Gay-friendly cartoons outrage homophobic Indonesians

Cartoons that depict gay characters suffering the effects of Indonesia’s homophobia have caused an uproar.

In this cartoon from @Alpantuni, a man tells of his regret at not coming out to his family and friends. He married but is living a lie and is distant from his wife. (Cartoon courtesy of @Alpantuni and Coconuts)
In this gay-friendly cartoon from @Alpantuni, a gay man tells of his regret at not coming out to his family and friends. After getting married to a woman, he must live a lie and is distant from his wife. (Cartoon courtesy of @Alpantuni. Description courtesy of Coconuts)

By Lloyd Copper

Indonesia’s Information and Communications Ministry, also known as Kominfo, has demanded that the popular social network Instagram remove gay-friendly cartoons published by a user known only as @Alpantuni. The ministry even suggested that Instagram be blocked in Indonesia.

The cartoons riled many Indonesia users of Instagram, who tagged Kominfo in comments about the cartoons to express their disgust, the Coconuts news website reported.

Coconuts described several of the cartoons:

In one strip (seen above), one character speaks about his regret at never having come out to his family and the people closest to him. Now married, he’s living a lie and is distant from his wife.

In another, one character lives through numerous heartbreaks at the hands of numerous men — who use him only for sex — before he transforms into a hardline religious figure angrily denouncing the LGBT community.

The comic strip also tackles the topic of religious bigotry. In one strip, a gay Muslim character is pelted with feces and dirt for being gay. When he denounces his religion to appease his critics, they continue pelting him with feces and dirt for being an infidel.

@Alpantuni’s posts are not the first cartoons have drawn the ire of religious extremists. Perhaps most infamously, a dozen people were murdered by Muslim extremists in Paris in 2015 after the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” published cartoons depicting Mohammed, the founder of Islam, including cartoons in which the character criticized violent Islamic fundamentalists. (In one cartoon, “Mohammed” says, “It’s hard being loved by jerks.”)

The @Alpantuni cartoons, labeled “Gay Muslim comics for people who are able to think,” may be provocative but they expose uncomfortable truths about the hardships facing Indonesia’s LGBTI community.  Gay, lesbian and trans Indonesians have been under unprecedented attacks in recent years, including government crackdowns, criminalization and floggings in Depok, Pariaman, and Aceh.

Rudiantara, Indonesia's communications minister:
Rudiantara, Indonesia’s communications minister: “Instagram is naughty. … Do they want to be shut down?” (Photo courtesy of Rmol.co)

CNN Indonesia reported that Rudiantara, the minister for communications, has sent a message to Instagram demanding that the cartoon and account removed. Earlier, Rudiantara had been successful in blocking platforms he believed were inappropriate for Indonesians — including the app Telegram which he said would allow members of the Islamic State to be able to communicate with each other. That ban was lifted in 2017.

Rudiantara also made headlines in 2018 when he demanded that Google block access to popular LGBT apps such as Blued.

Lloyd Copper comments:

Although Indonesia’s minister for communications is opposed to Islamic extremism, he also opposes LGBT people. His attempt at censoring a sympathetic treatment of LGBT Indonesias can only cause further harm to this vulnerable portion of Indonesia’s community.

Lloyd Copper is an Australian writer with a passion for promoting awareness of international LGBTI issues. He has a background in journalism and social work. He is a co-administrator of the Anonymous LGBT Legion Facebook page and has previously written for Queensland Pride, an LGBTI publication, and Scenestr, an Australian arts publication.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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