling
was just flowing, sincere and pure. (KLS, 103)99
Through its lesbian character, this story shows that someone who becomes a
lesbian is not because of her traumatic experience with man. This story tries to
reshape the negative stigma of society in which they usually judge that being a
lesbian is negative because it is caused by traumatic experience with man.
“Maafkan Gesty. Papa dan Mama pasti sangat kecewa,” Gesty memecah keheningan dengan
suara rendah sekali. “Kenyataan ini tidak Gesty buat-buat. Tidak ada pengaruh dari siapa-siapa
Tahu-tahu saja Gesty jatuh cinta pada sejenis.” (SepociKopi.com, Lesbi)
Juga bukan perasaan yang tumbuh sebagai pelampiasan ketika di saat yang sama aku
dikhianati oleh laki-laki yang sangat ku cintai. Perasaan itu mengalir begitu saja, tulus dan suci.
Different to other stories discussed above, “Lari” by Nuage shows that
the lesbian character does not know how she could ever be a same sex lover. She
is not able to explain the reason. The only thing she knows that she starts having
feelings that lead to sexual desire since her first infatuation. She is attracted to
women, especially the one who is older than her.
“About how I become a same sex lover, I no need to explain it
anymore, I don’t even know. I don’t remember at all. What I
understand is that since I started to feel lustful, my object was
women and also emotionally attracted to them, especially an
older woman”. (LR, 180)100
The same condition of loving older women is portrayed in “The Women
Pool” by Beatriz Copello. A forty five years old mature woman and seventeen
years old young girl fall in love with each other. This seventeen year old young
girl expresses that she likes older woman. She admires an old woman in the pool
who she sees almost every day. While another old woman character in the pool,
whose age is 45, actually also admires that 17 year old young girl like her. This 45
years old woman is portrayed as someone who has all her life needs meet. She is
well off but empty inside because she does not have partner. “I’m fed up with the
monotony of my hand’s well-rehearsed movements! A successful life. A
successful carrier. A fat account in the bank. Good clothes. A good car. The opera.
The theatre. Lots of friends.” (TWP, 25)
The interesting issue in these two stories is the portrayal of the emotional
and sexual tendency of a young lesbian toward an older woman. Here, the same
case in heterosexual relationship where a young woman admires and trusts her life
Tentang bagaimana aku menjadi pecinta sesama perempuan, tidak perlu diceritakan lagi, aku
juga tidak tahu. Aku tidak ingat lagi. Yang ku tahu sejak aku mulai merasa birahi dan bisa
merasakan ketertarikan secara emosional juga, objek ku perempuan. Khususnya perempuan yang
to a more mature man, who is usually older than her. These attractions among
heterosexual women are especially to wise mature men who are emotionally and
financially stable. As it is openly narrated in “Lari”:
"I like older women who understand well about what they want.
I like smart and wise women who can lead and spoil me. I find
that women reach their top of enchantment when they were forty
years old. They know more. They experience everything. They
are succesful, mature. They are patient, leading, and they
understand what is best even for me. That’s what I need in life.
Their maturity, protection, and affection, make them look
sexy in my eyes. I don’t need teenager love which are whine and
artificial. Those are boring and waste my time”. (LR, 181)101
In the quotation above, the young lesbian character has a mature partner.
She is forty. She is portrayed as someone smart, psychologically and financially
stable, who can provide security for her lover. She is a lecturer in the SocioPolitics Faculty in one of university in Indonesia, while her young partner is one
of her students. They are living in France now. The older partner gets a
scholarship for her doctoral program in one of university in France.
The uniqueness in this story is the background of their meeting. Unlike
other stories in which the partners are first friends, or accidently meeting
somewhere and fall in love at the first sight, or run away from an unhappy
marriage life. This story shows a different angle of how lesbians meet. These two
lesbian are portrayed as a lecturer and a student. They always meet once a week in
“Aku suka perempuan dewasa yang tahu benar apa yang diinginkannya. Aku suka perempuan
yang cerdas dan bijaksana yang bisa membimbing ku dan memanjakan ku. Aku menemukan
perempuan pada puncak pesonanya ketika mereka berusia empat puluh tahun. Mereka tahu lebih
banyak. Mereka sudah mengalami segala hal. Mereka sukses, mapan. Mereka sabar, memimpin,
dan tahu yang terbaik, begitu juga untuk aku. Itulah yang ku perlukan dalam hidup ini.
Kematangan, kecerdasan, perlindungan, dan kasih sayang mereka, semua menjadikan mereka
terlihat seksi di mata ku. Aku tak perlu cinta ABG yang menye-menye dan semu. Semua itu
membosankan bagi ku and hanya membuang-buang waktu.”
class. Unexpectedly, they meet in a chat room. This story describes that these
lesbian meets online in the internet era which none of the other stories do. At the
beginning, it is certain they do not know that they already know each other in the
context of a student and lecturer, because they use another name in the chat room.
One day, they both decide to meet in person because up to that point they
just connected through the internet. When they meet each other, they are so
shocked, because they would never have imagined the one they always meet in
the chatroom would be her own student and her own lecturer. After their first
meeting, they are so afraid because of their identity is now known by each other
as lesbian. For a month after that meeting the younger lesbian never attends the
class and tries to run away. Finally, they give up and try to be honest about their
feelings of need and love for each other. Then, their relationship continues to
grow until it becomes closer and stronger. Up to one day, the lecturer gets a
doctoral scholarship to study in French and she takes her young lover with her to
France and they live there together.
It is often the same in heterosexual relationship; women tend to have a
partner or a husband who can provide security, a good life, and one who can guide
her to be a better person and to have a better future. In both Indonesian and
English language short stories, the young lesbian characters also admire a mature
lesbian to be their partner for several reasons that I have discussed before.
3. Becoming a Lesbian as a Result of Long Term Interaction
In some short stories, women can involve with other women into a samesex relationship because of daily and lifelong interaction. At the beginning, the
lesbians are portrayed as heterosexual because they do not have any sexual
tendency to the same sex, but after long daily interaction they develop the
tendency. For instance, the female characters in the short stories fall in love to
their own female friends. When they do so it automatically affects their sexual
orientation. Let’s say if at the beginning, lesbians do not have such homosexual
desire or tendency. However, because of their long term interaction, the feeling
and the desire grow from being a friend to becoming a lover.
In “Sebilah Pisau Roti” by Cok Sawitri, lesbian is portrayed as one who
does not expect to fall in love to a female friend of her own.
”I never have a friend like you who loves me sincerely. I don’t
want to lose you.”
”We are no longer friends. I’m not any longer sincere. I ask for
reward. Our relationship grows strangely. Formerly, we may
plant beans which we never imagine will have grown as rice.
So dense then get us lost in finding it’s seed form. ...
But who could ever guess their own heart’s destiny? I fall in
love with you!” (SPR, 93)102
“Ketika Langit Senja” by Alvi. A. H also portrays the same issue. The lesbian
characters never predict that their closeness would grow more than a common
friendship. Their friendship turns to the same sex relationship;
Our closeness seems to be borderless, so that the feeling
rustling without any one of us knows when it starts blooming.
Our feeling is more than a friendship which is inapropriately
‘Aku tidak pernah punya teman seperti kamu. Tulus menyayangi aku. Aku tidak mau
“Kita sudah tidak lagi berteman. Aku juga tidak tulus lagi. Aku pamrih. Hubungan kita
berkembang aneh. Dulu, mungkin kita tanam kecambah siapa sangka yang tumbuh justru padipadian. Begitu rimbun membuat kita tersesat untuk menerka rupa bijinya. …
Tapi siapa yang dapat menerka nasib perasaanya sendiri? Aku jatuh cinta sama kamu!
growing between us because we are both women. (KLS,
In “The Eyes of March” by K. Niken , the same issue is found. Leah and
Blaine become friends for some time, before they can become a lesbian couple. As
narrated in the stories the two lesbian characters meet at a country hospital where
Blaine has been a nurse in the Burn Unit while Leah is performing some volunteer
duties with a few other people. They soon become friends. Blaine explains about
“I was immediately captivated by her astounding eyes and
we seemed to be naturally drawn to each other”….
“We never intended to fall for other so hard, so quick.”
She continues to explain their relationship which is actually a friendship at the
beginning, but by time it is changed.
As the two of us became better friends, we bared
our souls more and more and didn’t hide much from
each other. Eventually, we didn’t hide our feelings either.
We didn’t expect our friendship to escalate into
something more. We never intended to fall for each
other so hard, so quick. When we did realize that
something was indeed happening, we tried to fight it —
tried, but failed. It was a love that should not and could
not be, and yet, here we were, fully engaged and
wrapped up in each other. (TEOM, 65 -66)
From Blaine’s explanation in the paragraph above, it can be inferred that
there is a denial reaction from both of those women when they find
themselves as having feeling more than a normal friend. They love each
other. Thus, they try to fight for their feeling, but they fail.
Kedekatan kami seakan tak berpembatas, hingga perasaan tersebut mendesir tanpa kami tahu
kapan awal berseminya. Perasaan lebih dari sebuah persahabatan yang tak sepantasnya tumbuh
diantara kami karena kami sama-sama perempuan.
The issue of being lesbian because of long term interaction as has
been discussed above portrays that this factor is experienced by lesbians
in both Indonesian and English language short stories. It also shows that it
can happens everywhere because of long term interaction of ones ha ve
with other. These stories seem to address that lesbian’s sexual orientation can
occur over a lifetime or during the lifelong interaction to other women. The issue
of friendship which develops into romantic relationship in lesbians commonly
happens in heterosexual people too.
5. Becoming a Lesbian because of Early Exposure to Homosexuality and
Another causing factor of being a lesbian portrayed in the short stories is
because of the influence of an early exposure to homosexuality. A person who has
homosexual role models in their life especially during childhood can influence
their sexual orientation whether they are becoming heterosexual or homosexual.
Children learn certain behaviors from their significant others or role
models by observing them, basically from their family life.
This issue is portrayed in one of Indonesian language short story entitled
“Lelaki Yang Menetas Di Tubuh Ku”. The lesbian character gets her first
homosexual memory when she was in 8 years old. It happens in her mother’s
friend farewell party. She saw the romantic scene which is filled by lust of two
women in a quiet and dark room when she wanted to find a toilet:
“And the woman who has just talked embraced then
suddenly kissed the criying lady’s cheeks. Gently wipe away
the tears on her white skin, with her lips. And the crying lady
slowly responded. She embraces her lips gradually in the lips
of the woman kissing her. She was sobbing harder. They
kissed in lust. This scene blows something strange in my
heart.” (LYMDK, 46)104
And she continues to explain that sometimes this memory raises again her mind.
“Until now, I sometimes hear their wheezing sound. Lusty moaning between sad
sobbing that often disturbs my night sleep”. (Ucu Agustin, LYMDK: p. 46)105
This spectacle gives a big influence to her life even up to she grows up and
becomes an adult woman. This childhood memory influences her sexual
orientation and finally makes her become a lesbian. As she narrated below;
But suddenly, my eye’s corner catch those movement. A spark
of scenes which later gives a big influence in my life.
Absolutely, unseen hand of fate inserts its key in the door and
opens it for me to be entered, slowly in that night. A door in
which then I enter with my shaky but eventually I live with
certainty. (LYMDK, 43)106
Similar condition is also found in “Memory Puzzled” . It tells about
a lesbian character whose name is Samantha. Early in this story, the first
time she gets her first homosexual memory is when she was 5. In that
time she wakes up from her nap because of a scary dream and tries to find
her mother. Through her parents’ bedroom door she gets her first early
exposure to homosexuality. She sees her mother and her lover are inside
her parent’s bedroom.
Dan perempuan yang barusan berkata itu mendekap lantas begitu saja menciumi pipi
perempuan yang menangis. Menghapus dengan lembut air mata di kulit putih perempuan terisak
itu, dengan bibirnya. Dan perempuan yang menangis itu perlahan membalasnya. Ia memangutkan
bibirnya lama di bibir perempuan yang menciuminya. Isak perempuan itu terdengar semakin
tersedu. Ciuman mereka terlihat semakin bernafsu. Pemandangan itu mendesirkan sesuatu di dada
Sampai sekarang, kadang aku masih mendengar suara desah keduanya. Desah penuh nafsu di
antara isak sendu yang kerap menggangu tidur malam ku
Tapi sekonyong, begitu saja ujung mata ku menangkap gerakan itu. Sepercik adengan yang
kelak akan berpengaruh besar dalam hidup ku.
Ya, pastinya malam itu tangan takdir yang tak terlihat memasukkan kunci dan perlahan menguak
pintunya untuk ku. Sebuah pintu yang kemudian ku masuki dengan gamang tapi akhirnya ku jalani
I sort through my memory puzzle pieces. I have only
two small memories of Chris, although I think she was
around a lot. The first is a vague image of stout legs and
strong, big hands. I think she usually came when I had
my afternoon nap because I remember the door.
I had been put down for my nap and woke from a
nightmare calling for my mom, but there was no
answer. The house was strangely quiet. I came out into
the hall and no one was around. My parent’s bedroom
door was closed. Fear gripped my heart and I screamed
as the tears rolled down my face. My parent’s bedroom
door popped open and there was my mom.
She picked me up and hugged me against her
cotton housecoat, comforting me and putting me back
to bed. That’s when I remember seeing Chris’s face.
I saw her over my mother’s shoulder . She was
standing between the uprights of the doorway wearing a
man’s undershirt. Her hair was in a page boy style and
her eyes were dark and moody. (MP, 78)
Even though she does not see homosexual scene directly, like the lesbian
character sees in the previous Indonesian language short story, but from
her mother partner Chris, she finds a model which is described in the
quotation above. This memory later makes her understands that her
mother is a lesbian. Her mother and Chris are lovers.
Samantha’s parents get divorced when she is 8. Since then she lives
with her grandmother. Her father remarries again and she never sees him
anymore. Her mother herself moves to New Mexico. Samantha also does
not meet her mother anymore and she receives no news about her until
later on in life. She finds out about her when she gets her PhD, by this
time her grandmother is dying. She discloses about Samantha’s mother.
She tells her that her mother is a famous artist and lives in New Mexico.
Unfortunately, when Samantha want s to meet her mother, she has already
died. Samantha and her partner go to her grave and find her mother’s
grave just next to Chris’. In that moment, she finally finds the truth that
her mother was a lesbian just like her.
Environmental situations and cond itions where children grow up
continue to play an important part in shaping their behavior and personal
character. As well as, the people who live within and around one’s life,
like family and neighbors. Adults are figures that children want to
emulate. In an English language short story, “The Blush” by Renee
Strider, Suss’s daughter, Rachel is a teenager. She is in love with her
‘While we sat on her couch eating from TV
tables, I told my cousin the details. She didn’t doubt
me for a moment. I wouldn’t say she was stunned,
exactly, but neither of us had ever given Rachel’s
personal life much thought.
“I’ll never forget it, Ron. This went way beyond
just gaydar. I knew exactly what she was feeling. She
deliberately let me see it.”
“She’s always adored Melanie,” Ronnie said. “It
never occurred to me that she was in love with her,
though. Poor kid. I guess Melanie doesn’t feel the
same. How could we have been so blind!”
“You’d have to hide it with a father like Suss. He’s
not stupid. He’s certainly noticed that she’s not into
boys. Good thing she’s going away to school next
“Yeah. I wonder what he saw when he looked at
you like that. He must have guessed.”
I wonder,” I said. (TB, 14)
Moreover, Rachel might have learnt lesbian cha racteristics and
behaviors from her aunts Ronnie and Lil, her father’s younger sister and
cousin. In the story, we see Rachel’s social environment revealing her
aunts for social interaction, and this could possibly have contributed to
Rachel’s lesbian behavior. Having lesbian models in her family life can
be the main factor in affecting her sexual orientation.
6. Becoming a Lesbian to Explore and Experience New Sexual Practices
Another depiction of reason for becoming a lesbian in the story is that the
lesbian character would like to experience the homosexual world by being a
lesbian. In the beginning, she is not a lesbian. She wants to try another sexual
relationship outside of a heterosexual relationship. Sullivan explains that Judith
Butler believes that there can be no kind of claim to any essential gender. It is all
“performative”, slippery, and unfixed. She denies any fixed categories in gender
and sexuality.107 This sexuality issue which is believed by Judith Butler is
personified in one of English language short story which shows that sexuality is
not something fixed.
In an English language short story entitles “Serious”, the lesbian character
meets a Greek woman who is actually bisexual. As it is portrayed in the story, the
process for being a lesbian happens more accidentally. The lesbian character had
the normal mainstream (heterosexual). She plans for her future before her life
changed because of an accidental encounter.
“You see, learning from the WASPs, I created a plan for my
future. It was really quite simple: good grades, good college,
good career, good marriage, good kids, good retirement, good
grandchildren, good death—a simple recipe for a good life. And
everything was going quite well. I achieved high marks in
school, was accepted to a good college, and even graduated Phi
Sullivan, N, A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory, (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh
Beta Kappa. But then, well, it happened rather accidentally. (S,
The main character in this story portrays a woman, who later becomes a
lesbian after her meeting with a Greek woman. The Greek woman expresses her
feelings to the narrator saying that she is bisexual and attracted to her. “Well, the
Greek said, “I don’t want this to affect our friendship, but as a bisexual woman, I
find you very attractive.” Then I character responded; “I’m very flattered, but I’m
not that way”. (S, 108) After this dialogue, the narrator secretly questions herself
if she might be indeed a lesbian. Sine she never experiences homosexual
relationship, she wants to try this. It is very likely that she wants to fell what a
new and peculiar sexual experience would feel like. So, the next day, she tells the
Greek that she has changed her mind and wants to have relationship with her.
But secretly, I was thinking I might be that way, and I knew a
Deadhead who once told me to try everything twice because
the first time might just be a bad trip. And I hadn’t even tried
this once. So, the next day, I told the Greek I had changed my
mind, and she literally blew my mind. I was shattered,
reconfigured, and reborn. I was gay, but she was only bisexual,
and she left me for a man within six months.” (S, 108)
After having a relationship with that bisexual Greek woman, she finally
came to a conclusion that she is a lesbian. “I was shattered, reconfigured, and
reborn. I was gay...”(S, 108). But, because her lesbian partner is a bisexual, she is
often left by her to fulfill her other sexual desires to a man. Then, she stops this
relationship but she later changes her mind and turns back to her early
mainstream. Then the narrator decides to get married to a man. Nevertheless, this
marriage is not a happy marriage life as she dreams about. Therefore, she gets
divorced. She again starts a new relationship with another lesbian woman and
they live happily and peacefully.
The English language short story above gives another depiction that being
homosexual is not happening because of a particular reason or factor.
Homosexuality is portrayed as an alternative lifestyle which everybody can try,
explore and choose to live in. It is another sexual practice which people can
explore. That is like what Butler believes that sexuality is not something fixed. It
is slippery. There is no fixed categorization for sexual identity. Thus, for some
people they can easily chance their sexual orientation or practice. Either from
homosexual to heterosexual or from heterosexual to homosexual as depicted in
the English language short story above. In which in the Indonesian language short
story, this issue is not found.
7. Becoming a Lesbian because of Unhappy and Unharmonious
The last cause of becoming a lesbian found in the studied short stories is
because of a woman’s unhappy and inharmonious married life. Some short stories
clearly portray a woman who falls in love with another woman and become a
lesbian, because their inharmonious marriage life with their husbands. These
women at the beginning are portrayed as heterosexual. They do not have any
sexual orientation to the same sex. In other words, the short stories portray wives
who are from broken homes where their marriage life has gone bad. The marriage
life of those women, who later become lesbians, is portrayed as a very boring or
hurtful life. Their marriage life is portrayed as a life which is filled with lying and
There are two main problems that become the cause of those marital
disasters. The first is bad and cruel husband’s character. The second is the fact
that the wife cannot be pregnant. In some short stories, both those in Indonesian
and English language short stories, the husband is portrayed as an arrogant, rough,
and who does not give enough attention, affection and love to his wife. The
husband even betrays his wife sexually. This is done either secretly with another
woman or sometimes it is even openly known by his wife.
In “Potongan-Potongan Cerita Di Kartu Pos”, the wife who later becomes a
lesbian is very lonely because her husband is too busy and rarely comes home.
"Trembling unbelievable, Maya is back up to her bed. Then realize,
no Dani in bed. Slowly she began to sob. (PPCKP, 75) That night
Maiya is alone in the room. For two days Dani did not come home.
She wanted to cry and lays restless in bed. 108(PPCKP, 78)
The worst thing is the fact that causes her husband to rarely be at the home is
because he is having affair with another woman.
“I know she isn’t happy. She is no longer get attention from her
husband. You know Dani starts seeing another woman....”
“Perhaps, because now she has problems in her marriage with
Dani, but she is trying to cover it” (PPCKP, 76)109
The same betrayal issue is portrayed in “Dua Perempuan Dengan HP-nya”.
Two wives are having the same sex relationship. The one whose name is Sandra
“Gemetar tak percaya, Maya kembali naik ke tempat tidurnya. Lalu menyadari, tak ada Dani
di ranjang. Perlahan ia mulai terisak. Malam itu Maiya sendirian dalam kamar. Sudah dua hari
Dani tak pulang. Rasanya ia ingin menangis. Tapi ia berbaring gelisah di ranjang.
“Gue tau kok, dia nggak bahagia. Sudah nggak lagi dapat perhatian. Dani mulai selingkuh…”
Mungkin karena perkawinannya dengan Dani sedang bermasalah, tapi berusaha ditutupi.
has a good marriage life and kids. However, I do not discuss it in this part. I
discuss the wives who have happy married life and good husband in the next part,
in Lesbian vs Heterosexual Marriage (Bisexual Not Merely the Answer). What I
discuss here is Susan, the wife whose husband is having affair with his secretary.
Susan has already known about her husband’s betrayal.
“Don’t you know? What the hell, your married boss is? Listen!
“Do you want to marry him? Go ahead! I don’t care!”
“Yeah! Indeed you’re a concubine ! If not, what are you then,
“…. The most important my partner is not someone’s husband,
like you do!” (DPDHP, 27-28)110
In Susan’s dialogue with her husband’s concubine named Linda on the phone,
she shows her anger. She says that she does not care about her husband anymore.
Moreover, she says that she does not take someone’s husband like Linda does.
One can conclude that this lesbian character protests heterosexual woman who
disturbs and destroys her marriage. Unlike lesbians who do not disturb
someone’s husband and destroy someone’s marriage.
"Why do I have to be in trouble with this stupid man’s
behavior?" The point is... I care nothing about my husband
anymore. You get it? I can go with whoever I want and it’s
none of your goddam business! Understand? (DPDHP, 27-28)
Apa kamu tidak tau sih, kamu punya bos itu sudah kawin? Dengar baik-baik. Sudah kawin!”
“Kamu mau kawin sama dia? Kawinlah! Dasar simpanan!”
“Ya, memang simpanan! Kalau bukan, kamu itu apa?”
… yang jelas pacar ku bukan suami orang seperti kamu!”
“Kenapa aku harus jadi susah karena kelakuan laki-laki memble itu?” Masalahnya
aku tidak peduli lagi dengan suami ku. Paham kamu?
Aku pergi dengan siapapun yang aku mau. Tidak ada urusan apa-apa lagi antara kita. Jelas?”
