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Indonesian Queer Zines of the 80s, 90s and 00s Exploring the Queer Indonesia Archive collections

Small-scale, independently published magazines were a dominant medium of expression for the Indonesian lesbian and gay communities before the advent of the internet. Beginning with the first publication in 1982 and ending with a slow transition to the internet by the mid-2000s, for two decades these magazines connected communities all over Indonesia and allowed them to imagine new futures and new possibilities for themselves and people like them.

We hope this exhibition will allow viewers to see firsthand the role these magazines played in shaping and organising LGBTQ+ communities and movements throughout the archipelago and how they were part of a much wider network that connected Indonesian communities to liberation movements occurring all around the world.

G: Gaya Hidup Ceria

August 1982 — November 1984

Creators: Lambda Indonesia

8 Editions

With the cry of "Gay liberation has at long last struck Indonesia" Lambda Indonesia's first magazine was published in August of 1982 in Surakarta (Solo), Central Java. G: Gaya Hidup Ceria was the first gay magazine published in Indonesia and was created with the hope of building an Indonesian gay and lesbian liberation movement.

Although it had a short 8 edition run, G: Gaya Hidup Ceria tapped into an unmet desire for connection and would inspire many more publications over the next two decades. Its publication was the first step towards building a national gay and lesbian movement, providing a semi-public space for connection and communication that was previously unavailable. Through the pages of the magazine, community members could connect to each other, and to gay and lesbian movements all over the world.

The 8 covers of the G: Gaya Hidup Ceria magazine

From the first issue, G: Gaya Hidup Ceria addressed the tensions inherent within an Indonesian project working towards gay liberation; traditional vs modern/eastern vs western. Well established traditions of institutionalised homosexual acts were juxtaposed against a growing urban gay identity and sensibility. With clear foresight, these writings speak to the irresolvability of these inseparable tensions. A push and pull that would remain unresolved but provide fertile ground for discussion and debate through the next 50 years of activism.

Excerpt from Dede Oetomo's "Charting Gay Politics in Indonesia", 3rd April 1982
Press Release for the founding of Lambda Indonesia and the subsequent magazine - 5th April 1982
Press Release for the founding of Lambda Indonesia and the subsequent magazine - 5th April 1982
Wiping Off the Charcoal Mark on Our Forehead, edition 1, August 1982
English summaries provided with the magazine editions to help build an international audience

The magazine stopped publication at the end of 1984, alongside the closing of Lambda Indonesia. However, many of the members of Lambda Indonesia would go on to form Kelompok Kerja Lesbian dan Gay Nusantara - a national network of activists and the creators of the most famous magazine from this collection - GAYa NUSANTARA.

Jaka

February 1985 - May 1988

Creators: Initially published by Persaudaraan 'G' Yogyakarta (PGY) and then the Indonesian Gay Society (IGS)

18 editions

Over 18 editions, Jaka offered an ongoing creative and intellectual space to explore the concerns of gay men in the mid to late 1980s.

Discussions of love, connection, sex, family and how to live a good life as a gay man are consistent themes throughout the magazine's essays, poems, short stories, comics and illustrations.

Editors message on HIV in March of 1987

Jaka also offered some of the first community produced writing on the growing HIV pandemic. These articles shared medical information and responded to the growing media conflation of homosexuality with HIV.

An order form from the first edition of Jaka

With a cost of Rp275, each Jaka would run an average print of 30 editions. These were distributed mostly in Yogyakarta.

The cover pages of all 18 editions of Jaka

Comics

Questioning who is, or what it means to be gay is explored through a multi-edition comic strip "Sang Jaka Menggiring Angin" by Tito. The comic follows the journey of the titular character Jaka in his exploration of love, sex and his identity.

From Jaka edition 4, August 1985

First appearing in Edition 4, August 1985, the story begins with Jaka, the main character, admitting his sexuality to his friend. Following his friend’s advice, he later seeks guidance from a psychologist who confirms that homosexuality isn’t a disease or perversity. The first strip ends with Jaka and his friend finding pleasure in each other’s happiness. The comic continued for 6 editions and the main characters were often found on the magazine's front pages.

