Andin is haunted by memories of being forced into an exorcism to “save” her from being transgender — a ritual that could become mandatory for Indonesia’s LGBT community if a controversial new law is passed.
For two decades she has endured harassment and abuse as her family desperately tried to “cure” her. Treatments ranged from being bombarded with Koranic verses while trapped in a locked room for days, to being doused with freezing water by an imam promising to purge the “gender disease”.
But it is the exorcism that breaks her heart.
She was taken against her will to a strange religious guru near her hometown of Medan in Sumatra. He showed her a burial shroud commonly used to cover the dead and prayed over her.
He then gave a stark choice: relinquish life as a woman, or go to hell.
“Nothing changed after the exorcism. I’m still LGBT, but my family didn’t give up easily,” says Andin, 31, who asked that her real name not be used.
“It’s traumatizing — the horror of that memory stays in my head.”
Forced exorcism is a common story for gay and transgender people in the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation, where a conservative shift has seen the community increasingly targeted in recent years.
Homosexuality is legal everywhere in Indonesia except conservative Aceh province which adheres to strict Islamic laws.
But it is still widely believed that being gay or transgender is the result of a person being possessed by evil spirits — and that these can be expelled by religious ceremony and prayer.
Now, conservative Islamic lawmakers have tabled a so-called “Family Resilience” bill, which critics decry as sexist and anti-LGBT.
Gay and transgender people would be forced to undergo “rehabilitation” — an umbrella term likely to include exorcisms and other “conversion treatments” — to purge what bill advocates say is a sexual deviancy.