A similar situation is found in A.K. Naten’s story, one of the English
language short stories called “The Eyes of the March”. A woman named Leah
who later becomes a lesbian, after meeting Blaine, a come-out lesbian. Leah had
to get married with a man named Graham Pryce III because of her family
pressure, especially her parents pushed her into marrying him because he is from a
wealthy, influential, and politically well-connected Pryce family. Unfortunately, it
is not a happy marriage life. Leah is not happy in this marriage. Her husband is
portrayed as a bastard. Actually, she wants to quit this marriage and leaves him,
but she cannot. She is too afraid because her own family and her husband’s family
She also told me what a bastard Graham was and
how her parents pushed her into marrying him
Leah said often that she wished she could just leave
Graham, but she knew what her family would do if
she did. Her family and her husband’s family would
make her life a living hell if she tried to leave or divorce.
And if they found out about me—hoo boy, it would
certainly be worse than hell. (TEOM, 65-66)
Until one day, Leah finds her love with a lesbian named Blaine. And
since their meeting Leah becomes the same sex lover. Leah’s traumatic bad
experience in her marriage leads her to homosexual relationship with Blaine who
is indeed a lesbian.
Another woman who finally becomes a lesbian because of her
unhappy marriage life is found in “To Dance with No Music”. It is clearly
stated by the narrator’s words that she had married foolishly and divorced
bitterly. One day, she met a lesbian and set their life together.
I had married foolishly and divorced bitterly. ….
Then I enter her orbit. We came to each other late, already
middle-aged and set in our ways. (TDWNM, 67)
In the quotation above, the narrator informs that she and her couple are engaged in
relationship quite late. It is when they already reach middle-aged, and then they
decide to spend their life together. It shows that in lesbian relationship, it is not
merely started in young age. Homosexual desire can be there when one’s reaching
their mature age even in middle-aged.
Different to the previous stories with broken marriage themes, in one of
the Indonesian language short story, entitled “Tahi Lalat Dipunggung Istriku”
though the themes is still set as unhappy marriage life, in this story becoming a
lesbian is addressed in different angle. It portrays that becoming a lesbian is also
as a matter of spontaneity. Her broken marriage plays important reason why she
can involve in the same sex relationship. The main reason is that her husband no
longer has sexual desire to his wife, whom he has been living with for 27 years.
He does not love his wife like before. He also does not want to make love
anymore because of a missing mole in his wife back. He really likes this mole.
Thus, he loves his wife so much. He even states he loves his wife deeper because
of this mole. He always kisses it every day and in every time he has chance to
touch and kiss it, for example when she is sleeping, taking a bath, getting dress,
cooking in the kitchen and before they have sex. He will visit that mole first. "I'm
so in love with my wife because of her mole. My lust increases everytime I think
of or see that mole."(TLDI, 103)112
At the beginning she does not have any problem with her husband’s habit
towards that mole. After 27 years passed, she starts feeling jealous, angry and
even begins to hate her mole. She is no longer happy and does not enjoy when her
husband touches her back and kisses that mole again and again. This jealousy
arises because she feels that the only thing her husband cares is that mole. He no
longer kisses her forehead, lips and other part of her body, only that mole. She
becomes mad because of her husband hobby in kissing her mole:
“I know that my husband is truly in love with the mole on my
back. He said that it is sexy and the prettiest mole he had ever
seen. He loves touching, kissing my back and that mole for so
long. He also often spreads his sperm over the mole when we
are doing sex. But, by time he no longer kisses me. He just
kissed my back. He forgot to kiss my lips, my forehead or my
cheek only that mole. I have to ask him first to kiss my lips, if I
don’t do so, he won’t remember. In every chance, he always
kisses my back. I hate that mole! I'm jealous”. (TLDI, 107)113
So, one day she tells the story about that mole and her husband to a
woman who always provides massage service in her house. She has massaged her
for 10 years. Her name is Ratri and has never married. Ratri suggests to her to
remove that mole permanently. The next day Ratri accompanies her to the doctor,
a skin specialist to remove that mole with laser technology.
“Aku sangat cinta pada istri ku karena tahi lalat itu. Berahi ku meluap-luap setiap aku
teringat atau melihat tahi lalat itu.”
“Aku tahu, suami ku sangat mencintai tahi lalat di punggung ku. Seksi, katanya. Katanya juga,
itu adalah tahi lalat tercantik yang pernah dilihatnya. Dia sangat suka meraba punggung ku,
berlama-lama menciumi punggung ku dan tahi lalat itu. Dia juga kerap menyemburkan spermanya
di atas tahi lalat itu saat kami bercinta. Hingga suatu hari, aku tak pernah lagi diciumnya. Dia
hanya mencium punggung ku. Dia lupa mencium bibir ku atau kening ku atau pipi ku. Aku harus
memintanya dulu untuk mencium bibir ku, jika tidak dia tak kan ingat. Setiap ada kesempatan, dia
selalu mencium punggung ku. Aku mulai membenci tahi lalat di punggung ku, aku cemburu.”113
As the story goes on, after she removes the mole in her back, their happy
marriage life starts to be a disaster. Her husband totally changes. He feels so
stressed out in losing that mole. He no longer has passion towards his wife and
loses his sexual desire to his wife.
"That night we made love in fail. It was the first time I was not
excited after 27 years of our marriage. I was upset and
immediately went to sleep. My wife was pissed off and we slept
fully dressed and showed our back each other ... The next night ,
we tried to make love again. I went along her entire body which
began to wrinkle to find that mole and kissed her back. But, again
, I can not see the mole there. I ask my wife again where the mole
on her back has been missing ... Once again I'm not excited, we
were unsuccessful to make love again and sleep by showing our
each back”. (TLDI, 104)
The next day, I started to feel crazy. I was thin because I
don’t have desire to eat. My missing toward that that missing
mole is getting worse. I no longer touched my wife. When I saw
her sleeping I just feel like seeing a pile of body. Lackluster.
Actually my wife is still beautiful. Her body is also not that fat.
But why am I not excited about her? I did not pitch lust. Once
again, I gently stroked her back ... But I didn’t find any signs of
that mole there." (TLDPI, 106)114
Losing that mole is depicted not only affecting his sexual desire toward his
wife, but also strongly affecting his psychological demeanor. He is no longer a
person who has passion for his life. Every day he goes and comes home with cold
“Malam itu kami gagal bercinta. Itu adalah kali pertama aku tak bergairah setelah 27 tahun
kami menikah. Aku kesal dan langsung beranjak tidur. Istri ku juga kesal, kami tidur saling
memungungi setelah berpakaian lengkap. … Malam berikutnya, kami mencoba bercinta lagi. …
Aku kembali menyusuri tubuhnya yang mulai keriput, lalu menciumi punggungnya. Sekali lagi, aku
tak menemui tahi lalat itu disana. Kembali aku tanyakan pada istri ku kemana tahi lalat di
punggungnya hilang … sekali lagi aku tak bergairah, kami gagal bercinta lagi dan tidur saling
Hari berikutnya, aku mulai merasa gila. Aku kurus karena tak makan. Rindu ku pada tahi
lalat itu semakin menjadi-jadi. Tak lagi ku sentuh istri ku. Saat aku melihatnya tidur, aku hanya
seperti melihat seongok tubuh. Tak bergairah. … Sebetulnya istri ku masih cantik, tubuhnya juga
tak lantas jadi gembrot. Tapi kenapa aku tak bergairah padanya? Aku sama sekali tak terberahi.
Sekali lagi, aku mengelus punggungnya dengan lembut…Tapi tak ku temukan tanda-tanda tahi
lalat itu ada.”
and unfeeling face. Whenever he goes to work or when he comes back from work,
he never touches his wife, touches her back, nor does he kisses her.
"The days I lived without passion... I went to the office without
any desire to work, go home see my wife with a body which is
not as beautiful as it used to be. ... I'm not excited. I no longer
touch her. (TLDI, 105)115
The wife starts feeling regret for removing the mole behind her back.
Loosing this mole totally changes the way her husband treats her. Their happy and
harmonious life change drastically and becomes unhappy.
I cried, suddenly regret for having rid of that mole. The days I lived
without passion. My husband does his daily routines unwillingly.
He never touched me, not even touched my back neither kissed
me." (TLDI, 108)116
Even her husband has started sleeping with a prostitute woman who has a
mole in her back. He fantasizes the mole is his wife’s back when he is performing
intercourse. Even though he acknowledges that his wife’s mole is the most
beautiful mole and none can compare to it.
The question is what is the cause and effect of this marital problem that
makes his wife involved in the same sex relationship? What has made her sexual
orientation change? Indeed, there are two lesbians character in this story. The first
character is the wife, who mentions herself in the story as I. Through the wife
character, lesbian is portrayed as someone who seems easily or spontaneously
switch her sexual orientation from heterosexual to homosexual. Meanwhile the
“Hari-hari ku jalani tanpa gairah. … Aku pergi ke kantor tanpa ada keinginan untuk bekerja,
pulang melihat istri ku dengan tubuh yang tak seindah dulu lagi. … Aku tak bergairah. Tak lagi ku
sentuh istri ku.
Aku menangis, tiba-tiba merasa menyesal telah membuang tahi lalat itu. Hari-hari ku jalani
tanpa gairah. Suami ku pulang-pergi ke kantor dengan dingin. Dia tidak pernah menyentuh ku, tak
juga menyentuh punggung ku. Tak mencium ku pula.”
second character is named Ratri is a lesbian and never gets married. Ratri is
portrayed as lesbian who takes advantage from this couple’s disharmony marriage
life. She does so to get involved in the wife's sexual life. It happens when the wife
is complaining about how her husband changes after she removes the mole while
Ratri is massaging her naked body. Then the wife cries on her shoulder. Ratri uses
this moment to stimulate her body with sensual romantic touch.
'What should I do, Jeng117?' I complained about my husband
to Ratri when she was massaging my naked body, crying. Ratri then
stopped her massage. I sat down and cover my half body with a
towel, she handed me a tissue. I wipe my tears.
"Forget it, Jeng. Forget him in this time being,” Ratri said
softly, then hugged me. I cried on her shoulders. I felt his warm
breath on my neck and her soft lips instantly stuck in neck. She
pulled my towel, gently touched my chest. There’s a touch I miss
for so long time. (TLDI, 108)118
This reflection on this memory makes her enter into a homosexual
relationship. It is perhaps to free herself from the pain which her husband caused
her or to cure her disappointment about her broken marriage. Yet, there is a
strange case here. How can a heterosexual woman who has been married for 27
years, very easily let the massage woman to kiss her neck and touch her breasts,
without any sense of feeling strange or startled responses, rejection, or anger? She
just enjoys it. How could two women be so easily involved in a same-sex
relationship? It is quite strange, because generally sexual orientation is understood
Jeng is a word used to call a Javanese adult woman
‘Gimana ini, Jeng?’ Aku mengeluh pada Ratri tentang suami ku saat dia sedang memijat ku.
Aku telanjang tengkurap sambil menangis. Ratri lalu menghentikan pijatannya. Aku duduk,
menutup separuh tubuh ku dengan handuk, selembar tisu diberikan pada ku. Ku usap air mata ku.
“Sudah, Jeng. Sementara lupakan dia,” Ratri berkata dengan lembut, lantas dipeluknya
aku. Aku menangis di pundak Ratri. Ku rasakan napasnya yang hangat di tengkuk ku, dan bibirnya
yang lembut seketika menempel di leher ku. Dia menarik handuk ku, menyentuh dada ku dengan
lembut. Ada sentuhan yang lama ku rindukan.
as permanent identity. Thus, it is not that easy to figure out if there is a wife who
is easily turns her sexual partner from man to woman as spontaneously as that.
The sexual relationship which is portrayed here illustrates that people sometimes
feel curious and enjoy in experiencing something new an uncommon.
Then the sentence "There's a touch I miss for so long time." The word
“touch” (sentuhan) here is not clear, what kind of a touch is it? Is it a woman
touch? If the answer is yes, it means that before her marriage she had loved and
had sexual orientation with another woman. However, there is no either implicit
or explicit statement which explains about the background of the wife’s life before
marriage. On the other hand, if the “touch” (sentuhan) here means like her
husband’s, then the question arises: are man’s and woman’s touches the same?
There is an impression in this story that one’s sexual interaction or practice can be
easily changeable spontaneously if sensual stimulation happens in one’s body and
the body will respond to it automatically to the stimulation. Thus, this story
supports the Queer theory which believes that human sexual orientation is not
something permanent. It is not something fixed and static. It is very flexible and
fluid, it is able to be changed. Sometime sexual orientation is just being there
without any certain reason or factor.
Secondly, the factor of marriage disaster in Indonesian family is the issue
of unable to have children. In two Indonesian language short stories, the cause of
disharmony in the family begins when the wife cannot get pregnant. This situation
automatically makes the family does not have any child. The husband and the
wife are sad, disappointed, and frustrated. The family life is portrayed as unhappy
life without any children inside the house. As it is portrayed in “Dua Perempuan
Dengan HP-nya” and “Hari Ini Esok Dan Kemarin”:
"We're divorced! It’s already clear, easy, and definitely. We do not have
"You can have kids from Linda." (DPHP, 30)
"Two years after that, you are marrying me. The following year, a family
obstetrician decided to throw my uterus in order to save my life. (HIEK,
Commonly, the pupose of marriage in an Indonesian family is for
procreation, and one of wife’s main duties is to bear children. The tradition and
culture in Indonesia believe when a wife cannot bear children, she is considered
an imperfect woman. It is because she cannot fulfill her expected destiny which is
giving birth to children. Thus, it causes problem in marriage for Indonesian
family. In addition, husband may use it as weapon to betray the wife.
Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that before these women become
lesbians, they have problems in their marriage life and they are not lesbians at the
beginning. At that time they did not have sexual tendency towards other women.
Nevertheless, the sufferings in their marriage life have caused traumatic issues to
arise within themselves. These stories seem to show that there is no safe and
comfortable place besides men. The women get married to achieve happiness and
harmonious family life. However, the situation and condition they find in their
marriage—like the husband who has an affair with another woman and no child in
the family—trap them to find happiness in other ways. Hence, all these situations
“Kita cerai! Hal itu sudah jelas, gampang, dan pasti. Kita toh tidak punya anak!”
“Kamu bisa punya anak dari Linda.”
“Dua tahun setelah itu, kamu lamar aku. Tahun berikutnya, seorang dokter kandungan keluarga
memutuskan untuk membuang rahim ku demi menyelamatkan nyawa ku.
seem to trap woman into finding her own way in life to reach happiness,
emotionally and sexually. It causes them change their sexual orientation and
choose to love woman. The lesbians in these short stories finally start
relationships with women, because they feel happier, safer and more comfortable
by having this emotional and sexual relationship. They get everything they want
and need; love, respect, affection, care, secure and wisdom from the women, the
things which they never gain from men. Women know what women want and
need. If they can get what they want from someone even if it is from the same sex
then they will take the chance and get it from them.
After the discussion above there are several conclusions reached about the
way lesbians perceive their feeling, sexual orientation and relationship. In
Indonesian language short stories, some lesbians perceive their feelings as
predestination and others perceive it as forbidden love, a mistake and a sin.
Meanwhile in English language short stories, lesbians perceive it as being
different. Lesbians in both Indonesian and English language short stories have
similar ways in perceiving their feelings, sexual desire or orientation and
relationship that it is natural, normal, unchangeable and not a mistake.
The similar reasons that cause the woman characters become lesbian in
those short stories lie on the result of long term interaction, spontaneous or
incidental feelings, environmental factor and early exposure to homosexuality,
and unhappy heterosexual married life. While the differences are in Indonesian
language short stories becoming a lesbian are portrayed as a matter of personal
choice while in English language short story it is to explore and experience new
CONFLICTS AND DISCRIMINATIONS
“As you and I are women,
love becomes a wound to the civilization”.
Karena aku perempuan dan kamu perempuan,
cinta menjadi luka bagi peradaban.
(Cok Sawitri, Sebilah Pisau Roti)
This part discusses the conflicts faced by lesbian characters in their private
life. The conflicts discussed include internal and external conflicts. Internal
conflicts refer to those within the emotional and mental condition of the
characters. The external conflicts
refer to their conflicts with partners and
families as well as discriminations experienced by lesbians in their life. This
discussion provides not only findings pertaining to these internal, external
conflicts and discriminations but also to their struggles to overcome the conflicts.
To provide more information, this writing also provides an analysis of the
possible solutions that lesbians and their families have taken related to their sexual
A. Lesbian’s Internal Conflicts
In some Indonesian language short stories, lesbians are portrayed as
having internal conflicts from their own feelings when they fall in love with
women. It cannot be simply ignored that lesbians have psychological conflicts
inside themselves as they try to understand their own feelings. In the following
paragraph I outline the different kinds of internal conflicts found in these stories.
First is the feeling of confusion with her own feelings and sexual
orientation. This is often a result of trying to refuse and fight her own feelings and
desires to women. Motive behind this refusal is the fear of being considered
abnormal. On the other hand, once she is able to accept her desire, she is not
ready live as a lesbian. Secondly, when falling in love, she does not have courage
to disclose her true feelings. Thirdly, for some women, it is pleasing to become a
lesbian; however for others, it is considered as a mistake or a sin.
1. Feeling Confused with Her Own Feelings and Sexual Orientation
In several stories, there are feelings of panic inside the lesbian characters,
when it comes to a reality that they have emotional and sexual desire toward the
same sex. They are depicted to be in a dilemma, because though they can fall in
love with a woman, they feel confused with their sexual orientation and tend to
avoid their feelings. They feel that loving another woman is a mistake; therefore,
they are not ready to become lesbians. As illustrated in one of the Indonesian
language short stories, “Sebilah Pisau Roti”, the Lesbian character faces two
contradictory conditions. A serious conflict within herself is clearly figured. She
understands her candid feelings; however, at the same time she perceives that her
feeling is wrong. “I am very depressed. I realize that this is wrong, but I cannot
fight against my feelings.” (SPR, p. 97). She tries to deny her own feelings, but
she fails. She is not ready to be such a person, as depicted by this quotation
“However I'm not ready to be a lesbian” (SPR, p. 95)120. In this story, the character
Aku tertekan sekali. Aku sadar ini salah, tapi aku tidak bisa melawan perasaan ku.
Bagaimanapun aku tidak siap jadi lesbian.
realizes that she has homosexual orientation, but she tries to deny her feelings. She
pretends and lies to herself, saying that she had not fallen in love with her female
friend; however she is unable to escape the truth.
"The more I pretended not to understand, the more I
understand, I want you!" I replied with a stutter… I do not
want to be hypocritical, pretending not to understand. Lied.
No! I'm honest with you, I love you. Want to make love with
you! I'm ready to bear all the risk if this hurts everyone. (SPR,
The reason why this character denies her own feelings and sexual
orientation is that she is afraid of being considered an abnormal person. As it is
shown in a dialogue between the main character and her friend Dewi, in which
Dewi advises her not to think about her feelings and desire to the same sex as
normal or abnormal.
“No need to think and feel being normal or abnormal
because of your feeling toward her. Ah ... she actually likes
you. She is just afraid of people assumption. She is afraid
of being considered as abnormal person. Hypocrisy!”
Similar to “Sebilah Pisau Roti”, in “Driving Philosophy”, the lesbian
character experiences the same problem. She actually realizes and acknowledges
about her own feelings and sexual orientation. But she faces a big dilema inside
“Karena semakin aku berpura-pura tidak mengerti, makin ku mengerti, aku menginginkan
kamu!” dengan gagap aku menyahut (p.92) Aku tidak mau munafik, berpura-pura tidak mengerti.
Membohongi mu. Tidak! Aku jujur pada mu, aku mencintai mu. Ingin bercinta dengan mu! Aku
siap menanggung segala resiko jika ini melukai hati semua orang.
‘Untuk apa jadi merasa normal atau tidak normal. … Ah, dia suka sebetulnya sama kamu.
Cuma takut sama anggapan orang. Takut dibilang tidak normal. Munafik!
herself even though she can accept her condition: that she has homosexual
tendency. She does not want to be a lesbian and not ready to live as a lesbian.
“I don’t know, Anna. On the one hand, I know this is
who I am. On the other hand, I am just not comfortable
with being that person. I want to experience l ove, but
frankly, my parish would tar and feather me and run me
out of town if they thought for a second that I was a
lesbian. My commitment to my calling is stronger,
I guess, than my personal needs. Or maybe I’m just
afraid and hiding in a comfortable pew. Still, I’m not
really happy living a lie.” (DP, 84)
The above stories are different from “Sebilah Pisau Roti” where the
lesbian character tends to deny her own feelings. The lesbian character here
accepts her condition but she does not feel comfortable to live with a lesbian
identity. As she clearly states in the quotation above, she would not only have to
face her internal conflict, but also the social conflict which can rise if she finally
decides to live as a lesbian. Since it is related to the parish where she works, she
would be chased away from that town. She faces contradictory feelings. She is not
happy to live in a lie. On one side she wants to experience love, but on the other
side, as she states, her commitment to her calling to the church is much stronger
than her personal need or perhaps she is just afraid and uses the parish work to
hide who she truely is.
These two stories depict that the internal problems faced by lesbians are
not always a matter of acceptance or denial of their own feeling and sexual desire
to the same-sex. The conflict extends to whether they really want to be a lesbian
and live with all the risks for living out a lesbian lifestyle. The characters which
are facing these conflicts need to take time and consideration before they finally
decide to become and live as a lesbian or not.
Different to the previous stories, in “Menggapai Langit Ketujuh” the
lesbian character faces an internal conflict which is not about the fact that she
knows her feelings but keeps denying them or is not ready to be a lesbian. In this
story, Kirana, the lesbian character, emphasizes that being a lesbian is her choice,
but at the same time, she also feels that it is a sin. The issue between her choice to
be a lesbian and this choice being a sin is clearly shown in the following
This burden will keep always staying in my mind and and
life. I consider it as a consequence of the life choice I made.
But, I hope God still listen to my prayers for all my sins.
The lesbian’s internal conflict is related to her own choice and
considering it as a sin. In several Indonesian language short stories, there is a
tendency to consider the same-sex feelings and relationships as sin. This is
narrated in “Menggapai Langit Ketujuh” and “Hari Ini Esok dan Kemarin” which
have been discussed earlier in Chapter III.
In Indonesian language short stories, there is a denial process experienced
by lesbian characters when they realize that they have the same-sex feelings and
sexual desires. They have internal conflicts with their condition; not only they
are afraid of being considered as an abnormal person but also the feeling of being
a sinner. This is contradictory to the lesbian characters in the English language
Beban yang akan selalu ada dibenak dan hidup ku ini aku anggap sebagai konsekuensi dari
pilihan hidup yang aku buat. … namun aku berharap Tuhan masih mendengarkan segala dosadosa ku selama ini.
short stories who openly accepts her condition. She does not experience such
feelings or dilemmas, as lesbians in the Indonesian language short stories face.
However, there is a similar situation depicted in both Indonesian and English
language short stories. It is an issue about whether the lesbians are ready or not to
become and live as lesbians. Despite the fact that they have different ways of
reacting to their own feelings, still they are not ready to become and live as
2. No Courage to Disclose Her Feelings
Another possible problem faced by lesbians is depicted in an English
language short story ‘The Women’s Pool’. In this story, the problem is about
being insecure about discloseing her feelings towards another woman. This story
portrays the lesbian characters that do not have the courage to disclose their
feelings towards the women they are in love with. Actually, this is about two
lesbians who admire each other. The first is 45 years old and has been lonely for
three years after breaking up with her previous partner. Every weekend she goes
to the women’s pool and always sees a 17 year old girl. She falls in love with her.
However, this 45 year old lesbian is not confident enough to tell that young girl
about her feelings. She therefore secretly loves that young girl. As seen in the
“I hate myself for going to the pool just to watch a kid. She
must be only sixteen, Seventeen, at the most eighteen. If only
I had the courage to talk to her. “ … (TWP, 23).