In 1987 Persaudaraan 'G' Yogyakarta would change their name to the Indonesian Gay Society (IGS) in the hope of becoming a national organisation. This was met with much excitement both nationally and internationally.

Unfortunately, due to the growing pressure on the magazine by its growing popularity, and many of the group’s members graduating and leaving Yogyakarta, the organisation went into hiatus soon after - publishing its last edition in May of 1988.

GAYa NUSANTARA

November 1987 - December 2005

Creators: Kelompok Kerja Lesbian dan Gay Nusantara (KKLGN) - or the Lesbian and Gay working group of the Archipelago. From 1993 the magazine would be published by GAYa Nusantara

134 Editions

By far the most prolific and well known publication from the period. GAYa NUSANTARA would go on to produce 134 editions, spanning over two decades.

A selection of covers from GAYa NUSANTARA during its impressive 134 edition run

Although there would be many changes to the format and content over the tumultuous two decades of its run, two sections would remain consistently popular:

Perkawanan (Personals)

A mixture of a manual version of Grindr, a penpal club and message in a bottle. The Perkawanan section offers a window into the desires of the readership to GAYa NUSANTARA, both in Indonesia and globally.

Letters with specific laundry lists of attributes sit side by side with short letters asking for a connection with anyone at all in their local area. This section would grow to take up a substantial portion of the magazine space to meet the growing demand from the community for connection, love and sex.

An example of the extensive perkawanan section of the magazine (edition 50). Full names, photos and street addresses have been removed for privacy.

Di Mana Ngeber // Direktori

The community had a need for a guide to the spaces in which community members were congregating. GAYa NUSANTARA worked hard to fill this need. In the early years, meeting spaces were often in flux due to the common use of informal public spaces - parks, markets, beaches - and because of the constantly shifting commercial spaces in Indonesia's quickly changing economy. The editors of the magazine worked tirelessly to give updates and maintain lists is throughout GAYa NUSANTARA's run.

Eventually, this section would shift into a directory of the growing network of organisations, activists, salons, sexual health centres and friendly spaces that were emerging around the country (with only intermittent updates on the cruise spots and informal hang out spots).

Direktori from GAYa NUSANTARA, 41, November 1995

The dynamism of the period is echoed in the magazine's consistent updates on the shifts within bahasa binan or bahasa cong - a slang vocabulary known within both gay and waria* communities across the archipelago.

*Waria is an Indonesian term that may be (perhaps inadequately) translated as transgender woman. Contemporarily the term transpuan is increasingly preferred. This exhibition utilises waria to reflect the preferred term of the community during this time period

A copy of the first dictionary shown in GAYa NUSANTARA magazine, edition 9, March 1989

The language is known for its quickly changing lexicon of popular terms and a tendency towards regionalisation, so members of the community needed help to keep up with the shifting language trends. Throughout its run, updated dictionary pull-out sections continued to be an ongoing feature of the magazine, with readers often sending in their own contributions of the current popular terminology from their region.

GAYa NUSANTARA was sold in many cities around Indonesia.

At its peak, GAYa NUSANTARA was printing runs of 800 copies per edition, distributed through a network of salons, shops, sexual health centres and a growing number of gay, lesbian and waria organisations.

Buku Seri IPOOS Gaya Betawi

June 1992 - July 1998

Created by Ikatan Persaudaraan Orang-Orang Sehati (IPOOS) / GAYa Betawi

21 Editions

Running for 21 editions throughout the 90s, Buku Seri IPOOS was an eclectic mix of pop culture, sexual health information and detailed accounts of the very numerous activities of the IPOOS group - parties, events, pageants.

