TV & Radio
Transsexual calls for acceptance
Tatik Chusniyati, Contributor, Malang (Jakarta Post 2005/07/11)
Jangan Lihat Kelaminku! Suara Hati Seorang Waria
(Don't look at my genitals! Conscience of a transsexual)
Galang Press, April 2005
The general public is still uncomfortable with the presence of transsexuals, who are often stereotyped as useless, a social outcast who exists merely to satiate sexual desire.
Because of this marginalization, transsexuals tend to establish their own communities.
Merlyn Sopjan, a transsexual and a graduate of the National Institute of Technology in Malang, East Java, has lashed out with her indictment over the way a transsexual is usually treated in society in her autobiography, Jangan Lihat Kelaminku! Suara Hati Seorang Waria (Don't look at my genitals! Conscience of a transsexual). As a transsexual, she wants to be appreciated like other human beings. A transsexual is no different from other people, and have the same feelings and are physically and intellectually no different, she says.
Merlyn, now chairman of the Malang branch of the Association of Transsexuals, proved her point when she was named Queen of Transsexuals in 1995; and 2003, when she ran in the Malang mayoral election and was one of the top legislative candidates nominated by the Indonesian Justice and Unity Party, Malang.
Also a social activist, Merlyn has been appointed by Family Health International as a partner in raising HIV/AIDS awareness in Greater Malang, for which she was conferred and honorary doctorate by Northern California Global University.
Furthermore, Merlyn is to represent Indonesia in an upcoming world transsexual pageant.
All these comprise proud achievements that underline Merlyn's point that a transsexual, just like other people, have ambitions, ideals and aspirations. She thus regrets that some people still segregate transsexuals in society.
Physically, Merlyn is beautiful, stylish and elegant, although her Adam's apple is still prominent, and she is a polite and gentle woman. Unsurprisingly, many men have fallen in love with her, and she has been in at least seven relationships.
As with many women, Merlyn has not been lucky in love. She was once in love with an ex, Nino, who left her to marry another woman, a classmate from his university days.
Yet, Merlyn has tried to be strong. "Perhaps I will always love you, not because there is no one else that I could love, but because I only want to love you. When night falls, let me be the darkness so that you can feel that it is this darkness that makes a perfect night. And without me, you, too, will be in a void." (p. 26)
As with any human being, Merlyn wants to love and be loved. If possible, she wants to get married one day. "It is my longing to be in someone's possession, Boy. I realize that I need love in my life." ("Letter Five", p. 115)
Deep inside, however, Merlyn realizes that a marriage between a transsexual and a man is impossible in Indonesia, and she has tried to be realistic and accept this fact. Still, as she has said so in a discussion of her autobiography, she was slightly disappointed that a marriage law on this issue had yet to be drafted here.
Merlyn reveals all in her autobiography, which is based on her diary, the book stands testimony to the struggle that Merlyn has faced in her effort to gain proper respect as a human being -- and not to be judged only on the basis of her (im)perfect genitals. Even without perfect genitals, she writes, life will continue as long as you breathe, and as long as you live, you will continue to create.
Jangan Lihat Kelaminku! Suara Hati Seorang Waria, the true story of one transsexual's experience, is expected to open the door of tolerance in the hearts of those who generally frown upon the existence of a transsexual.
Nothing is perfect in this world, and no one is perfect, either. As Merlyn stresses in her introduction, we are all His creations, born with many limitations.
The reviewer is an observer of social affairs and lives in Malang.