The older woman is afraid of revealing her feelings because of her age difference
with the young person that she admires. She is reluctant because she is not sure if
that young girl will accept her with her age. Thus, she thinks perhaps that girl
will not want to have a romantic relationship with an old woman like herself.
This internal conflict is illustrated in a paragraph below, where the narrator is
talking to herself:
She’s here. I should wave at her. But if I do she may decide to
come and talk to me, and if she comes closer she’ll notice my
age. If she knew I was forty-five, she wouldn’t be looking at
me. I bet she’s short-sighted and hasn’t noticed my grey
strands of hair. I’d love to caress her all over. How silly of me
to fantasize about making love to such a young woman?
Similar to the old character, the 17 year old young lesbian is also facing the same
internal conflict. She secretly admires that 45 years old woman, but she has no
courage to disclose her feelings to her too. This old lesbian is the one whom she
always sees every weekend in the pool. Actually, she has the impression that the
old woman loves her but she is not sure. She is busy in questing herself about that
“What if she loves me too? She looks at me as much as I look
at her. I wish I had the courage to talk her. There she is! Her
green costume matches the green grass patch. She’s looking
to see if I am here”. (TWP, 23)
As it is depicted in the story, the young lesbian is afraid to disclose her
feelings because she thinks a mature and successful woman like that old woman
will not be interested in and love a young immature girl like her. It is illustrated
in her words when she has an intra-personal communication dialogue: “She
keeps looking at me. I smile... I feel stupid... Silly smile in a pimpled face…
Why would a sophisticated, mature woman like her want to be with me?
Pimples… Fat… Insecure… Shy.” (TWP, 25). Although the older lesbian is not
confident because of the age gap, this young lesbian actually likes the older
woman. She says: “Maybe my mother didn’t give me enough love, that’s why I
like older women”. (TWP, 24). From these two lesbian characters can be seen
that the internal conflict is the issue of whether they are attractive and desirable
A further internal conflict portrayed in this story is the way they feel
depending on how people judge a young and old couple, especially for lesbian
couple. The forty-five year-old lesbian questions the way people react to her if
she had a younger partner.
“Why do men have affairs with young girls and no
one cares? What would my middle-aged friends say if I
walked into their houses with a kid hanging from my arm,
one who is even younger than my son? I can hear them:
‘Cradle snatcher! Cradle snatcher! Cradle snatcher!’
‘Look at that old woman with the young girl.’
‘She probably has money and the kid is with her
because of it.’
‘May be she is her daughter.’
‘In ten years time she’ll look like the young
‘What a ridiculous mismatch.’
‘Some women near the menopause go a bit funny.’
The way she questions herself above portrays the conflict faced by lesbians
is not only related to her own internal conflict but sometimes outside factors.
Outside factors like the way people judge and react to this kind of couple create
conflict in the lesbian herself in deciding if to start the relationship with a girl who
is much younger than her. Since the lesbian is aware of people’s opinion of her
and her relationship, it creates a dilemma for her.
3. Happy but Guilty
Another internal conflict experienced by the lesbian characters in the
stories I examine is the feeling of guilt that disturbs them even while they feel
happy to have a same-sex relationship. For some of the lesbian characters,
establishing a romantic relationship with a woman brings happiness. However,
some feel that such relationship betrays marriage bond
and raises regretful
feelings. This case is depicted in ‘Hari Ini, Kemarin dan Esok’ as shown below:
"Really?" she asked, thrust her face toward me, kissed my
lips. "You're willing to leave him for me?"
“But I hate to do this to him," I said spontaneously. "I hate to
be a person who destroys her own household."
"You're just looking for happiness, my love. Everyone can
"Don’t you feel a little responsible for all this?" I ask
curiously. "If not because of you, I'll never leave him."
From this conversation, it can be seen that having a same-sex relationship does
not always mean happiness to woman, especially to a married woman who later
commits to a same-sex relationship. To this woman, it is an act of betrayal. She
has destroyed her own married life, especially because she has a good husband.
Even though she feels happier loving a woman, at the same time she feels guilty:
"If you know," I said sharply. "I never pretended to love
And like most wives who cheated, I plan my leaving
“Benarkah?” ia bertanya, mendekatkan wajahnya ke arah ku, mengecup bibir ku. “Kamu rela
tinggalkan dia untuk aku?”
Tapi aku benci harus melakukan ini kepadanya,” tutur ku spontan. “Aku benci jadi orang yang
menghancurkan rumah tangganya sendiri.”
“Kamu hanya mencari kebahagiaan, Sayang. Semua orang bisa mengerti itu.”
“Tidakkah kamu merasa sedikit saja bertanggung jawab atas semua ini?” Tanya ku penasaran.
“Kalau bukan karena kamu, aku takkan pernah meninggalkan dia.”
carefully. I brush every inch of the floor of our house until
spotless shiny, wipe the dust in every room, and-except
hisown clothes-I left all that we've bought together as well as
your personal things. I must be fair. Then, I cook your
favorite lamb leg soup,...
I imagine in previous years, here, sailed the life we believe is
ours. Now I'm lost. (HIEK, 37-38)125
As depicted in the quotation above, the lesbian character actually loves
her husband and they have a happy life. Unfortunately, she is not able to have
children and it is portrayed as the cause of her unhappy married life which
becomes monotone. Thus, she finally tries to find her own happiness. She finds it
from being with a woman. And she plans to confess to her husband and then
leaves him to live with her lesbian partner. However, as seen in the last sentence
she said “Kini aku tersesat” (Now I’m lost). This sentence indicates, thought she
feels happy with her lesbian partner, eventually this lesbian character feels guilty.
Thus she feels lost or misguided for having this homosexual relationship.
From the analysis about the lesbians’ internal conflicts above, several
conclusions can be formulated. First, lesbian characters in English language short
story can be more open to their feelings and sexual orientation compare to lesbians
in Indonesian language short story who tend to be confused and deny it. They
realize more readily that they have homosexual orientation and understand their
personal feelings. They do not feel confused and deny their feelings and sexual
“Asal kamu tahu,” ujar ku tajam.”Aku tidak pernah berpura-pura mencintainya.”
Seperti kebanyakan istri yang berselingkuh, aku merencanakan kepergian ku dengan hati-hati. Ku
sikat setiap inci lantai rumah kita sampai mengkilap tak bernoda, mengelap debu di setiap kamar,
dan—kecuali pakaian ku sendiri—ku tinggalkan semua yang pernah kita beli bersama atau
masing-masing untuk mu. Aku harus adil. Lalu, aku masak sup kaki kambing kesukaan mu.
… Ku bayangkan tahun-tahun sebelumnya, di sini, mengarungi bahtera kehidupan yang kita
percaya adalah milik kita berdua. Kini aku tersesat.
orientation to the same sex like the lesbians do in Indonesian language short
Secondly, different to the lesbians in Indonesian language short story that
consider being homosexual as a sin and they are not ready to become a lesbian
because of afraid of being considered as an abnormal person , lesbian in English
language short stories do not see being homosexual as abnormal and sinful. She
does not want to live as a lesbian because of fear of the social conflict which can
rise because of living with that identity. However, she is not happy to live a lie.
The lesbian characters in both Indonesian and English language short stories face a
similar conflict that they not ready to identify themselves as lesbians.
Thirdly, lesbian characters in English language short stories face other
possible conflicts that are not found in Indonesian language short stories. The
internal conflicts are lack of self-confidence and courage to disclose their feelings
when they fall in love because of their age gap. The ways people judge old-young
couple makes them feel hesitate to start or have relationship with a younger or
older partner. The last conclusion is that lesbian characters in Indonesian language
short stories also face another conflict not found in English language short stories.
It is the feeling of happy but guilty to have homosexual relationship.
B. Lesbian’s External Conflicts
Lesbians’ external conflicts that are discussed in this part are related to
their relationship with their partners and their families. This part also discusses
the solutions taken by lesbians and their family to overcome problems due to
1. The Problems Between a Lesbian and Her Partner
There are some problems experienced by lesbian characters and their
partners found in the short stories that I have studied. First, having a very busy
partner; second, the division of gender role (femme and butch); third, having
serious commitment in lesbian relationship. Lastly are jealousy, envy and
differences in social status.
a. A Very Busy Partner
The first issue I would like to turn to is having a very busy partner. This
case appears in one of the English language short stories entitled “Heartbreak” by
Shadylady. Having a partner who is always busy with her works creates a conflict
within a lesbian relationship. The narrator feels the lack of attention and affection
from her partner. Because of her occupied activities at work she cannot spare her
time for her parner and create time for them to be together. Furthermore, the
separation from their partner can be very rough on each other to the extent that the
other can develop severe stress and a sense of tragedy. This is narrated in the
dialogue between Melanie and Stephanie below:
“I don’t give a fuck what you say. I’m sick and tired of you
working overtime and weekends. We never get to go out
and have any fun anymore. If you won’t take me out then
I’ll damn well find someone that can,” Stephanie fumed as
she finished styling her hair.
“Stephanie, please don’t say that. I’ve been working like a
dog to save for the European vacation you say you can’t
live without.”“Borrow the money, use a credit card, or
don’t pay the bills for a couple months. There must be
another way to get the money without working all the time
“The hell with it. I’ll see you later.” Stephanie picked up
her car keys and slammed the door loudly as she left (H,
In the dialogue above, it can be seen that her partner Stephanie, who
appears to be a very rough and impatient partner, stresses Melanie out. Stephanie
complains about Melanie who has to work overtime every day, even on the
weekends. Because of her partner’s super-occupied days, Stephanie gets mad at
her. She does not want to tolerate this situation anymore. Melanie has no time any
longer to be shared with . She corners Melissa and says if she keeps doing this she
would leave Melissa and find another partner. She feels their relationship is no
longer enjoyable and happy like before since Melanie spends her whole time
earning money for their needs, bills, and vacations.
The issue pursued in this story is interesting. In this story we can find a
similar problem that is faced by lesbian couples which is as the same as
heterosexual couples face. These are financial problems, materialistic demands,
and the lack of attention and affection from the partner. This story depicts a
problem faced by lesbians, which is not completely related to their sexual identity.
Looking at Stephanie's character, we can see that this lesbian woman has the same
emotional desires, as a heterosexual woman who enjoys being spoiled and
pampered by her partner. In Melanie’s case, we see that she is a hard working
person. She tries to fulfill all her partner’s financial needs.
Similar to “Heart Break”, the Indonesian language short story “Lari” by
Nuage also portrays the same issue. The story portrays the relationship between a
21 year old girl and a 40 years old woman, both have been living in France for
one year. In this story, the young lesbian feels so lonely. Her partner is always
busy. Besides working for a French company, she also has to fulfill her
responsibility as a student in a Doctoral Program for her scholarship. All these
responsibilities and the age factor seem to make her get tired easily.
"I approached her, the woman who always sleeps beside me.
It’s 12 o'clock. She had fallen asleep a few minutes ago. She
arrived at home at 10 o'clock, then took shower, cleaned up,
and went to bed, after had a chance to talk to me so briefly. I
still miss her. I have not been satisfied enough meeting her. I
want to talk more. I want to be with her. And I want to make
love. Slowly, I rocked her body her again. There was no
answer. I know she was so tired. I felt pity of her. So, I hold
her in the dark." (L, 177)126
Even though the younger lesbian is in a dilemma with her partner, who is
always busy, she always tries to understand her even though she feels so lonely.
"Oh God, I need someone to talk to. I need to share this loneliness. Am I truly
lonely? Beside the woman I love? Yes. I am. "(L, 183)127 Her activities make her
tired; thus it influence her desire to have sex. She is portrayed as being so tired
that her sexual desire decreases. Even though there is a similar issue about a very
busy partner in “Heartbreak” and “Lari”, the couple in “Lari” faces different
conflicts because of her partner’s busy days. Different to “Heartbreak” where the
center of conflict is about financial and materialistic problems, this couple faces
“Ku dekati dia, perempuan yang selalu tidur di samping ku. Jam dua belas malam. Dia sudah
terlelap beberapa menit yang lalu. Jam sepuluh dia baru tiba di rumah, mandi, beres-beres, dan
langsung tidur, setelah hanya sempat mengobrol sebentar. Aku merindukannya. Aku belum puas
bertemu dengannya. Aku ingin bercinta dengannya.Ku goyang lagi tubuhnya. Perlahan. Tidak
ada jawaban. Kasihan. Dia begitu lelah. Aku memeluknya dalam gelap.”
“Ya Tuhan, aku perlu teman bicara. Aku perlu membagi kesepian ini. Aku kesepian? Di sisi
perempuan yang ku cintai? Ya. Aku kesepian”
sexual problems in their relationship which starting to happen since two months
"I hugged her with my restless body. I cannot suppress my
sexual need by my own. Finally, with great difficulty I could
fell asleep. And, so my nights have passed since two months
ago. "(L, 178)128
Thus, the young lesbian character feels so lonely. Besides the minimum time to
be together and the feeling of a lack attention and affection, her partner also does
not fulfill her sexual needs. Her partner is no longer able to have sex with her
before watching blue movies or porn DVD. Whenever they start to make love, her
partner always stops her and invites her to watch a porn movie first.
"Lately she's starting to like watching blue movies, and I
began to feel that she can be passionate without those movies.
Maybe because she's busy, maybe she’s tired, she may be so
stressful and under-pressure. One of the most distressing
possibilities is that she is no longer having any passion toward
me." (L, 182)129
It is shown in the story how the young lesbian character has to put aside
her sexual needs. Her partner starts changing; she becomes cold and no longer
romantic. Her sexual desire becomes lesser than at the beginning of their
relationship. This really makes her frustrated.
"Is the blue movie sign the relationship is no longer intimate?
My 21 year old brain kept asking this question until I could
“Aku memeluknya dengan tubuh ku yang gelisah. Menahan gejolak yang tak bisa ku padamkan
sendiri. Dengan susah payah akhirnya aku tertidur. Dan, begitulah malam-malam ku berlalu sejak
dua bulan yang lalu”
“Belakangan ini dia mulai suka menonton blue film, dan aku mulai merasa dia tidak bisa
bergairah tanpa film-film itu. Mungkin dia sibuk, mungkin dia lelah, mungkin dia banyak pikiran
sehingga tidak bergairah. Satu kemungkinan lagi yang paling menyedihkan, dia tidak bergairah
lagi pada ku.”129
not sleep. Then she laid down beside me casually, without
kissing or huging me like she used to do. And she is directly
taking sleeping position. How indifferently is!" (L, 183).130
This lesbian couple’s problems portrayed in this story are very interesting. It
indicates that lesbian couples also face the decrease of sexual desire problems in
their sexual activity which is not correlated with their identity as a homosexual.
This story openly shows that both heterosexual and homosexual relationships are
susceptible to a decrease in sexual desires.
This story also shows that by the time lesbians’ needs and interest change,
they have already committed themselves to a relationship. At the beginning,
everything seems to be sweet, happy, beautiful, blossoming and flourishing. They
want to do everything together with their partner. It also happens in a heterosexual
marriage, especially in a newly married couple. Sometimes, this issue is started by
the couple arguing and shouting at each other. Because of the fight they start
sleeping in a separate bed. If the fighting continues, they stop talking to each other
and this leads to a reduction of sexual interaction. This process is similar to what
it is portrayed in “To Dance with No music” by Lois Cloares Hart. The lesbian
character informs the reader that their relationship is not always in stable
condition. She openly states that though she lives with someone she loves, this
does not stop conflicts from arising between them. They do not live happily ever
“Apakah blue film pertanda hubungan sudah tidak mesra lagi? Otak 21 tahun ku terus
menanyakan pertanyaan ini hingga aku tidak bisa tidur. Lalu dia berbaring dengan santai di sisi
ku, tidak mencium atau memeluk ku seperti dulu lagi. Langsung mengambil posisi tidur. Betapa
after. They sometimes fight, and have stop talking to each other. They rarely have
“Did we live happily ever after? No. Over the years, there were
times we fought, times we stopped talking together, times
when our lovemaking became routine or rare. Yet I can say
with absolute certainty that my only regret was not meeting her
when I was fourteen instead of forty-five. Even the day our
lives changed forever, that never changed.” (TDWNM, 69)
This kind of conflict is also mentioned by Munro. She mentioned that as
lesbians, they love that they are both women - their sameness feels good and right.
They are delight in each other, their bodies, doing things together, swapping
clothes, sharing food, music, ideas and laughter. But, when they hit a point, or too
many points, or differences they may feel uncomfortable, scared and angry.131
Both in Indonesia and English language short stories, lesbian couples face the
same problems in their lives in long-term relationships though the situations and
the impacts are different. In the Indonesian language short story, the lesbian
couples are marked by their age difference. The couple is twenty-one and forty,
while in the English language short story they are the same age, forty-five. Thus,
they can react and overcome problems more maturely than the couple in the
Indonesian language short story. Yet, the young couple in English language short
story react aggressively and emotionally to her partner during conflict.
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, (C. Rainfield: 2001), p. 7.
b. Butch and Femme Gender Role among Lesbians and Their
In one of the Indonesian language short stories, “Gak Penting Banget, Gitu
Loch” the lesbian character tries to criticize the division of gender roles between
masculine (butch) and feminine (femme) roles in lesbian couple relationship.
Butch is an overtly or stereotypically masculine or masculine woman. The term,
can be used to denote an individual, or the dominant role in a lesbian
relationship.132 Femme is a (traditionally) feminine woman. The term is mainly
used to refer to a feminine lesbian, and especially a feminine lesbian who is
attracted to masculine, or butch lesbians.
As depicted in this story, these roles
often position their partners; especially the femme in an inferior position and the
butch in a superior one. This division of roles seems to be uncomfortable for
couples because they (femme) are oppressed. These masculine and feminine roles
often lead to conflicts between lesbian couple. Because the butch has a role as a
husband like in a heterosexual marriage she assumes a superior position. This
means she (butch) has the authority to make decisions in the relationship, to be the
breadwinner and tends to be served by the femme. Thus, the division of roles in
the relationship between Butch and Femme in lesbians’ everyday life are often
positions where one of the partners is oppressed. As Munro finds that many
lesbian couples often use the straight men as the only role models in their
relationship. Thus, it is easy to find or listen that there are definitely lesbians who
do not treat women or their partner respectfully.134
A dialogue shown below between a lesbian and her lesbian friend who calls
herself butch is clearly configured by this issue. Joan (the butch) calls her friend
to meet in a café. She wants to tell her about the conflict she has with her partner.
She wants to break up with her partner. The butch, Joan is portrayed as someone
who dominates her femme partner just like a man and puts her partner in an
inferior position. She always expects to be served. The conflict is set in the
morning. The butch character wants her partner to make her a cup of coffee,
instead of making her this coffee, her partner gets angry with her. She is annoyed
because her butch partner always asks her to serve her. She is also required to be
responsible for the household because she is femme. Thus, she is mad at Joan.
"Oh, come on! ... Just because of coffee. Well, It will be
freshanyway, if I wake up in the morning and ask my wife to
make me a cup of coffee? Uh, instead of making it, Jenny
even got angry." Said Joan.
"What? Wife? Wake up, girl! You both are girls. "Anyway
why can’t you make it by yourself? Why should ask her to
serve it for you? You don’t need to ask Jenny only for a cup
of coffee, huh!” I protest
Oh, of course, why not? It’s natural if I command her to make
it. Because I am butch and she is a femme, you know!135
Assuming roles as butch and femme is depicted as something which can
bring lesbian couples into conflict. The butch in this story tends to dominate her
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, p.1.
“Begini nih… Cuma gara-gara kopi. Khan seger dong bangun pagi minta dibikinin kopi ma
bini sendiri. Eh, Jenny malah marah-marah”.
“Bini? Plis deh. Lu berdua sama-sama cewek”. Lagian lu bikin kopi sendiri kenapa? Pake nyuruh
“Gue butch gitu lho. Wajar dong gue minta dibikinin kopi karena dia tuh Femme”
relationship. It seems she has notions about her relationship that are akin to
conventional heterosexual marriages. Patriarchal ideology is still apparent in this
relation. Thus, the narrator calls herself ‘No Label’. She does not call herself
butch or femme. ‘I would prefer to stand ‘No Label’ among my other lesbian
friends because I want equality’ (GPBGL, p. 93)136. For this reason, she advises
her butch friend to treat her partner with equality.
Look here Joan! Your partner is not your maid. In any kind of
relation we need to have equality. Well, it is okay if you consider
yourself as man, but come on! No need to dominate, huh. "... I am
anti-oppression, man! I'm not a great oppressor as you are. You
see! You still command your girlfriend to make coffee and
pudding and if she doesn’t want to, it makes you get angry to her.
Now, it’s the equality era, my friend!! .. (GPBGL, 93)137
No matter how she considers herself, butch or femme, this character
promotes equal treatment and sharing of responsibilities. She must treat her
partner with equality, not like a maid. The gender role or the strict conventional
heterosexual model in this lesbian relationship is portrayed become the main
conflict for the lesbian couple in this story. So, the process of being a lesbian,
accept her condition, disclose her feeling toward the woman she loves and to live
with its identity is not stop only upto this step. The next crucial issue to be
questioned is that what kind of life, models or interactions these lesbian couples
want to conduct in their relationship. What kind of life they want to have with
Pembagian peran dalam relasi antara Butch dan Femme dalam keseharian lesbian sering
memposisikan seseorang dalam posisi terjajah. Aku lebih memilih untuk berposisi No Label
diantara teman-teman lain karena ku menginginkan kesetaraan
Dalam relasi tuh pake yang namanya kesetaraan…Boleh aja lu anggep diri lu cowok. Tapi
jangan mendominasi dong.” …Jelas dong, gue anti penindasan gitu loch. Gue bukan elu yang
penindas abis. Hari gene masih nyuruh pacar bikinin kopi ama puding. Sekarang jamannya
their partner. Munro in her article challenges how lesbians create their own
relationship. She states that in creating their own relationship lesbians can vary a
great deal. How they construct their relationships is both a reflection of the wider
heterosexual model as well as reflection of their own creativity to create
relationships to avoid the monotonious. She elaborates that with few or no models
to look to, the lesbian couples actually are often freer than heterosexuals to create
relationships of our own choosing rather than ones based on social conditioning
and expectations. She continues to emphasize that: “Some lesbian relationships
exist outside the mainstream heterosexual model, operating on entirely different
values. They may embrace non-monogamy, be poly-amorous, live in separate
homes for years, be committed to resolving their problems while staying together
for “as long as we are good together” rather than “till death do us part”, and relate
to each other as equals and friends as well as lovers.”138
c. Between Dating and Serious Lifelong Commitment in Lesbian’s
Another problem shown is about lifelong commitment in lesbian
relationships. A decision whether the lesbian couples would like to arrive in
permanent or long term commitment in a relationship or keep dating are issued
becoming the centre conflict among lesbian couples. In ‘Bunga Sakura Dihati
Nia’ and ‘Sebilah Pisau Roti’ conflicts arrise because one of the partners wants to
have a serious lifelong commitment while the other does not. As Munro points
out: “May be some of the problems lesbian relationships face arise from not
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, 4-5.
having dated for longer periods of time”.139 In “Bunga Sakura Dihati Nia” by
Sakura, a lesbian character named An is portrayed as someone who wants to
commit a lifelong relationship with her bestfriend, Nia. "An is different. After all,
she's not a man. She just wants you both are committed in a relationship. She
wants to keep you Nia". (BSHN, 78-79)140 She wants to have a serious
commitment to and by the woman she loves. She wants to become lifelong
(seumur hidup) partners.
