Pride & Joy Day 16: Allies

[Today’s donation was made to Marsha P. Johnson InstituteClick here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies and that is fighting without them.

Winston Churchill

I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, and moved to the US in 2011. All my life, I’ve been a minority. I grew up knowing I was gay and never felt the need (or had the ability) to cover it. Part of why I never needed the proverbial closet to stay in was because I was extremely lucky to have a supportive core network of family and friends and the facilities and infrastructure to expand that network to include queer online friends and acquaintances.

My parents have always been my allies, and so have many of my friends and coworkers. I thank them for fighting alongside me, sometimes even in front of me.

I remember one of my college classmates at Universitas Indonesia, Siti Fatimah Herawati. One time I was walking along the plaza of our faculty and I was teased and cat-called. Maybe it was because I’d been quite immune to bullying that I didn’t feel angry, but Hera was furious.

“They can’t treat you like that,” she said. I had to hold her back from punching the guys’ faces.

That was almost twenty years ago.

My parents never talked about racial injustice in the US, but as a brown-skinned Indonesian, colonialism really fucked me up. Whiteness (having a fair skin, mixed Western blood, or anything that gives you superficial proximity to being Caucasian) was something I aspired to be at one point in my life. It fucked me up, but it wasn’t a tragedy like the May 1998 riots that killed, maimed, and destroyed the lives of many Chinese-Indonesians. I went to a Catholic school where about 80% of the students were Chinese-Indonesians. The riots started on Wednesday the thirteenth until Friday the fifteenth. We came back to school the Monday after and some of my friends had fled the country. I never saw them again.

Our straight allies can never fully experience what we have as gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. Nonetheless, they keep helping us fight for our right to live and love. One of them is Elizabeth Warren.

This Pride-themed shirt was a merch from her 2020 presidential campaign and showcases the rainbow feather boa she wears to Pride marches with the words “Equal means equal PERIOD” on the back. I have so much respect for Senator Warren and was privileged to have voted for her.

As an immigrant, moving to the US during this moment in history was probably not the smartest decision. But my being Asian puts me in an unfairly more advantageous position than my other contemporaries of color.

It’s time to use what privilege I have to be an ally to the black and brown communities. This is a new role for me, and I will fuck it up more than once, more than twice, hell, more than ten times. I can never experience the same level of injustice and cruelty black, brown, and trans people experience in the US. But one thing I’ve learned from Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility, is that when we make a mistake, we have to apologize, ask how we can do better, but it is never the obligation of those we’ve wronged to forgive or teach us.

Bonus: here’s a fascinating story behind #yellowperilsupportsblackpower.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.