Covers of the Buku Seri IPOOS Gaya Betawi

Buku Seri IPOOS centred its large member base at the centre of its content. Profiles of community members are common, and members birthdays are often given special mention. Local performers are often given multipage spreads, detailing both the personal and the public. This was reflective of IPOOS's growing role as an entertainment powerhouse - often packing nightclubs with their iconic pageants and cabaret shows.

Local performance trio B.A.M from the front cover of IPOOS edition V, April 1993

By the middle of 1998, the growing financial crisis was putting immense strain on the magazine's editorial team. The stress was compounded by the untimely death of one of the editorial team, Robin Wijaya - the cover model for their last edition in July of 1998.

GAYA LESTARI

1993 - 1994 (approximate)

Created by Chandra Kirana

Editions Unknown

The lesbian magazine Gaya Lestari was created by the newly formed national lesbian network Chandra Kirana which was founded in January 1993. The magazine itself was created to try and connect non-English speaking lesbians in Indonesia to each other, and to the global lesbian activist movement.

Covers of the four editions of Gaya Lestari currently within the QIA collection.

The magazine was filled with letters, stories, and poems about the Indonesian lesbian experience. It also told of the growing organisation of the lesbian and gay movement in Indonesia with recounts of the first Gay and Lesbian Congress in December of 1993.

The magazine, alongside the Chandra Kirana newsletter, shared reports on important lesbian and women's movement events occurring around the world and connected Indonesian women into the growing Asian lesbian movement.

Unfortunately, our current collection of Gaya Lestari is incomplete. Within our current collection we have 4 editions that were included as an insert within editions of GAYa NUSANTARA magazine. We hope that from this exhibition we can find the editions missing within our collection. Please contact us if you have any materials that might be of interest to the archive.

Paraikatte // MEDIA KIE GAYa Celebes

1994 - 1999

Creators: Yayasan GAYa Celebes

15 Editions

Yayasan GAYa Celebes produced the only known Indonesian queer magazine created outside of Java. Beginning as PARAIKATTE (a word from Makassarese meaning With Us) the magazine aimed to both build stronger links between the queer communities of Makassar, tell people of the activities of the newly created GAYa Celebes and celebrate the events and successes of members of the community.

Magazine covers from the 15 editions within the QIA collection

The magazine would provide detailed sexual health information, as part of the growing sexual health activities of Gaya Celebes. This included descriptions of testing, infection information and infographics on condom use.

A community made guide to the HIV virus, edition 9, 1998

Waria communities' pageants and performance groups are featured heavily within the magazines run with pageant winners often featured on the front page. This lays testament to the vibrant and organised waria communities of Makassar.

Jaka Jaka & New Jaka-Jaka

1992 - 1994 & 1997 – 1999

Created by the Indonesian Gay Society

6 editions & 7 editions

After a long hiatus, Jaka returned in the form of Jaka Jaka. Although Indonesian Gay Society had been on hiatus, a branch of the KKLGN has been set up in Yogyakarta, and with the return of some of the original members of IGS, the organisation reformed and resumed republication of the magazine.

Front covers of the Jaka Jaka
Jaka Jaka returned with an acknowledgement of the biggest change in the community since they had ceased publication in the late 80s - the growing HIV epidemic within the gay community of Indonesia. Its first edition was dedicated to the "bom waktu" (time bomb) of HIV the community was facing.

Despite the renewed enthusiasm, after 6 editions Jaka Jaka would go again into hiatus before returning 3 years later under the title New Jaka-Jaka.

Editions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and the special Reformasi edition of New Jaka-Jaka

In May of 1997 New Jaka-Jaka returned, and continued to publish essays, jokes, interviews, and art focused on the lives of young gay men in the city of Yogyakarta. An important section of the magazine was an advice column called "Masalah Anda, Masalah Kita" (Your Problem, Our Problem) which answers the concerns of readers.

In the edition below, the reader Randy is concerned that he is too feminine and struggles with his loneliness. He questions why women dominate his social life and asks for advice on how to approach someone he had feelings for in high school who is now avoiding him.