"Nia, I don’t want in dating relationship or something else
like that. I want to make you a partner in my life, in order to
have a friend to share Nia. A partner to share your love and
affection." (BSDHN, 70)141
Unfortunately, Nia, the woman she loves, does not want such serious
commitment. She does not trust love because of her traumatic experiences. She
does not like to have a relationship that is little more than dating or pacaran in
Bahasa Indonesia. She thinks of that dating relationship as merely a lie. She
disagrees to commit into relationship, because to her, once two people have
commited, they tend to own or the possesss to her partner cannot be avoided. In
addition, it will cause the lesbian unable to advance herself with her friends and
social environment, even to reach her dreams, especially, when her partner is too
possessive. She sees commited in relationship will just impede her to grow and
limit her freedom. So, she prefers to stand being a single. Thus, she is not ready to
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, p. 1.
“An berbeda. Toh dia bukan laki-laki. Dia hanya ingin kalian berkomitmen. Dia ingin menjaga
“Nia, aku tak mau menjalani hubungan sebagai pacar atau sejenisnya. Aku ingin menjadikan
kamu pasangan seumur hidup ku. Agar ada teman berbagi Nia. Teman mencurahkan semua kasih
sayang dan cinta mu.”
have a partner who is actually her friend. She is not a person who wants to have
any commitment in her life.
"I am a woman who can’t be bound" (Sakura, BSHN, p. 69).
... "No An! I'm not ready. I can’t make you my girlfriend or
something. You are my best friend, I can’t. Living together in
life with the feeling of love is not the main priorities.
"(BSHN, p. 70)142
This story seems to portray that lesbians have problems concerning their
commitment in a relationship. This is a problem which is not related to lesbian’s
sexual orientation. It is a critical problem that actually reflects how lesbians
conduct their relationships and what kind of relationships they want to have in
their life. From the lesbian character, An, we can see what kind of relationships
and life she wants to have with the woman she loves. She wants to make the
woman she loves to become her partner for the rest of her life. She wants to
accompany and be accompanied by her. She wants to be with her. She wants to
protect her and take care of her. She wants to be responsible to her. She wants to
share everything with her; love, affection, happiness, sadness, and face every
problem in life with her. Therefore, she wants to have a serious lifelong
commitment. She wants to have a clear destination with her love. Munro in her
collection of articles about lesbian relationship, “skipping the dating part”
explains the reason why some lesbians prefer to skip dating and directly decide to
have relationship; “Dating means coping with undefined situations-not knowing
where you’re headed, being unsure of what you mean to each other, and possibly
“Aku adalah wanita yang tak bisa terikat” … “Tidak An. Aku belum siap. Aku tidak bisa
menjadikan mu pacar atau apalah. Kau adalah sahabat baik ku, aku tak bisa. Dalam hidup
kebersamaan yang diikat dengan perasaan cinta bukan priyoritas utama.”
feeling confused. For some lesbians, that unknown territory feels out of control
and terrififying. To feel more secure, they immediately define the relationship and
set clear parameters around it. But if the definition of their relationship is coming
out of fear rather than what they actually want with a particular woman, it can be a
set-up for failure. And since there are so many obstacles to dating, some lesbians
stay in relationships longer than they want, precisely because they don’t want to
The idea of two lesbian lovers having a serious commitment in their
relationship is also depicted in ‘Sebilah Pisau Roti’. The two women are trapped
in a conflict, because one of them would like to have a serious commitment,
while the other does not.
"If I'm with you, you will not allow me to get along with
others. You are possessive."
"Oh yeah? So, then why don’t you want us to be apart?! Why
should I keep this weird relationship with you? What do you
"I was broken heart when I know you love me! But I'm also
broken hearted if you do not love me! Why should we be in
dating? Why is it should always be discussed?"
"I don’t want to be hypocritical, pretending not to understand.
Lie to you. Not! I'm honest with you, I love you and want to
make love with you! I am ready to bear all the risks if it hurts
everyone ... or we must be apart. "(SPR, 92-93)144
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, p. 2.
“Kalau aku jalan sama kamu, kamu tidak akan mengizinkan aku bergaul dengan yang lain.
“Oh ya? Lalu mengapa kamu tidak mau kita berjarak?! Kenapa aku harus tetap menjaga
hubungan aneh dengan mu? Mau mu apa?”
“Aku patah hati ketika tahu kamu mencintai ku! Aku juga patah hati jika kamu tidak menyayangi
ku! Kenapa sih kita harus jalan! Memangnya pacaran harus selalu dibicarakan?”
“Aku tidak mau munafik. Pura-pura tidak mengerti. Membohongi mu. Tidak! Aku jujur pada mu,
aku mencintai mu. Ingin bercinta dengan mu! Aku siap menanggung segala resiko jika ini
menyakiti semua orang ... atau kita berjarak.”
The narrator is not feeling well if her female friend just comes and goes
anytime she wants. Thus she wants to make everything clear between them. She
wants them to either have a clear and serious commitment in their relationship or
to separate. She wants to have clear destination for her relationship with her
friend. Being commited in a serious relationship is portrayed as bringing conflict
because not all lesbians who have emotional and sexual desire toward another
woman want to commit in a relationship and to truly cope with lesbian couple
As different from the Indonesian language short story, lesbians in
English language short story do not have similar perception about their lifestyle.
In “True Love” by Georgia Beers, for example, a lesbian couple has been
together more than 15 years. Their age is arround forty. The narrator mentions
about many lesbian couples are failure in establishing or staying and commiting
in their relationship because they do not respect their couple.
“In my all years of observation, I can only come up with the one,
true thing my partner and I have for many year – gay or straight –
don’t. It’s respect. It seems so simple, but it’s really quite a rare
commodity. Is it so hard to speak kindly to your partner, not to
belittle him or her in front of friends or acquaintances? Why do
some people make it crystal clear that they think they’re better
than their spouse?” (TL, 52)
In her dialogue with her spouse, this lesbian couple discusses their view
about what is called true love.
“True love to me is complete compatibility. It’s the desire to
be together all the time, but the security and understanding to
spend time apart.” ... I mean, I would love nothing more than to
spend all my free time with you, but I also know that we need our
own space and some alone time, and I’m okay with that. It means
that I’d love to spend all day on Saturday with you by my side,
but I’m fine with the fact that you want to go see that foreingn
film and I don’t, so you go by yourself. Or that I feel like
shopping and you’d rather not, so I go to the mall alone or with a
friend, and you don’’t freak out about it.
True love means that when I have a good news, you’re the
one I want to share it with first. When I have a shitty day, all I
want is a hug from you or a nap in your arms. When you’ve had a
shitty day, I want to be the one to compfort you. True love means
that I am always thinking of your first and me second and that’s
okay because I know that you’re thinking of me first and you
second.” I’m smilling and nodding as I watch her continue.
“True love is security. It’s not having to worry. I don’t mind
when other people flirt with you. I don’t even mind if you flirt
back because I know where you’ll be that night. I know who
you’re going home with, and it doesn’t bother me if someone hits
on you because that simply means that other people think my wife
is as hot as I do. True love is knowing exactly where I’m
spending the rest of my life – here, by your side. Happily”. (TL,
This lesbian couple seems really knows how to conduct themselves in a
relationship. She narrates in the story when she is trying to compare her own
relationship and her other lesbian friends. She mentions that many couples stay
together and others simply crumble and fall apart, for one reason or another they
continue to fall.
d. Social Gap and Jealousy
Another problem between a lesbian character and her partner found in the
stories is the social gap and envy. In “To Dance with No Music” by Lois Cloarec
Hart two lesbian characters are portrayed as being different in many instances.
For example, they are different in life style, social status, and in terms of
We were so different. I had married foolishly and divorce
bitterly. She, always more self aware, refused to fall into the
trap of cultural expectations. She was a career woman, she
declared merrily; the law was her mate, the courts her home.
She had no time for the demands of husband and children.
And at her assertion, all within earshot would nod
knowingly. None could deny that her drive and ambition
eclipsed all else in her life. (TDWNM, 67)
In this story, the protagonist faces difficulties to balance her partner.
Dealing with differences can be a real challenge for this couple. Her partner is
portrayed as a very intelligent person. She is a career woman and has broad
knowledge, while the narrator is only a widow with two kids and works as a clerk.
“Then I enter her orbit. We came to each other late, already middle-aged and set
our ways. Our friends declared we would never last. Too different too find
compatibility, they insist.” (TDWNM, 67)
Since lesbian women do not live in isolation, they are surrounded by
people and friends. Thus, the person with lower status in this relationship is
underestimated by their friends, especially her partner's colleagues. In this story,
even the protagonist is considered as the maid in her partner’s house. In addition,
the way her partner’s peers and colleagues belittle the lesbian couple can be seen
from the description of their first anniversary party. She has never disclosed their
relationship to people in her life. But, that night her partner come out to the guests
and tells them she is her spouse. “Given her deep reticence about our love, de
rigueur for the times, it would not have surprised me if many in attendance that
night assumed I was the maid, hired for the evening’s entertainment”. (TDWNM,
69). People view her un-respectably because of her low social status. They think
she does not deserve to get a partner, as successful as her partner, one with such
good social status in society. “I was keenly aware that those who knew us casually
considered me a doormat and wondered aloud what she could possibly see in me.
In the early days of our relationship that knowledge hurt, though I said nothing.”
This lesbian’s difficulty to balance social life with her low social status
does not only effect to her partner, but also among her partner’s peer and
colleagues. It is clearly shown in the party that they held to celebrate their first
anniversary. They invite their peers and colleagues. She seems to have no
confidence and she is nervous of being among those people. Probably it is
because she is there among professionally successful, intelligent, and fashionable
people. It is escalated because they have a high social status. A woman who she
sees as her “competitor”, whom she mention as her “rival” makes her especially
“When it comes to my rival, I was not even in the running.
She had an exotic beauty that I could never match. She spoke four
languages fluently and had earned advanced degrees from several
European universities. Her sense of style had been photographed
and written about by countless fashion magazines, and her family
was descended from Prussian royalty.
I was a dray horse in comparison, and my rival never once let
me forget it. She initially dismissed me as a fling—my partner’s
way of getting back at her for a fight they’d had. It was one of
many in their tempestuous on-again, off-again relationship. When
our own nascent love affair blossomed and flourished, my rival
was astonished at my partner’s poor taste and said so loudly and
repeatedly. Because both my partner and rival served together on
many of the same arts and charitable committees, there was no
avoiding the woman, try though I did.” (TDWNM, 68)
She continues to tell about how different she is from her partner’s friend, in term
of fashion and style. She thinks she is not fashionable. That night in the party, she
discovers how impossible it would be for her to compete with her rival. This rival
seems to have a perfect life; good figure, beautiful face, rich, famous, educated,
modern, stylish, fashionable, elegant, high social status, noble descent. She is the
perfect woman compared to the narrator who has a lower social status and
“My distressed gaze slid down my rival’s sleek body, encased in a
sheath that undoubtedly cost more than a year of my wages.
Unable to look away, I stared at her feet, clad in glistening black
stilettos that did wondrous things for her long, long legs.
I glanced down at my feet, shod in flats. I had thought them both
practical and attractive when I bought them.” (TDWNM, p. 68)
Jealousy is a common problem faced by couples. The fear of being
cheated on or the partner admiring another person, usually troubles their hearts.
Generally, jealousy is the result of a person who is afraid of losing her partner.
This is found both in heterosexual and homosexual relationships. This is reflected
in this story where the character feels confused and doubts her partner. She feels
that her partner is cheating on her, lying about it by saying and promising sweet
things. But, her actions are not as sweet as her words. This fact causes her feeling
of jealousy, insecurity and doubt about her partner grows up highly inside herself.
It is illustrated in the quotation below, when she tells her partner how she feels:
“My partner laughed gently at my fears, reassuring me that the
other woman meant nothing to her any longer and never would
again, that she loved only me. When I was in her arms and in
our bed, I could believe her. But when I saw news photos of
them at social events I refused to attend, I could not mistake
the proprietary look in my rival’s eyes or the possessive way
her hand so often rested on my lover’s back.” (TDWNM, 68).
Munro remaks: “Some lesbians are convinced that other lesbians are a
threat to their relationship. They are afraid that they will lose their partner if they
go out and have fun with other lesbians. They feel insecure about any close
relationship their partners have, especially with single lesbians.”145 This is how
the lesbian character feels toward her partner friend:
“I cast an eye over our guests and looked for empty glasses to
refill. When my gaze fell on my partner, my heart fell.
Standing entirely too close to her was a woman I knew well,
and loathed. The new arrival had been described as my
‘competition’ by those in our circle who enjoyed a good catfight.
I was relieved when my rival left the city on a European tour
four months earlier. I should have known her absence only
postponed the inevitable. Heartsick, I watched now as she laughed
at something my partner said, tilting her head flirtatiously.”
The lesbian character with lower class status feels relieves when the woman
whom she is jelous with leaves the town. She feels secure with her absent of
meeting her partner. Thought her partner has come out to the public and introduce
her as her spouse, still she cannot free herself from the jealousy feeling. The issue
of social gap between lesbian partners is also found in one of the Indonesian
language short stories, “Bukan Hari Kemarin” by Nisrina Lubis. The lesbian
couple comes from different social backgrounds. Tia is a street musician
(pengamen) who has to earn money by singing, busking from one bus to another
bus; while her partner, is an office worker (pekerja kantoran). This social gap
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, p. 2.
apparently does not influence their will to be together as a partner. "Yes, you're
right. I'm just dreaming too high and forget who I am. I don’t think there would be
an office worker who wants to.... "Yes! I want," I interrupted her quickly, "it is
not a problem for us." (BHK: p. 60)146 From this dialogue between Tia and her
partner Tia realizes that she does not deserve to be her partner because she is only
a street musician while Her is an officer. However, she directly proclaims that
social class does not matter for her. She wants to have this relationship with Tia.
She accepts Tia with all her conditions.
The difference in this story is that the lesbian with low status does not
face the problems faced by the character depicted in the English language short
story “To Dance with No Music” above. She does not have rival and no need to
compete with other women. This can be understood because in “Bukan Hari
Kemarin”, the characters are not in the same position as those in “To Dance with
No Music“. In conclusion, these two stories reveal that lesbian lifestyle options
are not only available for middle and for high-class people. The same sex sexual
practice also exists in lower class people. The couples are from both middle and
lower class people. This problem is not only faced by a lesbian in the English
language short story but also in the Indonesian language short story.
2. The Steps Taken by Lesbians to Overcome Problems Due to Their
Sexual Orientation and Relationship
a. “Coming Out” or “In the Closet”?
“Ya, kamu benar. Aku hanya bermimpi terlalu tinggi dan lupa siapa aku ini. Mana mau
seorang pekerja kantoran ….“Aku mau,” potong ku cepat, “itu tidak perlu kita
Siker defines: “Coming Out is the commonly used phrase that describes
the process of claiming one’s identity as gay, lesbian, or bisexual and
communicating that identity to others.”
He explains that: “Historically, the
meanings associated with coming out have changed in response to developments
in both gay and heterosexual culture. Although coming out is most often thought
of as an action by gay and lesbian persons, actually, it is an act in which all
persons engage in on a daily basis”.147 He continues to explain that in regards to
sexual identity, individuals make choices about how they express themselves to
others in almost every encounter they experience. For example, heterosexuals
come out every time they introduce a spouse, wear a wedding ring, or engage in
office talk about their boyfriends and girlfriends.
Another problem faced by a lesbian and her partner is the issue of whether
they should “come out” or “keep staying in the closet”. This issue often brings
lesbians into conflict. Both lesbians in some of the Indonesian and English
language short stories commonly conduct their relationship secretly; in other
words, they hide it. It becomes a problem because the lesbian couples are often
having different opinions. They are in conflict about either to keep hiding their
relationship or be open to their family and public. It can be understood that some
lesbians are not happy having a “hide and seek” relationship with their partners.
They usually persuade their partners to come out, to stop hiding who they truely
are and stop wearing a mask to hide their identity as lesbians. This situation is
portrayed by Blaine and her partner, Leah in “The Eyes of March”.
Jeffrey S. Siker, Homosexuality and Religion. An Encyclopedia, (Greenwood Publishing
Group, Inc: USA, 2007), pp. 95-96.
Blaine wants to be free and stop hiding her relationship with her partner
Leah. She is not happy with their secret relationship. She is no longer able to
tolerate it because they are constantly lying, hiding and worrying all the time.
Thus, she wants them to come out but it will endanger Leah. Thus, Leah always
disagrees because she is afraid of her family and her husband’s family. If they
find Leah having an affair with someone else, worse enough a woman, they would
make her life like hell and possibly kill her because her husband family comes
from a royal family.
I was miserable, and I knew that Leah was too. I hated that
we had to be secretive. I hated always having to meet her
in such clandestine ways, but I knew that she had no
other choice. We often traveled far and wide just so we
could meet up someplace and spend time together. This had
been the case tonight. A goddamn two-hour drive just to
Never in my life had I been secretive about a
relationship, and I’d never been relegated to seeing a lover
only on occasion. I mean, I loved Leah, but meeting once,
maybe twice a month just wasn’t good enough anymore.
…this was driving me insane.
“Honey, you know we can’t go on like this!
Meeting only here and there, when you’re able to
sneak away and I have a free evening. (TEOM, 6667)
Another obstacle that brings lesbian characters in the dilemma of whether
to come out or to stay in the closet is the matter of respect and politeness. This is
clearly depicted in “Driving Philosophy” where a lesbian couple decides not to
come out because they want to respect their neighbours and keep their privacy.
They realize that though their neighbours can be tolerant to their existence, the
society still has a paradigm of normal and abnormal. Therefore, they decide to
stay in the closet.
I’m sure the neighbours suspect what the relationship between
Bren and me is, but they don’t ask out of politeness, and we don’t
tell out of a need for privacy and normality. “I understand. I’ve no
desire to come out either.” (Anne Azel, DP, p. 84)
In some of the Indonesian language short stories, staying in the closet or
hiding their sexual identity is one of the solutions taken by lesbians in order to
keep their relationship a secret. Some of the lesbian characters used this solution
because it is the safest way. In two of the Indonesian language short stories
“Bunga Sakura Di Hati Nia” and “Menggapai Langit Ketujuh”, the lesbians
decide to stay in the closet because they do not want to hurt their mothers. They
believe their mothers will not be able to accept the fact that their only daughters
are lesbians. Therefore, they do not want to disappoint their mothers, a single
parent who has given them birth and brought them up. The mother’s feelings are
the most important reason for those lesbians to stay in the closet.
In “Bunga Sakura Dihati Nia”, the lesbian character is described as being
in a dilemma when the parents especially the mother asks about when she will
get married, who her boyfriend or a candidate companion of her life is. It is
portrayed as very difficult for lesbians to declare the truth and admit to their
parents that they do not like men. That in fact she is a lesbian, a woman lover,
especially in Indonesian families.
But, there’s no way I could tell to my mother that i don’t like
man. More and more if i tell her openly that I am a lesbian.
Perhaps, she will get unconscious even dying. (BSHN, 66)148
In “Menggapai Langit KeTujuh”, Kirana goes to her hometown to visit her
mother after 2 years. Besides missing her mother, the other reason for her coming
home is to come out to her mother. She wants to tell her mother the truth of her
life choice and what kind of life she has in Bandung. She wants to disclose to her
mother that she does not like men and she has been living with a same sex partner
in Bandung. She does not want to keep lying about a husband candidate when her
mother asks about it.
However, Kirana is confused whether she really has to disclose everything
or can keep hiding the truth about her sexual orientation. Principally, Kirana
wants to overcome the trauma of hiding her sexual orientation. On the other hand,
she knows this fact will hurt her mother a lot, especially because she is the only
child and her mother is a single parent. She raised Kirana by herself. She does not
want to disappoint her mother who has loved and brought her up. This
predicament situation is narrated in a dialogue between Kirana and her friend,
Marion in the bus, on the way to her home town:
"After all this time I go through this life, the more I feel this
burden becoming tougher. Do you think it's good if I reveal all this
burden to my mom? I have been a liar for so long before my mom.
I'm tired." Kirana said in a weak voice.
"I'm not sure your mother can accept all of your confession. You
know that, right? If the world out there cannot be that easy to
Tapi, tidak mungkin aku akan mengatakan kepada ibu bahwa aku sama sekali tidak menyukai
yang namanya laki-laki. Dan lebih tidak mungkin lagi aku akan berucap begitu lantang bahwa aku
seorang lesbian, yang ada mungkin ibu akan langsung pingsan bahkan langsung meregang nyawa.
accept the presence of the same-sex relationship, more and more
now that you're willing to deal with your mother. Kirana, you have
to remember! Your mother has been struggling to raise you by
herself alone. You must be aware of that. Don’t disappoint her."
In this story staying in the closet is used as a solution for two reasons: first,
Kirana does not want to disappoint her mother or hurt her feelings. Secondly, she
does not want to destroy her relationship with her mother. For all those reasons,
she decides to stay in the closet.
In “Hari Ini, Esok, dan Kemarin” by Maggie Tiojakin, a wife decides to
keep hiding her relationship with a woman named Elena. She has a love affair
with this woman for several months. Though she wants to come out to her
husband, she always postpones the conversation. It is because she knows that this
secret will hurt him. As narrated in the story, this woman’s marriage life is
depicted as boring. Even though her husband is a good man, she feels bored and
she can not get pregnant. Then one day, she meets a lesbian, Elena. And soon they
are in love and commit to a same-sex relationship. She feels happy for having this
woman in her life. However, at the same time she feels guilty because she betrays
her own husband. The decision of staying in the closet in front of her husband also
positions this woman to be a bisexual.
“Setelah sekian lama aku menjalani kehidupan ini, semakin berat aku merasakan beban ini.
Apakah menurut mu ada baiknya aku mengungkapkan semua beban ini pada ibu ku? Telah sekian
lama aku merasa jadi pendusta di hadapan ibu ku. Aku sudah lelah.” Kirana berkata dengan suara
“Aku tidak yakin ibu mu dapat begitu saja menerima semua pengakuan mu. Kau tahu kan? Dunia
di luar sana saja tidak akan mudah menerima kehadiran hubungan sesama jenis. Apalagi sekarang
kau mau berhadapan dengan ibu mu. Ingatlah Kirana, bahwa selama ini ibu mu berjuang seorang
diri membesarkan mu penuh kasih sayang”
Different to the previous stories discussed above where the lesbians prefer
to keep staying in the closet and lie to their family, friends and society, another
Indonesian language short story ‘Lelaki Yang Menetas Di Tubuhku’ by Ucu
Agustin the lesbian character finally decides to come out. She wants to stop lying
to herself about her feelings and sexual desires. Thus, she comes out to her father
and mother. She confesses about her condition, that she is lesbian and she loves a
woman. Moreover, to her colleagues at her work place, she comes out by
introducing Naoko, her life partner as her wife.
“About right or wrong. In your honest opinion, where my position
is? Deceiving others is easy. But lying to myself is killing me.
Therefore since last month I decided to swallow drugs to avoid
early death. I named the formula: honesty aspirin. I met my Mom
and Dad, admitted my real condition. I also formally introduces
Naoko to my colleagues as my life partner; my wife.” (LYMD,
In this case, the lesbian character uses coming out as the solution to her
sexual identity. By coming out and telling the family and friends, she hopes to
release her psychological pressure. By being honest to herself and people about
who she truly is, people can accept her the way she is. Yet, after she comes out as
narrated in the story, her parents and friends’ responses are not as she expected.
When she tells them the truth, she is judged negatively and this truth is considered
“Karena tentang benar atau salah. Di manakah posisi ku menurut mu, sebenarnya? Berbohong
pada orang mungkin aku mampu. Namun berbohong pada diri sendiri rasanya mau mampus saja.
Maka sejak sebulan lalu akhirnya ku putuskan untuk menelan obat supaya aku tidak mati cepat.
Aku menamai formula itu; aspirin kejujuran. Ku temui Ibu dan Bapak mengakui keadaan ku
sebenarnya. Ku kenalkan juga Naoko pada rekan kerja ku secara resmi sebagai partner hidup ku;
as a mistake. “But why then when I honestly admit the truth, you labelled me as
wrong?” (LYMD, 50)151
Therefore, as Siker emphasizes: “depending upon one’s religious and
social context, coming out can be a difficult and arduous task for gay, lesbian, and
bisexual people. Essentially, they must set themselves in opposition to the norms
and expectations of the majority of society.... Depending upon the surrounding
environment, one may risk losing contact with one's family of origin, losing one’s
job or career status, losing one’s status as clergy or laity in some organized
religions, and losing the security of freedom from homophobic harassment and
violence.”152 From the quotation above, it is noted that religion and societal norms
are among factors that make the process of coming out not only difficult but also
stressful and risky. Munro explains that the reasons why some lesbians prefer to
stay in the closet or only come out in certain areas or situations in their lives,
because of the possible bigger risks which can come over toward them after
coming out. Since not all workplaces and families are cooperative, being fired,
lost their family or community, be the object of harassment and violence are the
guranttee for lesbians to face.153 Thus lesbians need to consider the circumstances
when and where they need to come out.
b. Pretending to Love Man and Getting Married Heterosexually
Another solution used by lesbians and their families is usually done
through marriage bond. Either a lesbian is forced to marry a man by her parents or
“Namun kenapa saat aku mengakui dengan jujur hal yang sebenarnya, kalian justru mencap ku
Jeffrey S. Siker, Homosexuality and Religion: An Encyclopedia, pp. 95-96.
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, pp. 12-13.
the lesbian herself decides to marry a man. Because of family and social pressure,
lesbians choose marrying with a man as a solution.
In Indonesian culture marriage is considered to be a sign of a successful
life. Being married with children is considered one of the highest achievements in
life. Hence, it is used by lesbians to cover their true identity. In “Saga”, after
being separated from her partner by their parents, the main character has to
pretend to love men. She starts relationships with one man after another but none
of them can win her heart because she does not desire men. She keeps pretending
to preserve her reputation. She wants to make her family and people around her
think she has been ‘normal’. One day she agrees to get married to a rich widower
How hurt my feeling in that time was. And those hurt feelings
were almost disappearing when one by one man got into my live
in turn. I tried to open my heart for them, but I felt empty toward
them actually here inside my heart. But for the sake of my
reputation before parents and family, I acted like normal woman,
who adores man, even when my heart has tied only to Lorena.
Until Erald, the most gallant, modern, and handsome widower in
my village insist me to marry him. I gave up. And I tried my best
to be a good wife for him, although I returned to be hurt again in
and uncertainty.154 (Saga, 85)
However, as it is portrayed in this story, this marriage becomes a very
annoying and full of sorrow. Getting married to a man is often a fearsome and
awful experience faced by many lesbians. Lesbians marry heterosexually for a
“Betapa sakit perasaan ku saat itu. Dan sakit itu hampir pudar ketika ku kenal lelaki demi
lelaki yang singgah menghampiri ku. Aku hampa pada mereka sebenarnya. Tapi demi menjaga
reputasi di depan orang tua dan sanak keluarga, aku tampil seolah perempuan normal, yang
memuja lelaki, meski hati ku tertambat hanya pada Lorena. Hingga Erald, duda ganteng paling
parlente dan modern dikampung ku secara setengah memaksa meminang ku. Aku menyerah saat
itu. Dan berusaha sebaik mungkin menjadi istri yang baik untuknya. Meski akhinya aku kembali
variety of reasons; some of the examples include hiding their sexual orientation or
showing off to parents, family and society that they love and have desire toward
men. They do so in order to make them to be considered “normal” as well as to
keep their reputation before the family and society. The lesbian’s marriage life is
portrayed as very unhappy and full of suffering:
Erald just came home. I didn’t know from what night club or any
pub he was. A very sharp smell of women blending with the
perfume of hookers. Then, forcefully he opened my vagina. Not
even gave me a chance to make myself ready. (Saga, 84)155
“Hey, what are you fantasizing about?” He kicked my butt, I
sighed. Then he poured my body with cold beer. It felt so hurt
because the beer hit my wounded nipples which nearly broken by
his bite two days ago. I shivered, bear the pain. (Saga, 86)156
In “Ketika Langit Senja”, a lesbian character named Ken has to see her
partner get married with a man. Her partner is her best friend and they have been
in a relationship for 5 years. Her partner’s parents ask her partner to get married.
Thus, her partner wants them to come out to the family, so that the pressure to
marry a man can be stopped. On the other hand, Ken herself is not ready to
disclose their relationship because she is very close to her partner’s parents. Their
parents know that they are very close friends. She does not want to bring a
conflict into the family. Thus, she finally decides to stay in the closet.
Ia baru pulang dari night club atau pub mana, aku tak tahu. Aroma perempuan menusuk,
berbaur dengan parfum perempuan-perempuan malam. Dibukanya dengan paksa liang wanita ku.
Tak diberi aku kesempatan untuk bersiap.”
Aku menghela nafas ketika Erald menendang bokong ku.
“Hei, kamu melamun apa?” Diguyurnya tubuh telanjang ku dengan bir dingin. Sungguh pedih
sebab mengenai puting payudara ku yang masih luka ia gigit hampir putus dua hari yang lalu.
Aku mengigil menahan sakit.”
"Do you want our relationship keep continuing secretly like this?
"It still not too late if you want us to fight for everything?"
What shall I say? Fight everything means to fight for our sincere
and extraordinary love whereas in the eyes of my parents and
Rani’s is an irrationality? It’s the same to kill myself. I have
considered Rani’s parents like my own, and vice versa. Then
everything will be destroyed easily, at least I myself have already
known how they would react and the ending is. Mentally, I am
not ready. (KLS, 104)157
Letting her partner to marry with a man and having her relationship with
her secretly are used as solution for this lesbian couple. They use this solution to
overcome problems they face because of the family pressure to marry a man.
Since they love each other and they cannot stop this relationship, a win-win
solution is finally created by this couple; by marrying the man and at the same
time secretly keeping their relationship. The solution used by this lesbian
character can be seen as part of her struggle to fight for her relationship with the
woman she loves. However, this solution brings Ken into a dilemma. It is not easy
for her to let the woman she loves live with a man. She feels pain inside her heart.
On the other hand, letting her partner marry with a man actually forces her
psychologically and sexually to have two relationships at the same time.
"How does it feel to imagine the person you love so much spend
the whole day with someone else? Imagine him passing the nights
in the arms of someone else? It’s so painful indeed. But it is a
consequence of my choice. I have to blind eyes and ears,
especially my heart. (KLS, 105)158
“Apa kau ingin hubungan kita akan sembunyi-sembunyi seperti ini terus?
“Masih belum terlambat jika kau ingin kita memperjuangkan segalanya?”
Apa yang harus ku jawab? Memperjuangkan segalanya berarti memperjuangkan cinta yang bagi
kami setengah mati tulus dan sangat luar biasa sedangkan di mata orang tua ku dan orang tua
Rani adalah sebuah ketidakmasukakalan. Bagiku itu sama saja dengan bunuh diri. Orang tua
Rani sudah ku anggap seperti orang tua ku sendiri, begitu juga sebaliknya. Lalu semuanya akan
hancur dengan mudah, paling tidak aku sendiri sudah tahu akan bagaimana reaksi mereka dan
bagaimana pula endingnya. Aku belum siap mental.
“Bagaimana rasanya membayangkan orang yang sangat kau cintai menghabiskan waktu
sepanjang hari bersama orang lain, membayangkan tubuhnya melewati malam-malam dalam
These two Indonesian language short stories portray the decision of being
married heterosexually to cover their true sexual orientation is more because of
family pressure and the social demand or social standard of life. As explained by
Beollstroff that “...when gay men and lesbi women speak about the imperative to
marry, they emphasize parental pressure. Parents’ hopes that their children marry
reflect not just nationalist discourse but ethnolocalized beliefs about kinship.159”
Therefore, the parents’ expectation about marriage incorporates understandings of
marriage as social duty. This imperative of marriage at the end forces lesbian to
deal with heterosexual marriage and bisexual relationship even though they are
eventually a lesbian.
c. Lesbian vs Heterosexual Marriage: Bisexual Not Merely the
In this part, I would like to discuss about the correlation between lesbian
and bisexuality. This discussion pursued in this part is based on my finding in
the stories. There are some stories that pursue this issue. In many countries,
governments have come up with policies governing families, especially about
the issue of marriage. For example, the family policy of the Indonesian
authorities dictates social and religion pressure to emphasize heterosexual
marriage making homosexuality generally not supported. However, many
married men and women also maintain the same-sex relationships. As Kali
Munro explained in the following excerpt:
dekapan orang lain? Pedih memang. Namun itu adalah konsekuensi pilihan ku. Membutakan mata
dan telinga, terlebih hati ku.
Tom Beolstroff, The Gay Archipelago: Sexuality and Nation in Indonesia, p. 117.
“Many people think that there are two narrowly defined
sexual orientations for women -- lesbian and straight -- and that
women fall neatly into one or the other category for the rest of
their lives (or at least once they've come out). Deviations from
these categories upset a lot of people, including both those who
support and those opposed to lesbian sexuality. In response, a
third category is introduced: bisexuality.
There is a tendency to view bisexuality as fitting anyone
who doesn't neatly fit into the other two; kind of like a "dumping
ground" rather than a viable alternative in its own right. But even
this third category hasn't resolved the issue because it would
mean, for example, grouping women who form all of their
emotional and sexual relationships with women and occasionally
have sex with men into the same category as women who form all
of their emotional and sexual relationships with men and
occasionally have sex with women.”160
In “Saga”, a lesbian character is portrayed at the beginning as being only a
lesbian. Because of family and social pressure, she has to marry a heterosexual
man. It is certainly causes her to hide and repress her true feelings and deny her
needs as a lesbian. Unfortunately, this lesbian gets a cruel husband. She does not
have happiness living with him.
"Erald, human abuser, is a very jealousy man. He is very angry
if I have chat with any man on phone. Besides I have no interest,
once again, I do not want to be burned alive by him if he finds
me cheating. Ah, I wonder why I am very frightened by his
threats. Meanwhile, he shows me up the woman panties left in
his car seat calmly. I just stroked my chest. Not feeling any
jealous and angry... I've been ambiguous. His goddam
behaviour, I care nothing." (S.87)161
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, pp. 23-24.
“Erald, manusia penyiksa itu sangat pecemburu. Akan sangat marah jika aku ngobrol di telpon
dengan lelaki mana pun. Selain tak tertarik, sekali lagi, aku tak ingin dibakar hidup-hidup oleh
Erald jika ketahuan berselingkuh. Ah, aku heran juga mengapa sangat ketakutan dengan ancaman
itu. Sementara, Erald dengan cueknya menunjukkan celana dalam wanita yang ketinggalan di jok
mobilnya. Aku hanya mengelus dada saja waktu itu. Tak cemburu dan tak marah saja… aku sudah
After 10 years of living in her marriage, she finds a woman and they love
each other. However, she cannot leave her husband. Thus, it traps her into a
bisexual relationship. Because at the same time she has a sexual relationship
with this woman whom she loves, yet at the same time continues to serve her
husband sexually. She fulfills duty as a wife though she does not have any
emotional or romantic feelings to him.
In the “Eyes of March” the same situation is portrayed where a lesbian
character denies her homosexual feelings or desire. She gets married with a rich
and noble man because of her parents demand on this union. Finally, she realizes
that she is a lesbian, but she cannot leave her husband to live only with the
woman she loves;
I knew Leah was between a rock and a hard place, and
honestly, I felt that it was my fault for putting her there.
But Leah always contradicted me, saying that I just
opened her eyes to a truth she’d been denying for a long
time. (TEOM, 67)
This situation automatically traps this lesbian into a bisexual relationship. She
cannot avoid being involved in this bisexual relationship because of her marital
status. She is especially afraid of the risks that will happen in her life if her
family and her husband’s family find out about her homosexual relationship.
Leah said often that she wished she could just leave
Graham, but she knew what her family would do if she
did. Her family and her husband’s family would make her
life a living hell if she tried to leave or divorce. And if they
found out about me—hoo boy, it would certainly be worse
I didn’t blame Leah for the situation we found ourselves
in. As I said, it all just happened, so I never pushed her or
made any demands on her. I’d never suggested she leave
her husband and never insisted that she make a choice
between her family or me (TEOM, 65-67)
In “Serious” by Lorenza Martelli, we can see one of the woman characters
playing a bisexual character. The woman with whom she is in love with is a
lesbian. “I don’t want this to affect our friendship, but as a bisexual woman, I find
you very attractive.” It is told by a Greek woman that the main character met.
They fall for each other and make love but the Greek woman leaves her since she
is a bisexual. “I was gay, but she was only bisexual, and she left me for a man
within six months.” Then the lesbian character needs a Jewish man and people say
that Jewish men make the best husband. He is a social worker and again people
say social workers make best listeners. Based on others opinion, she decides that
he could be a good husband and father and finally married him. However, what
she thought is different to the way he really is. Her married life in fact is not as
beautiful as in her dreams. This marriage finally ends up in divorce. Her husband
was unable to hold a job. He could not fulfill the family needs, such as, paying
bills and the needs for their children. And then their mothers died. She is forced to
work hard to fulfill her family needs; she pays the bills, as well as, take care of the
children’s needs. (S, 108) She describes her husband as a person who has
predilection for pornographic female bodybuilders and compulsive masturbation.
He is also portrayed as an irresponsible father who only cares about himself. As
described in the following paragraph:
Living with daddy would be like being orphaned anyway
because he never gets out of bed until practically evening. He
never gets them to school on time or takes care of them in any
meaningful way. He never buys them clothes or takes them to
the dentist. (S, 109)
After having divorce, she actually wants to try her luck again with a man.
She thought about remarrying, for the sake of the kids. However, she decides to do
something else. She drinks alcohol a lot to forget her sorrow. “I decide liquor
would probably benefit me more than remarriage, so I got good and drunk.” (S,
109) Until one night, she falls for another beautiful woman who actually also
experiences the same sorrowful marriage life. In this story, the main character falls
for both men and women because she needs love and a settled life. According to
the story, she does not get all these things form her husband, hence she divorces
him. She then falls for a woman, whom she describes in this quotation as below:
“She was a wonderful lover, the kind of lover who knows where
you’re going before you even do. She took me to the highest
states of passion I had ever known. I was told I impressed her
equally.” (S, 109)
That woman told her “I am married and even though it’s not a sexual
marriage, it’s still a marriage.” (S: 109). Thought the lesbian partner is portrayed
having an unhappy married life, in this story it clearly depicts that she was a
lesbian before her married with her husband. One night after their meeting, she
invites her to come to her apartment. That is their first night to be together as a
lover. As it is shown in this illustration: “I asked her if this was her first time. I
didn’t want to take her across a line she was unprepared to cross. But I realized
that she had had others before me. I realized she was experienced.” (S, 109)
Bitter marriages indeed can cause a lesbian to be involved in a homosexual
and heterosexual relationship at the same time. Because lesbians also consider
respect as a reason, that is why they should have these two worlds and not to leave
her husband totally. It is narrated in the story: “She thinks we must respect
everyone, even old Ted, her asexual husband.” (Lorenza Marteli, S: p. 109). The
same situation where a lesbian has to face these two worlds because of respecting
her nuclear family is found in “Ketika Langit Senja”. Ken, the lesbian character
has to let her partner Rani to get married to a man named Yudi. Rani’s parent
wants her to get married. Although they have been together for 5 years, since they
were in college they cannot disclose their relationship out of respect for their
"I'm engaged!" ...
“Mas Yudi’s parents have already set a wedding date, two
months in front. "...
'It is not too late if you want us to fight for everything? "
'Or, do you want us to keep continue sneaking around like
Lesbians are portrayed as someone who sometimes has to give up to the
situation and existing systems which are rooted in society because same-sex love
cannot be accepted. For instance, by allowing her partner to marry a man, the
most important she is still able to interact with her lesbian lover. This illustration
shows how difficult to live as a lesbian is, as someone who cannot do anything
when dealing with the society system. However, from here another picture is also
“Aku sudah bertunangan!” ...
‘Orang tua Mas Yudi sudah menetapkan tanggal pernikahan, dua bulan lagi.” ...
‘Masih belum terlambat jika kau ingin kita memperjuangkan segalanya?”
‘Apa kau ingin kita sembunyi-sembunyi seperti ini terus?’
seen that the lesbian will do everything to maintain her love relationship with the
woman she loves.
A different type of husband is presented in “Hari Ini Esok dan Kemarin”.
In this story a wife who later becomes a lesbian is portrayed has having a good
and patient husband, not like the husbands in previous stories. This marriage does
not have crucial problem. However, the wife is portrayed as having empty
feelings inside herself. She feels bored with her married life which is so
monotonous, especially because they cannot have children. Until one day she
meets a beautiful lady and soon they fall in love. She actually wants to confess to
her husband about her relationship with that lady and desires to leave him because
she considers her homosexual relationship as betraying him. Yet she cannot do
that because she feels pity of him. Consequently, she keeps hiding the truth and
continues to having two relationships with her husband and the lady.
What can be understood from this story is that a woman or a lesbian who
marries heterosexually does not mean she is bisexual, because she is having both
homosexual and heterosexual relationships. We cannot simply categorize her as a
bisexual because of her heterosexual marriage, because emotionally and
romantically she is only or also attracted to a woman. Thus, according to Tyson’s
definition on lesbian, it is better to view lesbian as a woman whose sexual desire
is directed to toward women. Because, this definition allows us to recognize
lesbian existence, even within the confines of heterosexual marriage. She further
explaines that: “throughout history, women often have had to marry, whether they
wanted or not, in order to survive economically or because the rigid social system
in which they lived offered them no other social or psychological option”.163 As
she continues to inform that some of these women, were passionately attracted to
women rather than to men, though they might also love and respect their
husbands. As it is depicted in two Indonesian language short stories “Rahasia
Bulan” and “Dua Perempuan Dengan Hp-nya”.
In “Rahasia Bulan”, the wife character, Diana later falls in love with a
woman and has a relationship with her. Her marriage life is depicted as a happy
married which is completed with the presence of a daughter, with a very kind and
rich husband. This marriage is depicted as the perfect married life as it is narrated
in the quotation below:
Diana glanced at her husband who has been married her for
seven years ... is she happy in her marriage? Sure, she is very
happy. One hundred percent, no discount. No excuse. (RB, 38)
Diana's husband is a partner in the law office. His salary is over
fifty million per a month, driving a newest Toyota Land Cruiser,
and has simple casual look. His life is so straight and peaceful.
He has a gold heart and so sincere. He is forty years old. He
does not like clubbing, kissing arround with other women,
drinking alkohol, let alone drugs. As much as possible he is
always hanging out at home. Children and wife are the third
who get his attention after the television and a cup of coffee.
Estella said “There is no other man like him. I swear you”.
Indeed, Diana is a very lucky woman for having such husband.
Lois Tyson, Critical Theory Today, p. 324.
Diana melirik suaminya yang telah dinikahinya selama tujuh tahun… Bahagiakah Diana
dalam perkawinannya? Tentu, dia sangat bahagia. Seratus persen. Tidak ada potongan diskon. No
Suami Diana adalah salah satu partner di kantor pengacara. Bergaji di atas lima puluh juta per
bulan, mengendarai Toyota Land Cruiser keluaran teranyar, dan berpenampilan santai
sederhana. Hidupnya lurus-lurus saja. Berhati emas. Berjiwa tulus. Berusia empat puluh tahun.
Tidak suka dugem, main cewek, minum-minum, apalagi narkoba. Sebisa mungkin selalu
nongkrong di rumah. Anak istri mendapat perhatian nomor ketiga setelah televisi dan secangkir
kopi. Tidak ada lelaki lain yang seperti dia. Sumpah. Kata Estella, Diana memang perempuan
yang sangat beruntung.
The quotations show that this woman has a happy marriage life because
she has a good husband. However, this woman cannot avoid herself from loving
other women. Though she does not have problems with her husband as it happens
in other stories, yet she still emotionally, romantically and sexually attracted to
women. Diana who after 2 years married with her husband meets a woman named
Estella. They fall in love and soon are in a relationship. Since her meeting with
Estella Diana automatically practices dual sexual interactions, with her husband
and with her woman. Perhaps she can be categorized turns becoming a bisexual
woman. We understand this because she firstly has her happy heterosexual
marriage for 7 years and her homosexual relationship with Estella for 5 years. It is
depicted that Diana loves both her husband and Estella.
I love you very much."
I love you very much, too."
The sentences were dripping out of the bottom chamber of their
hearts. Is there a trail of lies? Diana closes her eyes. No. She said
it wholeheartedly. No lies. No secret as she has been doing these
over the past five years. To Estella. Only to her Estella. (RB, 37)
Her husband ... suddenly whispered in her ear, "Honey, I miss
you". Diana blinked her eyes, she absolutely understands the
meaning of those words. She smiled to her husband…So that
night they made love. Amid the sound of sheets, they expressed
their feelings. Wholeheartedly. Deep soul. No lies. No secret.
"I love you"
"I love you, too" (RB, 39)165
I love you very much.”
I love you very much, too.”
Kalimat-kalimat itu menetes keluar dari lubuk hati yang terdalam. Apakah terasa ada jejak
kebohongan? Diana menutup mata. Tidak. Dia mengucapkannya sepenuh hati. Tidak ada
kebohongan. Tidak ada rahasia. Seperti yang telah dia lakukan selama lima tahun belakangan ini.
Kepada Estella. Hanya kepada Estella-nya.
… tiba-tiba suaminya berbisik di telinga istrinya, “Yang, kangen nih”. Diana mengerjapkan mata,
mengerti arti ucapan itu. Dia balas tersenyum penuh arti…
Maka malam itu mereka pun bercinta. … Di tengah gemirisk suara seprai, mereka saling
mengungkapkan rasa. Sepenuh hati. Sedalam jiwa. Tidak ada kebohongan. Tidak ada rahasia.
“ I love you”
In “Dua Perempuan Dengan HP-nya” Sandra, the wife, is depicted also has
a good husband. This couple also has children. She loves her husband, but at the
same time also loves Susan.
"Iyem? Tell to my husband I will be late to return home. There
must be traffic jams and I have so many things to do. ...
"Honey, I am sorry you have to eat your meal alone this time, I
am so busy now. Do not drop in-drop by. Please watch Blackie
and Puss, and accompany the kids eating, ok? I love you ".