In part of his detailed response, Mas Andre advises that we do not know where femininity comes from but it's something that is perfectly acceptable. He asks the reader to not think about these concepts through the idea of 'Normal' because that word itself has many definitions using the example that it's normal for someone who is left-handed to write with their left hand, but not normal for someone who is right-handed.

Yogyakarta, as a university city, was one of the heartlands of the student movement that was so central to the actions of reformasi - the protest movement that brought to an end the new order system and restarted democracy in Indonesia. In one of the final editions of New Jaka-Jaka, the magazine calls on their readers to join the movement, illustrating both the need for protest and highlighting new political parties that have made homosexual and transgender rights part of their platform.

With the growing costs of materials due to the financial crisis and the chaotic nature of the reformasi period, New Jaka-Jaka stated they could no longer continue with the magazine after 6 issues.

MitraS

1997-1998

Created by LaMitraS (Mitra Sehati)

3 editions

MitraS was a short-lived lesbian publication created in the late 90s made in response to the lack of lesbian publications at the time and as a challenge to the myth that there was no lesbian scene in Indonesia. The magazine is evocative of the loneliness and isolation being faced by many members of the lesbian community due to their double burden of sexism and homophobia within the wider Indonesian community.

Covers of the 3 editions of MitraS

The magazine draws on both locally created content and translations of international lesbian stories and articles. The magazine also contained a personals section which offers a brief window into dating desires and expectations within the readership

Despite the enthusiasm of the editorial team, the simultaneous pressures of the monetary crisis and the lack of immediate readership were heavily felt. In the editorial message in the final edition, the editors make a plea to the readership to respond in order to maintain their motivation to keep up the publication. This would be the final edition.

The Internet and the end of the magazine

By the start of the 2000s, the internet in Indonesia was both accessible and popular enough to support a boom of lesbian, gay and trans content online.

The first edition of Lembar Swara

Groups like Swara Srikandi built extensive websites that hosted online editions of their magazines enabling a whole new set of readers to engage with lesbian run content for the first time.

The success of online content would see the end of the magazine era with the final edition of the original run of GAYa NUSANTARA in August of 2005. After the final printed edition, the magazine would continue in a new digital format until 2014.

However, the rise of the internet allowed more queer created content than ever before. Large numbers of blogs, yahoo groups and internet forums thrived throughout the 2000s and brought with them the continuation of the vision first started by G: Gaya Hidup Ceria - building connection within our communities so we can work together to build our future.

Queer Indonesia Archive would like to thank you for joining us in this journey through one part of our collection. If you want to look more closely at some of the items featured within the exhibition, please see our website.

This exhibition would not have been possible without the work and assistance of Dede Oetomo, Gayatri, Marcel L, Florens, Mak Chun, Pak Andreas and the many more who were involved in the creation and support of these amazing publications over the last four decades.

Special thanks must be given to Tom Boellstorff who's extensive digitisation of a majority of these materials during his time in Indonesia made this exhibition possible. QIA is currently seeking original editions of these magazines for redigitisation, please contact the archive if you happen to have any of the materials mentioned, or any we may have missed.

The Queer Indonesia Archive (QIA) is a digital archiving project committed to the collection, preservation and celebration of material reflecting the lives and experiences of queer Indonesia. The project is volunteer run, community focused and non-profit.

If you have any questions about any of the exhibition content, or if you have any suggestions of contributions for materials for the Queer Indonesia Archive Collection please email us at info@qiarchive.org

This exhibition is a proud participant in the Southeast Asia Queer Cultural Festival 2021 - Please see their website for their full program including two more exhibitions drawn from the Queer Indonesia Archive collections.

This exhibition is supported by the ASEAN SOGIE CAUCUS and VOICE Global
This work is licensed under Creative Commons License BY-SA 4.0 Sourced materials shown remain the copyright of their original copyright holders and are presented on this site without profit for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes 'fair use'. If you wish for any of your materials to be removed from this exhibition please contact Queer Indonesia Archive. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this exhibition for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.