These two stories seem to show the fluidity of woman sexuality that
everybody has potential or possibility to be invovled in double sexual practices,
thus they can be identified as lesbian and or as bisexual. There is an impression
deliver through these stories that perhaps everyone has homosexual desires inside
themselves. No matter how long that person has been in heterosexual relationship
or marriage, they still have the potential to become a homosexual or even a
bisexual. Therefore, Munro suggests that since our sexuality is not simple, it
might be more helpful to view women sexuality as a continuum of different
sexual desires and behaviours. As she argues that: “Many lesbians (and others,
too) would prefer the simplicity of saying a lesbian is one thing and one thing
only, but it just doesn’t reflect the sexual desires and behavior of all lesbians, and
“I love you, too”
“Iyem? Nanti kalau Tuan pulang bilang saya terlambat sampai rumah. Jalanan pasti macet
dan saya banyak urusan…
“Makan sendiri, ya? Jangan mampir-mampir. Tolong lihat Si Blackie sama Si Puss, dan
temanilah anak-anak makan ya? I love you”.
we don’t resolve anything by saying that lesbians who sleep with men aren’t
The complexity of woman sexuality in the stories discussed above reflects
that we can not simply categorize the lesbian characters who have involved in
heterosexual and homosexual relationship as bisexual. It is a challenge to actually
understand their feelings, sexual desires and behaviours without having to
categorize them within a fix and narrow clasification. Because in terms of lesbian
as identity is not limited only to the sexual domain. It deals with entire women’s
experience, such as, their past history, traumatic memory, feelings, emotional
energy or bond, phsycological need and support as well as companionship.
3. Lesbian and Family: Solutions Taken by the Family to Overcome
Lesbian’s Sexual Orientation and Relationship
characters‘families, especially their parents when their child’s sexual orientation
is disclosed. In four Indonesian language short stories, “Lesbi”, “Bilik Religius”,
“Putus” and “Un Soir Paris”, the parents are shown of getting shocked, angry, and
finally living in denial about their daughters’ sexual orientation. These reactions
are understandable since in Indonesia homosexuality is considered taboo. The
parents in these stories feel distressed, sad and ashamed. They normally search for
a quick solution to “cure” their daughters because for them it is a serious illness.
They directly consider it as an illness and a sin. Therefore, several solutions are
taken by them to overcome this problem, such as, separating the lesbian couple in
Kali Munro, Lesbian Relationships: A Collection of Articles, p. 24.
different cities or even countries, placing them in religious dormitories, or forcing
them to get married, and the most extremely is by sending a man to rape her.
Finding the truth about their daughter’s sexual orientation often brings
conflicts within the family. In some of the Indonesian language short stories the
parents are portrayed as reacting negatively when they find out their daughter's
homosexual orientation. They usually cannot accept this fact, which destroy the
family harmony and changes the way they treat their daughter. The portrayal of
lesbians and their families especially of parents in the Indonesian language short
stories show different portrayals of family life before and after the daughter’s
coming out. Before they know about their daughters’ sexual orientation, the
family’s relationships are portrayed to be very happy and harmonious. After they
know the truth, everything changes. The children-parents relationship changes and
becomes a cold hence a impersonal relationship.
In “Bilik Religious”, the family life changes drastically when Dila’s
parent and brothers find out about her sexual orientation. The family used to live
in harmony but now this has turned into a disaster. The family members are
shocked and deny this fact.
“At first, they do not believe their daughter’s sexual
orientation. Until that night, the home which used to be lived by
the warmth of family love suddenly changed into a cold freezing
place for Dila.” (BR, 33)168
They do not believe that Dila could be in love with someone from the same
sex. They do not believe it because, as it is portrayed in the story, she is a calm girl
Mereka tidak mempercayai orientasi yang dimiliki putri mereka. Hingga malam itu, rumah
yang selama ini dihidupkan kehangatan kasih sayang keluarga tiba-tiba berubah membeku bagi
who always obeys her parents. She is also so diligent in her prayers and worship,
especially because she wears veil. According to her family, it is impossible for
such thing to happen to their daughter and sister.
The same situation is also found in “Lesbi”, Tommy F. Awuy’s story.
From the day of Gesti’s coming out, the house is steeped in an unpleasant
atmosphere. Gesti has no choice except disclosing her sexual orientation. She
cannot keep hiding her sexual orientation, because her parents, especially her
father continue to corner her by telling her that it is a time for her to marry a man.
Since that day, the family relationships are tenuous.
It began after I come out my mom and dad, “I’m lesbian”. Dad
was shocked and totally disappointed. He could not accept the
truth that I am gay. I am his only child. He surely has many
expectations on me especially for his next heredity… From that
moment, the relationship between these child and parents
become wide apart. And the house situation seems covered by
the dark cloud (L, www.sepocikopi.com)169
Even though Mirna (Gesti’s mother) still tries to love her daughter as
usual, Gesti’s response is always stiff and cold. Arnold cannot accept that his
daughter is a homosexual and blames Mirna with carrying the 'bad' hereditary
genetic matter since his own family does not show any signs of abnormality.
Mirna occasionally argues by using the same argument as her husband. The
family’s condition is portrayed as growing cold and no longer happy as it was
“Awalnya sejak saya memberitahu bahwa saya lesbi. Ayah kaget dan kecewa sekali.
Ia tidak bisa menerima kenyataan. Saya anak satu-satunya. Dia tentu berharap banyak
dari saya terutama soal keturunan.”…
Mulai hari itu suasana rumah selalu murung. Hubungan antara ketiganya menjadi
a. Separating the Lesbian and Her Partner
The first solution the parents usually take after finding out about their
daughter's homosexual orientation is separating the lesbian and her lover. One of
the women lovers is sent away to a different city or country. As it is portrayed in
“Bilik Religious”, Dila, the lesbian character starts her relationship with her
partner 2 years ago. Her partner is her own classmate. Her happy love story ends
dramatically when her parents find out about her sexual orientation and her same
sex partner relationship. Her partner’s parents move their daughter to another
country, while Dila, herself has to end up in a religious institution.
Now she knows nothing about where the woman she loves is.
The only thing she knows is her woman is studying abroad, but
has no idea in which continent. Her parents intentionally set
them in distance after knowing the same sex relationship they
are both committing. (BR, 35)170
In “Un Soir Du Paris” by Stefanny Irawan, the lesbian couple faces the
same tragedy. Their parents separate them. Her partner, Loui is sent by her parents
to a far away country. “It has been years for me trying to write down my memories
of your grief voice calling my name when they shoved you to go, told that you
would never meet me again”. (USDP, 115)171 Separating the lesbian couple in
these stories has psychological impact on the protagonists. The lesbian character
often cries because of missing her lover, but they are no longer able to meet. The
grief about the loss is not limited to sadness alone, but it also makes the character
“Kini, tak lagi ia mengetahui keberadaan perempuan yang dikasihinya. Yang ia ketahui
perempuannya itu menjalani pendidikan di negara lain, tapi entah di benua mana. Orang tua
perempuan sengaja membentangkan jarak saat mengetahui ada hubungan sejenis antara Dila
“Telah bertahun-tahun aku berusaha menulikan ingatan ku dari pilu suara mu meneriakkan
nama ku ketika mereka memaksa mu ikut pergi, mengatakan kau tak akan bertemu aku lagi”.
almost lose her physical and mental health. Loui suffers this only after their
parents separate her and her partner. “People said you lost your mind, Loui. You
said nothing but my name. They tried so hard to get you back, completely. They
did not realize that complete is you and I.” (USDP, 115-116)172
b. “Cure” the Lesbian in Religious Institution
The second solution is using an institution, especially a religious
institution to rehabilitate the character. Besides separating their daughter from her
lover, the next thing they do is “cure” the lesbian. The parents usually take their
daughter to an institution to “cure” her in religious institutions or boarding schools
(pesantren). Why is religion seen as a solution to change a lesbian’s sexual
orientation? Religion is considered as a solution for Indonesian parents because
they believe that religious dogma or doctrine can help their daughter to alter her
sexual orientation to heterosexual. Thus, if they find their children doing anything
forbidden by society and religion, the religious institution serves as a place to
“cure” them. They send their children to be educated there with a very strong
religious agenda because they believe that by attaining a good and strong religion
understanding of religion; they will change to become a better person. There are
two Indonesian language short stories, which portray this issue, “Bilik Religius”
In “Bilik Religius” and “Putus”, the lesbian characters end up in an
Islamic Institution. In “Bilik Religius”, Dila’s parents send her daughter to an
“Orang-orang bilang kau kehilangan kewarasan mu, Loui. Kau tak berkata-kata selain
membilang nama ku. Mereka berusaha sekuat daya untuk mengembalikan diri mu utuh. Mereka tak
menyadari bahwa utuh itu kamu dan aku”.
Islamic Institution, after her sexual orientation is disclosed. She lives there for one
year. In “Putus” Sarah who has been a lesbian since she was in junior high
school, has to stay at an Islamic Boarding School for 2 years. The unique issue in
these stories is that the parents strongly believe placing a lesbian in a religious
institution would provide a solution and hope by building a stronger religious
knowledge their daughter’s sexual orientation can change. Yet, the fact is that this
strategy is a totally failure. It is clearly portrayed in these stories, that this solution
is indeed successful in causing the lesbian understanding about her religion to be
deeper and better. It is also successful in changing the way they dress, to be more
religious and modest, as expressed in the veils that the characters wear to cover
their heads. Yet, when it comes to their sexual orientation, it does not work. Thus
from these stories, a conclusion can be stated that sexual desire towards the same
sex cannot be changed with religious doctrines. Sexual orientation and religious
faith are two different things. Therefore, we need to make separation between
religion and sexual orientation.
c. Forcing to Marry a Man
In “A Day in Vermont” by R.G. Emanuelle, Louisa is forced into marrying
a man by her mother. This man is Dennis, her neighbour and also a childhood
friend. They grow up together. Actually, Louisa does not want to marry him
because she is a lesbian. Because of her mother pressure who always says “You’ll
be old and alone. Someday, you’ll regret staying single”. (ADIV, 62) Finally
Louisa gives up and agrees. Forcing a lesbian into a heterosexual marriage as
shown in this story brings dilema for the lesbian herself. On one side, she does not
want to live with someone she does not love and vice versa. “But, I don’t want to
spend the rest of my life with someone I feel no passion for.” (ADIV, 62). On the
other hand, she wants to help Dennis hide what he is. That is the other reason why
she agrees to marry him. Dennis is a gay man. She knows about this truth because
Dennis came out to her one night.
“One night, I went to Dennis’s and as I got to the door, this guy
was coming out. Dennis’ father followed him, shouting ‘faggot’
and ‘fairy’. He said he’d kill him if he ever came back. Dennis
cried in my arms that night. That’s when he came out to me. I felt
so sorry for him. Still do. And I think that’s really why I agreed to
marry him. To help him hide it from his parents. (ADIV, 64)
Dennis is brought to the church by his parents when they know about their
son's sexual orientation. After that Dennis' mother asks Louisa’s mother to help
Dennis by allowing him to propose marriage to the narrator. Actually, her mother
knows Dennis is a gay, but still she forces her daughter into marrying him.
d. “Cure” the Lesbian by Doing Corrective Rape
Corrective rape is a form of abusive sex where men rape women in order
to ‘cure’ them of their lesbianism. It is a hate crime, violence against women on
the basis of their sexual orientation.173 Cooperative rape is the use of rape against
people who do not conform to perceived social norms regarding human sexuality
and gender role. Often lesbians are raped by heterosexual men and gay men are
raped by heterosexual women.174 This abusive practice of raping the lesbians is
Martin, A; Kelly A; Turquet L; Ross S, Hate crimes: The rise of 'corrective rape' in South
Africa, (2009), p.3.
Gonda W, Corrective Rape’ against Homosexuals on the Rise in Zimbabwe, 8 April 2010, SW
with the goal of punishment of "abnormal" behavior and reinforcement of societal
Corrective rape is used as a "punishment" for people who are gay or do
not fit traditional gender roles (usually women). They are also verbally abused
before the rape by the perpetrator saying things, such as, they will be “teaching
[the women] a lesson” on how to be a “real woman.”176 The short story written by
Tommy F. Awuy entitled “Lesbi” portrays the practice of corrective rape by an
Indonesian father. The father believes that using this vicious practice of raping
can ‘cure’ his daughter’s homosexual orientation, which he thinks abnormal. He
hires a man to rape his own daughter to make her pregnant and hope she will be
'back to normal'. In this story, the father character reacts badly to the fact that his
daughter’s sexual orientation is homosexual. He personally cannot accept this
fact. He often blames his wife by arguing that it is his wife heredity genes which
are abnormal, and cause their daughter's sexual orientation to become abnormal
The strategy employed by Gesti’s father, who is endowed with power and
money, is that he intentionally sends his employee to rape his daughter Gesti in
order to make her pregnant. He intends to correct his daughter sexual orientation
and hopes the pregnancy would make Gesti become a straight girl. "Papa planned
Martin, A; Kelly A; Turquet L; Ross S, Hate crimes: The rise of 'corrective rape' in South
Mieses Alexa, Gender Inequality and Corrective Rape of Women Who Have Sex with Women,
(GMHC Treatment Issues, 2009), p. 1–3.
this rape with the intention to make me become a true woman", Gesty's tone was
flat. "More precisely the rape aimed at making me pregnant.”177 (L).
Gesti’s father executed this rape plan, because she is the only child and
they automatically expect a lot from her, most importantly they expect her to have
children. Grandchildren would continue the father’s hereditary line. However,
whatever the father’s reasoning behind this corrective rape, this form of cure
cannot be tolerated. How could he hire a man to rape his own daughter because
she is a lesbian! As a consequence of this rape, Gesti feels very revengeful
against her father and cannot forgive him. She is eager to kill her father when she
knows that her father was the one behind the scenario that destroyed her life.
Finally, she succeeds in killing her father. The killing happens when her father
gets a heart attack. At that time, only Gesti and he are in the room, and he asks
Gesti to pick up his medicines on the table. Gesti steps close to the table, she
hesitates, and then stops, she does not pick up that medicine. Instead she turns to
hug her daughter, who is running toward her. She ignores her father who has been
lying down on the floor in pain for some time. Eventually she asks her maid to get
the medicine but it is too late. Her father is already dead.
Even though parents, as portrayed in these stories, do not allow or support
their daughters' sexual orientation, the lesbian’s brothers and sisters in some
stories show the opposite response of the parents. After knowing their younger
sister's sexual orientation, they still support and help their sister. They do not
consider their sister as abnormal or someone who is mentally handicapped. “Both
“Papa merencanakan kejadian ini dengan alasan agar aku menjadi benar-benar seorang
perempuan”. Nada suara Gesty datar. “Lebih tepat lagi pemerkosaan itu bertujuan agar aku
her sisters always contact her by phone which has been scheduled weekly.” (BR,
34)178 In “Putus” the brother is portrayed as someone who loves his younger sister
a lot. He is a very understanding brother. After his sister's homosexual orientation
is disclosed, their parents directly send her to one of the Islamic Institutions. If
Sarah, the lesbian character, refuses to go to that Islamic Institution, she will
forcefully be agreed to an arranged marriage. To him, it is better to change his
sister into a new person rather than to let her get married at a very young age.
Since that time, he has to be apart from his sister who has been in that institution
for 2 years. However, this fact does not change his love toward his sister. Even
during her sister’s quarantine time in that Islamic Institution, he is the one who
normally gives information about his sister to her lover, Eva.
What happens to Indonesian family in reacting to their daughter who is
coming out to them does not happen to the family in the English language short
stories. It is reflected in “The Blush” where a homophobic and fanatic brother and
father can be more tolerant to his lesbian family member. In the story, he is one of
members of a church, who usually picket every Thursday which in Gay Night at
the local bar. Later, after he quarrels with his lesbian cousin and finds out that his
own daughter also a lesbian, he never joins the picketing again. This story seems
to portray that when it comes to family, people tend to make excuses. They can
compromize and accept the fact of homosexual lifestyle among his own family.
So, he was all of those things —homophobic and
fanatically religious, but often kind and
accommodating, even with his lesbian kin. “As long as they
don’t try to shove it down my throat,” he would say about
“Kedua kakaknya pun selalu menghubungi lewat telpon yang dijadwalkan tiap minggu”
the homos. I didn’t like to think of what “it” was.
By now you’re probably wondering why Ronnie and I
put up with his attitude. We did for a long time. It’s funny,
but when it’s family you sometimes make excuses. We’d
say to each other: Suss really has a problem with
homosexuals but not us, so he just doesn’t know any better. I
think we were actually kind of grateful that he loved us in
spite of…well. (TB, 11)
The solution taken by Suss, as a father and br other, is not trying to
change his daughter and sisters, yet he is the one who leaves his church
organization. It is in contrast to the Indonesian parents who try to change
their daughter in many ways. Suss chooses to compromise or tolerate
homosexuality existed in his family, thought he is unhappy with this
situation. However he seems to realize that he cannot change them. Thus
he is the one who step back from his struggle.
A cooperative response from family is also portrayed in “Memory
Puzzle” by Anne Azel, where a woman who already married to a man
chooses to spend her life with a woman she loves and loves her. Her
husband also remarries again with another woman. This all happens after
she has given birth to a daughter with her husband. She comes out to her
mother and leaves her daughter to live with her grandmother.
“I’ve got to leave, Sammy.
I know you can never
understand. You are better off here with your grandmother
having a normal life. I love you so much. Rainy and I are
going to live out west, you see.”
“Take care of her, Granny. She’ll be a good girl for you.”
“I blame Dave. He is taking off with that woman.” (MP, 81)
The grandmother character can accept her daughter condition even her
granddaughter’s, Sammy, is also a lesbian like her mother. Her daughter and
granddaughter sexual orientation is depicted as not bringing any conflict to this
family as happens in Indonesian family. Even the grandmother wants to help her
daughter to take care and to raise her granddaughter to have a ‘normal’ life.
Perhaps, because she knows how difficult to live in homosexual family is.
From the discussion above, it can be concluded that for Indonesian family
the truth about a daughter’s homosexual orientation is like black cloud and family
tends to view it as a shame, abnormal and illness. Thus, they use several solutions
to cure their daughter, such as, separate the daughter with her partner, cure them
in religious institution and use corrective rape in order to make their daughter
homosexual orientation can change into heterosexual. While, in English language
short stories there is a negotiation process. The family can be more cooperative.
They can compromise or tolerate this situation. The way family in English
language short stories in viewing the lesbian and her sexual orientation is totally
different to Indonesian family. There is a negotiation process. It is automatically
influences they way they treat the lesbians. Therefore, there is no solution taken
by the family in English language short stories to cure the lesbian like Indonesian
family does. Nevertheless, the parents still use heterosexual marriage as solution.
Thus they force or push their daughter into marrying a man.
C. Lesbian vs Social Environment
Besides the conflicts discussed above, lesbians also experience some
discriminations which is related to their sexual identity and social environment.
Social environment is a medium through which culture takes place. Homosexuals,
like any other people, experience the values and standards of living, as dictated by
culture. Both explicit and implicit discrimination and homophobia are carried out
mainly by religious extremists and those who choose to reinforce the social
standard values. While subtle discrimination and marginalization occur in daily
life among friends, neighbor, family, at work or school. There are some
discriminations portrayed in the stories, which are discussed further below:
1. Being Treated Badly or Unfriendly
“Sing If You Are Glad” by Rachel Green narrates how a lesbian couple,
whom has been living together for almost six years are still treated badly and
impolitely by their neighbours.
How many years have we lived here?’
‘Between five and six’.
‘Right, and how many times have we had eggs thrown at our windows
and ‘poofters’ spray painted on the door in the night?
‘We got egged last year.’ (SIYG, 18)
This couple and their house have become the target of social harassment. People
throw eggs at their windows to show their hatred toward this homosexual couples.
In their conversations in this story, this lesbian couple not only discuss how the
society treats them, but also the gay couple who live around the houses.
‘THANK GOD WE AREN’T GAY,’ said Linda...
‘Them poor buggers at number sixteen got egged again last
night. I saw him trying to wash down the walls with an
‘osepipe an’ broom this morning.’ (SIYG, 15)
This narration explains that gays are often treated even worse than lesbian
couples. Throwing eggs to these homosexual couples in this society indicates that
socially they are not accepted. People are not pleased to have them as part of their
social circle. This story depicts a conflict that happens at night. We know this
because they show the gay, whose head is bald, was wearing a gown and slippers.
(SIYG, 15) The society members in this story seem to show that though they hate
these homosexual couples, somehow they tolerate their existence around them.
Yet, they want this couple to behave and not to expose their homosexuality. The
same case scenario is experienced by the lesbian couple in this story who got eggs
in their windows last year because they did not give the kids any sweets at
Halloween. (SIYG, 18) However, the society in this story is illustrated to be more
tolerant to lesbians than gays.
“THANK GOD WE AREN’T GAY,” Said Linda
‘Anyway, you can talk,’ said Mel. “Thank God we aren’t gay”
indeed. What are we, if not gay?’
‘We’re lesbians, Melanie. It’s different.’
‘How is being a lesbian different? We still fornicate just like they
‘But our fornication is socially acceptable. ... People think
lesbians are sweet. Our kind, anyway.’
‘What other kinds are there?’
‘I don’t want to hear anything about the butch/femme dichotomy,
‘Militant lesbians,’ Said Linda. ‘Dykes. People get frightened by
the spiky haircuts and political slogans. It’s all in your face then.
People like us are looked upon as spinsters who don’t have
husbands.’ (SIYG, 17-18)
In an Indonesian language short story “Menggapai Langit Ke-Tujuh” by Estha
Vadose, it is depicted that the lesbian character experiences bad treatments from
the society because of her sexual orientation. It is portrayed that concealed and
unspoken homosexuality may be tolerated to exist to some degree within certain
elements of Indonesian society. Explicit homosexual identity is regarded as an
illness (sakit) and is the target of social exclusion, violence, and other forms of
physical, psychological and emotional persecution.
Actually, she and Rey have been thinking to have their own
home, or at least rent a small house, because there is a feeling of
unsecure toward the owner of the boarding if they both have to
stay in one room much longer. They are worried about the others
and the owner of the boarding house if they find their
relationship. Kirana does not want to cause social conflicts with
people around who up to these days still do not accept the
presence of same-sex couples. It‘s still fresh in her memories how
she got unpleasant treatment from the neighborhood who knows
that she the same-sex lover in her hometown. (MLK-7, 109110)179
Even though this story does not narrate in detail how society treats the
lesbian badly, like in the English language short story above, this story illustrates
that lesbians also get unpleasant treatment from their social life. The lesbian
character, Kirana explains that living together with her partner can create social
conflict if the society finds that they are a lesbian couple. She mentions that the
existence of the same sex relationship is not acceptable. Thus, she and her partner
need to be extra careful in hiding their relationship, thus they want rent a house
rather than staying in the same room in a boarding house with other girls.
In Indonesia, the issue whether lesbian couples need to come out is
becoming problematic. The process of coming out becomes difficult because
‘Sebenarnya sudah beberapa kali ia dan Rey membicarakan untuk memiliki rumah sendiri,
atau minimal mengontrak sebuah rumah kecil, karena ada persaan tidak enak dengan pemilik kos
jika ia dan Rey harus tinggal lebih lama lagi, khawatir hubungan ia dan Rey diketahui oleh
penghuni dan pemilik kos. Kirana tidak ingin menimbulkan konflik sosial dengan orang sekitar
yang mungkin sampai detik ini masih tidak menerima kehadiran pasangan sejenis, dan sampai
saat ini masih segar dalam ingatan Kirana dulu di tempat asalnya ia mendapatkan perlakuan
tidak menyenangkan dari lingkungan sekitar yang mengetahui bahwa dirinya mencintai sesama
homosexuality is mainly unacceptable. It can also cause social conflict. It is
considered as abnormal, an illness and the most importantly it is not suitable with
Indonesian standard moral value, culture and social life. People sometimes seem
to know that there are homosexual couples who live around them, but they
pretend that they do not know. However, there are also parts of society, who
cannot tolerate their existence at all. If they know there are homosexual people
around them, they will gather the people to catch them and send them away from
their environment. They are considered as having a negative influence to the area
where they live because this homosexual sin.
2. Lack of Legal Responsibility and Legitimate Rights for Each Other
Another lesbian problem related to their social environment is policies
made by certain institutions and the country itself. This issue is addressed by one
of English language short stories, “Heartbreak”. It portrays how difficult it is to
have or claim legal rights for a lesbian couple. The fact that many societies do not
consider lesbian partners as a legitimate relation, during hardships such as an
accident, a lesbian partner is not considered a relative. For instance, the lesbian
partner officially cannot claim the right to be responsible for her partner.
Stephanie is not recognized as Melissa’s relative when Melissa has a car accident.
As narrated in the story, after having a big fight, Melissa, greatly disturbed by the
conflict with her partner, she got hit by a car, when she crossed a street. This
accident was seen by Stephanie, her partner, because she was near by. She and her
friends directly follow the ambulance to the hospital. Getting to the hospital,
Stephanie ran to the Emergency Room’s registration desk. She asks for
information about the condition of Melissa. The receptionist follows the common
procedure of the hospital by asking what relation does Stephanie and Melissa
have. Stephanie says that Melissa is her partner. Unfortunately, the receptionist
can not give any information about the patient because Stephanie is not her family
or blood relative. Their relationship is considered illegal because they do not have
a legal marriage certificate.
‘Please, can you help me? I am looking for Melissa
The receptionist looked up from her screen. Her face set
as she looked at Stephanie. “What relation are you to the person
you are looking for?”
“I’m her partner”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t give out any information except to
“I am her family. She is my partner. We have lived
together for the last six years.”
“Ma’am, I am sorry, but we only give information to
blood relatives unless you have power of attorney as her legal
“What the hell!! Please can’t you tell me anything about
“I am sorry, Miss.”
Angrily, Stephanie turned and stormed toward her friends
who had followed her.
“They won’t tell me a damned thing. Fuck! I need to
know how she is.” (HB, 62)
This story openly communicates the problems which homosexual people
in general face in their social life. Even though they are partners and have been
living together for 6 years, it is not categorized as family because there is no
married or guardian’s legal certificate. The same issue is also portrayed in one of
popular lesbian movies entitled “If This Walk Could Speak”. It is about the
guarantee of lesbian life, though they have been living together until when they
die. But they still have no legal rights with their partners and they can not inherit
their partner’s property if their partner dies.
D. Lesbian vs Religion: Being Attacked or Discriminated Based on Religion
and Holy Books
Religion plays a very influential role in determining the acceptance (social
inclusion) or rejection (social exclusion) of lesbians. Religion forms the standards
of behaviour dictated through values, norms and ideas. Whereas most of the world
religions like Islam and Christian, explicitly condemn homosexual behavior. They
prohibit homosexuality. Thus, lesbians and gays become one of the most
marginalised and socially excluded groups. As homosexual people, lesbians often
get attacked or discriminated against based on religious doctrines and the holy
books. Therefore, several stories are written as the reaction or respond toward the
fact of the way people use religious doctrines and the holy books as the basis for
attacking and discriminating against lesbians.
In English language short stories the issue of attacking lesbianism by
using the catholic religion and The Holy Bible is clearly portrayed. Yet, before
discussing those stories it is necessary to discuss what The Holy Bible says about
homosexuality. It is informed in Holy Books both Bible and Qur’an that the first
homosexual history in this world happened during Prophet Lot’s lifetimes.
"Then the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and
Gomor'rah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to
see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry
which has come to me; and if not, I will know.’" (Genesis
"The two angels came to Sodom in the evening; and Lot was
sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to
meet them, and bowed himself with his face to the earth, and
said, ‘My lords, turn aside, I pray you, to your servant's house
and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise up
early and go on your way.’ They said, ‘No; we will spend the
night in the street.’ But he urged them strongly; so they turned
aside to him and entered his house; and he made them a feast,
and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay
down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and
old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and
they called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you
tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.’ Lot
went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and
said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I
have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them
out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to
these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ But
they said, ‘Stand back!’ And they said, ‘This fellow came to
sojourn, and he would play the judge! Now we will deal worse
with you than with them.’ Then they pressed hard against the
man Lot, and drew near to break the door. But the men put forth
their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the
door. And they struck with blindness the men who were at the
door of the house, both small and great, so that they wearied
themselves groping for the door." (Genesis 19:1-11, RSV)
Because those people do not follow the Prophet Lot’s order, as it is narrated in
the Bible, God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah because of the people in Lot’s day
were evil and committed homosexual practice:
“The sun had risen over the land as Lot entered Zoar, and the
LORD rained down fire and brimstone from the skies on Sodom
and Gomorrah. He overthrew those cities and destroyed all the
plain, with everyone living there and everything growing in the
growing in the ground.” (Genesis 19: 23-25)180
The Holy Bible explicitly condemns the practice of homosexuality. "You
shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22)
The Revised English Bible With The Apocrypha, (Oxpord University Press and Cambridge
University Press, 1989), p. 14.
It explains that homoerotic act done by men and women is prohibited. The Holy
Bible also mentions the punishment which is conducted to those who commit
homoerotic act; "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have
committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them..."
(Leviticus 20:13) According to the Bible in The Old Testament those who practice
homoerotic act must be sentenced to death. In the New Testament there is The
Letter of Paul to The Romans which explains about God’s judgment on sin:
"For this reason God has given them up to shameful passions.
Among them women exchanged natural intercourse for
unnatural, and the men too, giving up natural relations with
women, burn lust for one another; male behave indecently with
males, and are paid in their own persons the fitting wage of such
perversion." (Romans 1:26-27) … “They know well enough the
just decree of God, that those who behave like this deserve to
die; yet they not only things themselves but approve such
conduct in others” (Romans 1: 32)
The death penalty which is maintained in The Old Testament is strengthening by
The Letter of Paul to The Romans in The New Testament: that homosexual
people must be punished with death. In The First Letter of Paul to The
Corinthians it is explained that those who practice homosexuality will not be able
to reach the heaven because the sins of practicing homosexuality:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the
kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually
immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice
homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And
such were some of you. But you were washed, you were
sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus
Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (Corinthians 6:9-11)
Therefore, the law has been maintained in The Old Testament is supported in the
New Testament. It can be seen from The First Letter of Paul to The Timothy in
the New Testament:
"Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully,
understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but
for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for
the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and
mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice
homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is
contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the glorious
gospel of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."
(Timothy 1:8-11) ESV
As a response to the discriminations based on religious doctrines and
Holy Books there are some stories which actually functioned to criticize and fight
back to this kind of discrimination. In example, “The Blush” by Renee Strider
depicts that society especially the church members do “Picketing Night” in LGBT
(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) night. They call it picketing night
because they want to clear their area from LGBT activities.
But about a month ago, he and other member s of his
church picketed a bar downtown which had a rainbowcoloured poster outside announcing that every Thursday
would be LGBT night: “Gay Thursday.” They picketed on
that first Thursday. Fortunately, it was a silent vigil, so
when Ronnie and I walked by to go in, Suss only looked at
us sorrowfully. He has one of those long Dutch-farmer
faces and does sorrowful especially well. (TB, 11)
“Uh-oh is right. ‘You girls might want to stay away
from your homo night at the bar next week. We’re
picketing again, maybe not so quiet this time,’ he says.”
I snorted. “Jerk.”
“Yeah,” said Ronnie. “It was weird. He said it kindly,
as if he wanted to spare us the unpleasantness. He
probably did. I lost it.”
Suss, the lesbian character’s brother and a very homophobic person, is one of the
church member who normally does the “Picketing Night”. In their conversation
above, it is shown that he tries to warn his sister about the homo picketing night
which would be done that night. And he wants his lesbian sisters to stay away
from that homo night. Yet, the warning from Suss, to his sister put them into
conflict. Ronnie gets mad because of feeling being cornered by her brother,
especially when he starts attacking her with religious dogma specifically from the
“I hit the roof, Lil. I guess I’ve just finally had it
with him. He was so shocked that his mouth hung
open, making his face even longer.” My cousin
giggled, then immediately sobered up.
“I yelled’’. I told him we were going anyway and
that; ‘‘we didn’t need a bunch of Holy Roller rednecks
like him telling us what to do’’.
“‘We’re not Holy Rollers,’ he says, ‘but the
“‘I don’t give a Christly fuck what the Bible says,’ I
holler. A little teary, to tell the truth. ‘Mind your own
goddamn fucking business. When you condemn gays
to hell, you’re condemning Lil and me, your own sister!
You should be ashamed of yourself!’ A real rant.”
“Holy jeez, Ronnie,” I said, staring at her goggle-eyed.
“Yeah, exactly. He didn’t like that at all. Went all
white in the face and told me to get out if I was
going to take the Lord’s name in vain. He
‘thundered’ it, like you read in books. Very OldTestament-prophet. He even shook his finger at me.” (TB,
The dialogues above show the lesbian is trying to defend herself from being
attacked by using the Bible. And she tries to make her brother realizes that
whenever he condemns gays to the hell actually he condemns his own sisters too.
The lesbians in the English language short stories are portrayed as get
condemnation to hell based on what the Bible says. This attack is reasonable if it
is associated to what is presented in the Bible. Since the first creation of mankind
in this world, Adam and Eve, humans were created in opposite sex, man and
woman. The Bible says: “God created human beings in his own image; in the
image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis: 27)
In “Sing If You’re Glad” by Rachel Green, through the lesbian characters
the author shows the way church treat homosexual people with its catholic beliefs:
‘We don’t get shops turning us away and churches telling us
we’ll burn in Hell.’
‘We don’t go to church on account of its obsolete patriarchal
‘But we could if you wanted’. ... ‘All they’d say would be
“Look! There’s those two girls who share a house on Bechdel
Terrace”. They wouldn’t actually stop the service until we left.’
‘That didn’t really happen, did it? Not at St Jude’s?
‘No. St. Pity’s.’
‘Ah! Catholics.’ ... ‘We all know what they’re like.’
‘That doesn’t make it right though. And they can’t be done for
discrimination because religions are exempt.’ (SIYG,19)
This story shows how religion is used to discriminate against lesbians.
And those lesbians look very uncomfortable with the way church condemns
homosexual people that they will end up burned in the hell because of their
homosexual practice. This story also shows religions have influenced the society.
Religions which commonly do not support or tolerate homosexuality have made
society and religion institution to believe that they have the right to discriminate
because it is permitted by the religion. The people even can use religion and the
verses in the holy book to corner, against and discriminate the homosexual people.
For example, a verse in The Holy Bible says; "just as Sodom and Gomorrah and
the surrounding cities, which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural
lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire." (Jude 1:7
In “Driving Philosophy” by Anne Azel, a lesbian named Anna, a police,
and her friend, a cleric, named Carol are having a conversation about the religion
when they are driving back from a family’s house whose daughter got lost in the
forest and died because of animal attack:
‘You know what bugs me about religion?’
“No. I have a great respect for the philosophy behind
faiths. It’s just that organized religions don’t really seek
a philosophical understanding. They preach dogma instead
of guiding individuals towards enlightenment. So they get
bogged down on the Bible saying the world is flat, or the
centre of the universe, or that gays are going to rot in
hell, instead of trying to understand the spiritual
message behind the text. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, I do. And to some extent I agree. But I also
realize that enlightenment is not something we are all
capable of achieving. The Church acts as a foundation in
our lives, giving us stability. Sure , it can seem archaic
at times. It’s easy to find fault, but the Church gives a
framework for people to live by. And on a day like this,
when two young parents are going to learn that their
child is dead, it provides a deep, meaningful, spiritual
comfort. Jesus’s love heals, guides and gives us hope
even in the darkest of times.” (DP, 85)
The lesbian shows her opinion that people should use the Bible to enlighten
human life not to preach the religious dogma that only brings judgment if they
oppose this religious dogmatic view. For example, people use it to condemn
homosexual people by telling them they are going to rot in the hell. This lesbian
tries to criticize the way people are treating the religion and the holy book.
An interesting one from this story is the character that is used to eventually
speak against this religious dogma. She is a person who has power in the church
and an influential person in her congregation. Carol is a priest (reverend) for
United Church Manse. She has married her two lesbian friends:
Carol married Brenda and me quietly in our home. I would
have just as well gone to a justice of the peace, but Bren wanted
a minister. We didn’t go to Carol’s church even though the
United Church has been pretty progressive in supporting gay
Church doctrine is one thing; the beliefs and attitudes of a
congregation are quite another. Carol couldn’t let us use the
church because her congregation had forbidden her from doing
so. They had chosen to ignore the church’s policies and the law
of Canada because of their own traditional religious beliefs.
Carol took chance even performing a marriage ceremony for us.
If her congregation had found out, she could have been asked to
leave. (DP, 83)
Carol is the one who married Anna and Brenda secretly in their home.
She does not marry her friend in her church because of the strict rules applied by
her congregation and fear of the risk which can rise if she does it. The author
uses this character as an icon to fight the church and its doctrines, by conducting
marriage for her lesbian friends. A similar situation is found in the previous story
“The Blush”. Suss, a very homophobic brother, who uses verses in the Bible to
attack his lesbian sisters, finally has to stop participating in the Gay Picketing
Night which is normally conducted by the church, after his latest quarrel with his
sister. The presence of the character Suss and his decision to quit from the
picketing night because his own family members are homosexuals: his sister,
cousin, and even his daughter are lesbians, can be interpreted as the author
efforts to use this character as the agent to fight against the discrimination against
lesbians based on holy book.
According to Islamic law and principles homosexuality is clearly a sin.
Homosexual act is a prohibited. It is considered as a mistake because humans are
not homosexuals by nature. No matter what are the causal factors and the reasons
behind being a lesbian; environmental factors, traumatic experience with men,
choice, etc, all those reasons do not make it the right thing to do, nor does it
prevent these things from being regarded as sinful.
According to Qur’an, the main religious book of Muslims, and Hadits of
Prophet Muhammad, homosexuality is completely unacceptable. In Qur’an Surah
(verse) Al A’raf, Qur’an shares a history which is meant to teach humans a
valuable lesson. A story of the people of Lot which is destroyed by God because
their homosexual practices in that time:
We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: “Do you commit
lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before
you? For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women:
ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.” (Qur’an,
The people reject Lot’s advises and deny his warning. In response, God destroys
them with stones from the sky as punishment for their transgressions and
The people of Lut rejected the messengers. Behold, their brother
Lut said to them: “Will ye fear not fear (Allah)? I am to you a
messenger worthy of all trust. So fear Allah and obey me. No
Yusuf Ali, Al-Qur’an Terjemahan Paralel Indonesia-Inggris, (Solo: Qomari, 2009)
reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the lord of
the Worlds. Of all the creatures in the world, will ye approach
males. And leave those whom Allah has created for you to be
your mates? Nay, ye are a people transgressing (all limits)!”
They said: “If thou desist not, O Lut! Thou wilt assuredly be
He said: “I do detest your doings. O my Lord! Deliver me and
my family from such things as they do!”
So We delivered him and his family all. Except an old woman
who lingered behind. Then the rest We destroy utterly. We
rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the
shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! Verily
in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe. And verily thy
Lord is He, the Exalted in Might Most Merciful (Qur’an, 26:
Even though in the Qur’an there is no statement or explicit explanation about
what kinds of punishments should be conducted to homosexual people. One of
Prophet Muhammad’s hadist is maintained how to treat the people who do a
homoerotic act. Narrated by Abdullah Ibn Abbas, Rasulullah SAW said:
If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did (Liwath), kill the one
who does it, and the one to whom it is done (the partner).182
(Narrated by Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidhi and al-Nasa'i)
Therefore, based on one of hadits above the punishment of homosexuality is
maintained. According to this hadits those who do homosexual practice must be
killed or in other word get death penalty. However, this hadist specifies the law
for those who do liwath (anal sex between men). There are reasons why this
homosexual act is categorized as criminal act in Islam. As explained by Abi alDunya, so early at the beginning of Lot lifetime, the men did sex through a
woman’s anus then they change their sex style. They went to men and did it in a
“Siapa yang menemukan pelaku perbuatan kaum Luth (liwath atau homoseksual), maka
bunuhlah si pelaku dan yang diperlakukan (pasangannya).” (HR. Abu Dawud, al-Tirmidzi dan alNasa’i)
men’s anus to satisfy their sexual lust. Thus, this homoerotic act was finally
categorized as a criminal act and it is certainly punishable:
According to a history of Abi al-Dunya, at first the people of
Prophet Lut did sex in female anus, then move performed sex on
male anus or sexual lust with men. In this case, all scholars agree
on the prohibition of homosexual acts, the perpetrators strongly
condemned by Islam and are one of the major sins. Even this act,
can be classified as a criminal offense of Jarimah.183
And there are other two laws conducted that require the death penalty. Those are
Hadd law (adultery law) and Ta’zir law (law maintained by government or
court).184 Hadd law is also applicable to punish those who do homoerotic act as it
is based on a hadist:
"If a man approaches another man (homosexual), it means that
both of them have done adultery". (Abu Dawid, al-Tarmizi and
Hadd law is the same law which is done toward people who do adultery. The law
is for Mushan (married people) is 100 times of whiplashes and than stoned to
death. And for Ghairu Muhsan (unmarried people) is 100 times of whiplashes
then are alienated for 1 year186. The last law is Ta’zir law or the laws that are
maintained by the government or the court.
According to Hanifa and Syi’ah sodomy is big and heinous
crime but not like adultery, thus the punishment is also not the
same as adultery. It uses ta'dzir law, where the levels of
Sayyid Sabiq, Fiqh al-Sunnah, (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1982), p. 129.
Menurut riwayat Abi al-Dunya, mula-mula kaum Nabi Luth menggauli anus wanita, kemudian
pindah dilakukan pada anus laki-laki atau melampiaskan nafsu seksnya dengan laki-laki. Dalam
hal ini, seluruh ulama sepakat mengenai keharaman perbuatan homosexual, pelakunya sangat
dikutuk oleh agama Islam dan termasuk salah satu dosa besar. Bahkan perbuatan ini, dapat di
golongkan sebagai tindak pidana Jarimah
A. Khumedi Ja’far, “Pandangan Hukum Terhadap Penyimpangan Sexual”, Al-Adalah Jurnal
Kajian Hukum, Vol. 7 No. 1, (June 2008): 41.
“Jika seorang laki-laki mendatangi laki-laki lain (homoseks), maka berarti keduanya telah
melakukan zina”. (HR. Abu Dawud, al-Tarmizi dan al-Nasa’i)
A. Khumedi Ja’far, “Pandangan Hukum Terhadap Penyimpangan Sexual”: 41.
punishment is not determined by the Qur’an or Hadith but it is
mantained by the court/ruler.187
According to Ta’zir law the people who do homoerotic act cannot be punished
with adultery law because it is a different case. Therefore, the laws cannot be
based on Qur’an and Hadits. Their punishment must be decided by government or
Even though the laws above do not specifically discuss about lesbianism
and its law, lesbian homoerotic is also forbidden in Islam. It is based on the hadist
of Prophet Muhammad. Narrated by Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, The Prophet said:
A man should not look at the private parts of another man,
and a woman should not look at the private parts of another
woman. A man should not lie with another man without
wearing lower garment under one cover; and a woman
should not be lie with another woman without wearing
lower garment under one cover.188 (Al Tarmidzi and Abu
Another hadist about the prohibition to men and women to sleep together without
covering their private genital body part is narrated by AbuHurayrah, The Prophet
A man should not lie with another man and a woman
should not lie with another woman without covering their
private parts except a child or a father. He also mentioned
a third thing which I forgot. (Abu Dawud)
A. Khumedi Ja’far, “Pandangan Hukum Terhadap Penyimpangan Sexual”: 41.
Menurut ulama Hanifah dan Syi’ah sodomi adalah kejahatan besar dan keji tetapi tidak seperti
zina, maka hukumannya juga tidak sama dengan hukuman zina, hukumannya dengan hukuman
ta’dzir, dimana kadar hukumannya tidak ditentukan oleh Alqur’an/Hadist tetapi diserahkan pada
“Janganlah seorang laki-laki melihat aurat laki-laki yang lain, dan janganlah seorang
perempuan melihat aurat perempuan yang lain, dan janganlah seorang laki-laki berkumpul
dengan laki-laki lain dalam satu kain dan janganlah seorang perempuan berkumpul dengan
perempuan lain dalam satu kain.” (HR. Al Tarmidzi and Abu Dawud)
These hadists explain that it is forbidden to either men and men or women and
women to show and see one another genitals. They are not allowed to expose it
even to the same sex. And it is not allowed for either men and men or women and
women to be covered together in one blanket. This hadist seems to indicate that
actually there is a hidden desire of all humans to the same-sex which can appear, if
two or more same-sex people stay too close physically. Thus, showing and seeing
genitals toward one another are forbidden in Islam. Ja’far defines lesbian as
"The word lesbian in terms of fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) is
known as al-sihaq, a sexual intercourse among women with
certain techniques, so that each other do mutual stimulations to
Thus, he continues to explain that indeed lesbian is forbidden act in Islam but the
law is not the same with those who are gays:
Lesbian is a prohibited act, but the law is not as the same as
gay. Lesbian relationships are just asyik masyuk
(mubasyarat) (actions which are categorized as for having
fun or for pleasure), and then the punishment handed to the
authorities. Even Masfuk Zuhdi found the punishment for
lesbian is lighter compare to the gay, because of the risks are
lighter than gay and it is just touches without entering
The punishments applied toward lesbians are not those as strict as gays. The laws
are based on what the government, state, or the court decides. It is necessary to
A. Khumedi Ja’far, “Pandangan Hukum Terhadap Penyimpangan Sexual”: 41.
“Kata lesbian dalam istilah fiqh dikenal dengan istilah al-sihaq, yaitu hubungan seksual sesama
perempuan dengan teknik tertentu, sehingga satu sama lain melakukan rangsangan sampai
mencapai puncak kenikmatan”.
Masfuk Zuhdi, Masailul Fiqhiyah, (Jakarta: CV. Haji Mas Agung, 1989), p. 18.
Lesbian merupakan perbuatan yang dilarang, tetapi hukumannya tidak sama dengan homoseks.
Lesbian hanyalah hubungan asyik masyuk (mubasyarat), maka hukumannya diserahkan pada
penguasa. Bahkan Masfuk Zuhdi berpendapat bahwa hukuman lesbian lebih ringan dibandingkan
dengan homoseks, karena resiko lesbian lebih ringan dari homoseks dan karena lesbian hanya
sekedar sentuhan tanpa memasukkan alat kelamin.
know that according to Islamic law lesbians will not be punished by the death
penalty or get 100 times of whiplashes, nor be alienated for 1 year, nor stone to
death. But, they will be punished according to the valid laws based on the state
constitutions which are maintained by government or the court.
The Qur’an describes that everything has been created in pairs as
complement one another. Pairing of male and female is thus part of human nature
and the natural order. In Islam, marriage and family are the accepted ways for a
person’s emotional, pshychological, sexual and physical needs to be met. A
person who feels homosexual desires is expected to be able to control or repress
their desires. In Islam, there is no legal judgment against people who feel
homosexual impulses but do not act upon them. What is forbidden in Islam is the
homosexual act on the emotional feeling or the sexual desire. As long as one can
control this homosexual desires to not become an action or can avoid engaged in
homosexual acts, it is tolerable.
As Amir Syarifuddin from Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI=Indonesia
Ulema Council) explains that Islam as merciful and blessing religion for the entire
universe accepts LGBT as part of the universe, but it does not accept homosexual
behavior because it is contrary to human nature. Thus, he emphazises that people
need to really concern on the meaning of LGBT, otherwise it would be difficult to
determine a proper attitudes. In example, homosexual; if it is more refering to the
sexual act, Islam has already maintained clear and strict position in opposing
toward homosexual act, but it does not against the homosexual people.191 Islam
places a strong emphasis on individual efforts to not committing prohibited act
like homosexual act. The presence of homosexual feelings or desire within
individual probably indeed beyond one’s control, but acting upon homosexual
feelings is a matter of choice, which is under one’s control. It means if they act
upon this felling and commit a homosexual act then they are categorized as
committing a sin. In Islam it is clear that a sin is a sin, it cannot be compromised.
The question is whether people choose to avoid sinning or answering the calling
to do the sin or not, it is all based on their own choice.
The English language short stories directly mention the Bible or one recalls
the verses in the Bible to attack lesbians. The lesbian characters even explicitly
show how church members discriminate against them. Here, the authors use
characters that are religiously fanatic to fight against discrimination to the lesbians
based on religions and its institutions.
man character who is a
homophobe, fanatically religious, active in Gay Picketing Night have to stop his
activity because the fact that his sister, cousin and daughter are lesbians. And an
influential and respected cleric in her church and congregation who is actually has
homosexual desire within herself married her lesbians friends quietly. This does
”Islam sebagai agama yang merupakan rahmatan lil alamin atau rahmat terhadap seluruh isi
alam, menerima kaum lesbian, gay, biseksual, transeksual dan transgenital (LGBT) sebagai salah
satu penghuni alam, namun tidak menerima perilaku homoseksual karena itu bertentangan
dengan fitrah manusia, masyarakat harus kembali pada makna yang disepakati tentang LGBT,
contohnya homoseksual. Jika tidak, akan kesulitan untuk menentukan sikap dengan tepat. “Kalau
homoseksual lebih merujuk kepada makna perbuatan seksnya, saya katakan Islam sudah memiliki
sikap yang jelas dan keras terhadap perbuatan homoseksual tapi tidak terhadap orang-orang
not happen in the Indonesian language stories, the authors use religious institutions
to fight back for the discrimination shown to the lesbians. The religious institution
depicted in the Indonesian language short story “Bilik Religious”, which Dila
herself calls “Bilik Religious” (Religious Chamber) which concludes that religious
teaching alone cannot change someone’s personal choice, especially in regard to
sexual orientation. “Dila inwardly thinking, religious throngs are incapable to
change the choice of four teenagers”. (Lez Moslem, BR: p. 41)192 This story seems
to criticize society’s view that homosexuality can be ‘cured’ through a religious
institution. This story, instead gives the impression that religious institution gives
more opportunity for same-sex relations. People instead become freer because the
same sex people will be placed in the same room there, thus making
homosexuality easier to practice. Participants who share the same experiences in a
religious institution can give more space and opportunity for the same sex
relationships because it is easier for them to be connected to each other.
“Religious quarantine chamber will prison her for one year ahead,
not letting her eyes see the world outside. Her eyes were filled
with tears every night. Sometimes during her crying, she heard
strange voices shouted from the vocal cords of women. It makes
Dila wondering inside her heart. What are those weird voices?
Bewildered was she, were not the similar voices usually sounded
when she was with her woman? To her it’s unbelievable. But
every night, it ensures her to the understanding of the meaning of
those sounds”. (BR, 35)193
Dalam hatinya Dila berfikir, jejalan reliji tak mampu mengubah pilihan empat orang remaja
yang terlahir sebagai manusia biasa.
“Bilik karantina religious akan mengurungnya selama satu tahun ke depan, tak akan
membiarkan matanya melihat dunia luar. Matanya berkaca-kacca setiap malam. Kadang diselasela tangisnya, ia kadang mendengar suara-suara aneh bersahutan dari pita suara perempuan.
Membuat Dila selalu bertanya-tanya dalam hati. Suara aneh apa itu? Membuatnya bingung,
karena suara serupa itu bukankah juga terdengar ketika ia bersama perempuannya? Tak percaya
namun setiap malam semakin membuatnya yakin mengerti arti suara-suara itu.”
A similar situation can also be found in “Putus”, where Sarah, the lesbian
character points out how homosexual practice happens even in religious
institutions like ‘pesantren’ (Islamic Dormitory). She reveals that there are many
people like her there. She informs that generally a lesbian couple often tends to
‘stay in the closet’, in other words they hide their identity from the public. But in
the religious institution that Sarah attends, the couples are brave enough to show
up in public. They even dare to kiss on lips before their friends which is normally
considered taboo in Indonesian society:
“In Islamic boarding school there seems to be many lesbians like
her, Even more reckless. Some students are dating and darely
showing affection in front of their friends. Sarah knows well that
they did not mean to boast the kisses. Things they are doing are
just the same with what Sarah and Eva doing. They don’t care if
there’s anyone feels disgusting”. (P, 126)194
Dila in “Bilik Religius", who is expected by her parents to be able to
change her sexual orientation after being quarantined in a religious institution, has
failed. She even meets a new girlfriend there. This new girl stays in the same room
with her and soon they become lovers. Every night they sink into deep loving,
without worrying that anybody will catch them doing sex. Nobody will suspect
them because they both are in religious quarantine and because they are indeed
supposed to sleep in the same room as roommates.
“Every day the meaning of Dila’s life increasingly grows by the
love she had with the sharp nose woman. Nobody knows about
their relationship, only two of them. Dila is no longer curious
about the strange noises in quiet nights she often heard. Every
“Di pesantren banyak lesbian sepertinya. Bahkan lebih nekat. Sesama santri ada yang
berpacaran dan di depan teman-teman mereka dengan berani menujukkan kemesraan. Sarah pun
tahu mereka sama sekali bukan pamer ciuman. Apa yang mereka lakukan sama dengan kelakuan
Sarah dan Eva. Mereka tidak peduli jika ada yang merasa jijik.
night, her sharp nose woman sounds such noises while she is
with her. Now, she has understood what the women around the
chambers are doing with those strange voices. Unexpectedly, but
she does it too.” (BR, 40)195
In this religious institution, Dila finds out that she is not the only
homosexual there. She finds other lesbians and gays who live inside this
institutional building. As illustrated in this quotation below, homosexual practice
is portrayed as developing rapidly inside of religious institutions.
Walking in the isles of quarantine chambers. The chambers are
engraved by calligraphy scripts. So artistic. Dila’s look focused
on two men in hats sitting behind a chamber. The two men were
talking while staringat each other. Affectionate gaze. They
talked hand in hand.196
Both of them took of their hand when Dila passed them.
Dila held back her laugh and rushed her steps. Actually they do
not need to turn the symbolic intimacy off. She understands.
Same-sex lovers got trapped in a religious quarantine chamber.
With aim to be able to change the extrinsic and look good in
front of other people. (BR, 37)197
“Setiap hari makin terasa arti hidup Dila dengan kasih yang ia miliki bersama perempuan
hidung bangir itu. Tak adda yang mengetahuinya, hanya mereka berdua. Dila tak lagi penasaran
dengan suara-suara aneh di sepi malam yang sering ia dengar. Setiap malam perempuan hidung
bangir mengeluarkan suara-suara itu saat berduaan dengannya. Mengertilah ia sekarang apa
yang sedang dilakukan sosok-sosok hawa di sekeliling bilik itu dengan suara-suara anehnya. Tak
disangka tapi ia melakukannya.”
“Berjalan pada lorong-lorong bilik karantina. Di sekeliling dinding bilik itu bertuliskan
aksara kaligrafi. Sungguh bernilai seni. Pandangan Dila tertuju pada dua orang laki-laki
berpeci yang duduk di belakang salah satu bilik. Kedua laki-laki itu berbicara dengan saling
menatap. Tatapan itu mesra menurutnya. Kedua tangan mereka saling bergengaman di sela
Dila melewati kedua laki-laki itu seketika kedua laki-laki itu melepaskan gengaman tangan
mereka. Dila menahan tawa dan terburu-buru melangkahkan kaki-nya. Sebenarnya mereka tidak
perlu melepaskan simbolik kemesraan itu di hadapannya. Karena ia pun akan memakluminya.
Pecinta sesama jenis terkurung dalam bilik karantina religius. Dengan harapan mampu mengubah
lahiriah dan terlihat baik di hadapan orang lain.”
From the quotation above it shows, through its lesbian character Dila, this
story clearly protests that actually such religious institutions or dormitories just
function to prison homosexual people and their desire. A place which is hoped to
change the same sex lovers to be good people. But, it has failed to cure those who
have indeed chosen to live as homosexual people.
E. Lesbian vs Country and Legal Law Protection: How Lesbians are
Treated Before Law
Law is not only as directions to be read, looked or known, but also to be
followed and obeyed. Law as one of the important elements that exist in society
social life has an important role to create the structuring arrangement in human’s
being life, save, composure, regularity and justice. Law is created and applied by
governments to maintain peace and stability. In society social life, there are
limitations and rules that formulated by the government and society themselves.
For example, regulations, norms and laws which should be obeyed by human as
the component and part of society.
As the member of society and good citizen, people have obligation to
adapt to the standards of laws made by the government. If they do not follow or
break these regulations and laws, they are considered as not a good member of
society and rule breaker. Thus they should get punishments either from the laws
or from the society lives around them. Nevertheless, law must be able to function
as a protection for the people, especially to avoid violence among society. The
state has to provide a law which guarantee that everyone is protected by law
regardless their sexual and gender identity.
In an English language short story, “Where There’s Smoke”, a lesbian
character shows the liberation of Holland’s law. Where all Dutch are treated equal
before law, regardless their sexual orientation and even religion.
‘We love Holland and its liberal laws. We love it because at this
time, spring 2001, it is the only country in the world that treats
its homosexual citizens exactly the same as its straight ones—no
civil unions, no restrictions on adoption. Were we Dutch, we
could get married here, stand for prime minister, anything. Soon
this will be true in other countries as well, but right now it is true
only in the Netherlands. This country where Anne Frank hid,
and everyone rides bicycle along the canals, and it doesn’t
matter which religion they practice or which sex they presently
are.’ (WTS, 2)
This story also portrays briefly the history homosexual discrimination done
by Nazi. And there is even a homo-monument in Holland.
‘But in Amsterdam there is another reason. If you go behind the
Anne Frank House, along the Pringsengracht, you will find
another thing unique to the Netherlands: the Homo-monuments.
It is the only memorial on the world to the homosexuals who
were persecuted and killed, along with so many other people, by
the Nazis. Holland has set up a big pink triangle—the symbol
the Nazis used to label homosexuals. They has a label for
everyone they hated, as people tend to do.’ (WTS, 2-3)
Thus in Holand people are free and there are no political restrictions.
“Fucking we also like. The word and the deed. In Holland,
where everything is legal, mere fucking between two women
who have loved each other is hardly a political act. Not long
ago, where I come from, it was a felony. In many places it is
still punishable by death. Perhaps the Homomonument is in
Amsterdam because this is the only place where it is truly
history.” (WTS, 3)
The issue of liberal law in Holland pursued in this story can be interpreted as the
representative of lesbians’ dreams. Not only homosexual peope in the West but
also homosexual people in Indonesia and around the world in general to be given
rights and law protections like the homosexual people have in Holland.
After the discussion above, some conclusions can be reached. Lesbians in
the Indonesian and English language stories undergo similar internal conflicts.
Those are the feeling of being confused about their feelings and sexual
orientation. There is a process of denial and acceptance toward their condition.
The different internal conflicts are lesbian in Indonesian language short stories
feels happy but guilty to live as a lesbian while in English language short stories
the conflicts is a lack of courage to disclose her feelings. The external conflicts
found are the conflicts between lesbian and her partner and her family. The
conflicts with their partner are related to a very busy partner, the domination of
gender role (butch and femme) in their relationship, serious lifelong commitment,
and social gap, jealousy and envy. The conflicts with their family are related to
family member’s response and attitude toward the accepting or denying their
daughter or sister homosexual orientation. Thus, there several ways or solutions
taken by lesbians and their family to overcome the problem related to their sexual
orientation. Lesbians in Indonesia and English language short stories use “come
out” or “keep staying in the closet”. Meanwhile another lesbian in Indonesian
language short story pretends loving a man and marries heterosexually as a
solution. There are 3 solutions used by the lesbian parents in Indonesian language
short stories; separate the lesbian and her partner, “cure” them in religious
institution and by doing corrective rape. While in the English language short story
the parents force their daughter to marry a man as solution.
In terms of discrimination against lesbians, it is portrayed that lesbians in
Indonesian and English language short stories are socially discriminated against
but at the same time their existence is tolerated. The lesbians are often attacked
and discriminated against based on religious doctrines and the holy books.
The Indonesian and English language short stories portray the same spirit
in terms of lesbian struggles, but they are different regarding ways and contexts of
becoming and living lives of lesbians. Those stories are also similar in function in
that they are used as a form of struggle to show hope and dream, existence,
identity and right of the lesbian couples. In Indonesian language short stories, the
stuggles are concerned more with issues related to the understanding and
acceptance of the lesbians’ homosexual orientation.
In Indonesian context, among the efforts of the lesbian characters in their
struggling process is to show that being a lesbian is part of a person’s
predestination which is often framed by religious discourse. Thus, the lesbian
characters defend themselves by arguing that being a lesbian is not a mistake.
Being homosexual people are beyond their power. They are born that way because
God created them basically to be such a person. Meanwhile, lesbians in other
stories also perceive it as a forbidden love and a sin. Though, personally, they
perceive it as their destiny, but they are being faced the reality that it is opposed
by the religions and not supported by the family, society, social environment and
state. Thus, they perceive that the same sex love and homosexual relationship are
wrong and sinful.
On the contrary, it is different from the English language short stories
where being a lesbian is not framed by the religious discourse. Here, being a
lesbian is viewed as being different. They feel different as they have the sexual
desire only to the same sex, which hardly belongs to the common or major sexual
practice in the society, i.e. the heterosexual ones. In other word, they also seem to
say indeed they are “different”; everybody is unique as they are born with their
differences. However, being “different” does not mean that their homosexual
desire and practice can be considered as “normal or abnormal”, “right or wrong”,
“sin or not”, “moral or amoral”; they are just being “different”.
Besides the differences above, there are similarities in the way lesbians
perceive their feelings and sexual orientation in both the Indonesian and English
language short stories. They all portray that being a lesbian is natural, normal,
unchangeable and not a mistake. The lesbian characters believe that being lesbians
do not make them abnormal, because the sexual orientation they have toward
women is natural. Thus, it is immutable. No matter how hard they try to deny their
feeling and desire they cannot change their homosexual orientation to
Although their families try to make them change, either by
separating them with their partner, placing them in religious institution, forcing
them to get married heterosexually, or even by doing corrective rape, all these
efforts are useless and not successful to change their sexual orientation as
The backgrounds why the woman characters in the stories become lesbians
are portrayed in several factors and reasons. There are four similar reasons and
factors of being lesbians as depicted in the Indonesian and English language short
stories. First, becoming a lesbian is purely because of feelings. It just happens
naturally, accidently, spontaneously and innocently without any planning or
influence. It makes them fall in love to the same sex and being in relationship.
Second, it happens because of the lifelong interaction. The female characters who
later become lesbians are portrayed as having been close friends, from which their
friendship turn into love. Thirdly, environmental factors and early exposure to
homosexuality, especially in childhood, are portrayed as the factors that can
contribute to the forming of someone’s sexual orientation. These environmental
factors and early homosexual memory, especially in the childhood, affect the
children and teenagers when they grow up. It finally can cause them to become
homosexual person when they are adult, since they have those models in their
early life. Those models automatically influence the way they grow up which
contribute to the forming of their sexual orientation. Unhappy married life is the
last reason why a woman becomes a lesbian. The woman characters who later
become lesbians are portrayed as having traumatic experience with their husbands.
Their unhappy married life, like having bad and cruel husband, and not having
children make the wives live in a sorrowful married life. It finally causes them to
love woman and have homosexual relationship.
Besides having these similarities, the Indonesian and English language
short stories studied also portray different reasons which make women become
lesbians. In the Indonesian language short stories, becoming a lesbian is portrayed
as a matter of choice. It belongs to someone’s personal choice in life. The choice
is associated with a free will, whether they want to choose to deny or ignore their
feeling and sexual orientation or they choose to accept it and live that way. Such a
situation does not appear in the English language short stories. Instead, being a
lesbian to explore and experience a new sexual practice is portrayed in the English
language short story as one of the reasons why a woman becomes a lesbian.
Lesbian in the English language short stories becomes one for the sake of her
adventurous desire in exploring sex and trying a new taste of sexual practice.
The internal conflicts experienced by lesbians in the Indonesian and
English language short stories can be concluded as similar in terms of confusion.
There is a process of denial and acceptance toward their condition. The lesbian in
Indonesian stories feels happy but guilty to live as a lesbian. Meanwhile, in the
English language short stories, the conflicts occur because there is no courage to
disclose her feelings. Having a very busy partner is the same external conflict
faced by lesbians in both the Indonesian and English language short stories. The
source of conflicts in lesbians and their partner in the Indonesian language short
stories are the domination of gender role (butch and femme) in their relationship
and the serious lifelong commitment. Meanwhile, in the English language short
stories, they are social gap, jealousy and envy. Partner, family and discriminations
in society, public environment and religion as well as law protection are the
external conflicts which mostly appear in those short stories that lesbians have to
In the Indonesian language short stories, there is no appropriate solution
used by the lesbians to overcome their problems which appear because of their
sexual orientation. Every solution taken has set them in dilemmas. They are
trapped whether they have to get married heterosexually, keep staying in the
closet to hide their identity and relationship, or even do both, i.e marrying
heterosexually and at the same time keeping their homosexual relationship with
their partner. To come out is also considered as a solution, but it does not bring
the positive impact to the lesbians and their life as they expected, except she feels
relief to let the people know the truth about who truly they are. The same situation
is also found in some English language short stories. Both the Indonesia and
English lesbians short stories portray the similar experience in solving the
problem, though the reason for taking such solution can be different. In the
Indonesia, the lesbians use such solutions for not hurting the family and to avoid
abuse and violence from the society. Meanwhile in the English language short
stories, the lesbians do it more to respect the society and the social environment
where they live.
When it comes to the family, the conflicts arise are related to the family
members’ response to whether they accept or deny the fact about their daughter’s
and sister’s sexual orientation or not. In the Indonesian families, most parents
react badly. They get angry, disappointed and cannot accept the truth about their
daughter’s condition. Thus, varieties of ways are done by the parents to cure their
daughter. They separate the lesbian and her partner, “cure” them in the religious
institution and do corrective rape. Similar solution in both the Indonesian and
English language short stories is that the parents persuade or force their daughter
to marry a man. Heterosexual marriage is considered and used as a solution by the
lesbians themselves and by their parents. However, all of the solutions used are
portrayed unsuccessful to change the lesbian or remove their homosexual desire
totally. It works only for a certain period of time. In contrast to the Indonesian
family, the family in English language short story can be more open to accept
their daughter’s, granddaughter’s and sister’s conditions. The family members can
tolerate the lesbian existence in their family. When it comes to their own family
member, they can compromise, eventhough they are fanatically religious or
In terms of discrimination, the lesbians in the Indonesian and English
language short stories are portrayed as being socially discriminated against. They
are treated badly or unfriendly by their neighbours. However, at the same time
their existence is tolerated or they are ‘informally’ welcomed. It indicates that
lesbians are socially acceptable as long as they can mantain their homosexual
behaviour not to be exposed in public and or do not cause any troubles or conflicts
in the society. When it comes to the public acceptance, they do not have the
opportunity to claim their right to be responsible to each other. The
discriminations are mostly done because of the religions, holy books and religious
institutions. Therefore, the lesbians are often attacked and discriminated against
based on the religious doctrines and holy books. Those short stories seem to show
the conflicts and contradictions when lesbianism is being faced to the religions.
There is no way out to be considered equally under the lens of religions when it
comes to homosexuality. There is no bargain in religion. Sin is sin, no excuse.
Hence, the church policies or doctrines and the verses in the Bible are directly
recalled and used to corner or attack the lesbians in the English language short
stories, and the authors use some characters who are religiously fanatic and have
power in the church congregation to tolerate and support lesbians by marrying
them as a way to fight against the discrimination against the lesbians. Meanwhile,
in the Indonesian language short stories, the authors, through the fact of
homosexual practice which happens and grows rapidly in the religious institutions
where the lesbians are sent to be cured, actually try to criticize the failure of the
society or parents who have the belief that the religious doctrines and institutions
are the good solutions to be used in order to make their daughters back to straight.
These unsuccessful efforts are used as a weapon to fight back against the
discriminations imposed to lesbians.
To conclude, love and human sexual desire are limitless and people in
love deserve to be defended. It is not confined to sex or gender. Rather it is a
feeling that does not choose a male or a female. These short stories communicate
that lesbians should have a place in society with equal treatment and right as
others have. Thus, we need to view the world, human being with all their existing
phenomena in dynamics and more plural ways. It is not about who is right or
wrong but about understanding each others. And we need to implore ourselves to
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SepociKopi is independent on line lesbian magazine. SepociKopi was
founded by two women who are concerned with the movement of lesbian, Alex
and Laskmi in January 2007 based weblog www.sepocikopi.blogspot.com. Early
writings are personal opinions writing in spare time, but in fact develop into the
ideas that spawned the idea of critical and revolutionary, who later on are very
influential. The writings are followed by other lesbian writers who continually
broaden on the infinite breadth of topics ranging from culture, lifestyle, to the
humanities. The little house was named SepociKopi because coffee is believed as
a substance that can increase endurance and physical fatigue refreshing.
Since 2008, SepociKopi has a fixed editorial team composed of
professional editors, journalists, cultural observers, and serious writers who
houses the language, build strength cyberspace lesbian community, and maintain
awareness of stress and giving a positive image of lesbians. Weblog home range
also expands the power, giving birth to other sub-units that touch various issues.
Four-satellite blogs called Say It Out Loud, Comunity and Traveling, Snacks
SepociKopi, and the Planet which round SepociKopi in its orbit.
In April 1st 2009, SepociKopi changes its status to the fisrt and the only
one lesbian magazine on line, addressed in www.sepocikopi.com as evidence of
the coachman to work wholeheartedly for recording footsteps, to conquer the
realm of backwardness, accept challenges, and gives soul food for the lesbian
community through language support and sharpness a touch pen.
Their vision is to inspired, reach out, educate, touched the hearts of the
general public, especially lesbians to go to a positive self confidence to improve
the welfare of living.
Their mission is to create a virtual world lesbian community a broad and
boundless; delivery event distribution and exchange of knowledge, insight,
professional, and information; burn the interest and to educate the read and write
trend, as well as a lesbian on-line magazine of quality in all fields.
ABOUT READ THESE LIPS
ReadTheseLips is the collection of lesbian short writings and creative
works into e-anthologies and providing them free to readers. It doesn’t just bring
together stories that are already out there; we source for new talent, encourage
established writers to participate, and accept multi-genre short fiction, that we
compile into e-books.
Their books are distributed via the internet rather than through brick-andmortar stores because, bar television, the internet is a medium that connects them
more than any other in history and has the potential to reach places traditional
print media may not. They want readers to be able to access their books
In spite of the availability of new media and the world wide web, lesbians
in more than half the world are still hard pressed to find affirming representations
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of queer publishers and supporters who provide safe spaces for lesbians through