Indonesia deported an American lesbian couple Kristen Gray (28) and her partner Saundra Alexander (30), after Gray’s social media posts calling Bali “queer friendly” went viral.
Indonesian officials claimed that the deportation had been ordered due to a violation of visa rules and for “spreading information that could unsettle the public.” The unsettling information included Gray’s post that said Bali was “queer friendly”.
Gray spoke to the local media and said that she was innocent and was being targeted because of her sexuality. “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT, and I’m being deported because of LGBT,” said Gray.
📢📢KETERANGAN pengacara Mba Kristen setelah diperiksa di Kanwil Kemenkumham Bali. pic.twitter.com/6j1z7cBPKY
— It's Always (@BetterWithBill) January 19, 2021
Social Media Posts Slammed
Gray, who calls herself a “digital nomad” in her posts, said that she had moved to Bali in January 2020 after being broke and struggling to find work for the entirety of 2019. She and her girlfriend booked one-way tickets to Bali. “In March, when the pandemic hit and our six-month plan went out of the window, we decided to ”wait it out” and we have been here since,” Gray said in her Twitter post.
Having moved her graphic design business, she said she was paying just $400 per month for a luxurious treehouse in Bali, whereas her monthly rent for her studio in Los Angeles was $1,300. She listed the benefits of moving to Bali: “Safety, Low Cost of Living, Luxury lifestyle, Queer Friendly, Black In Bali community.” Gray in one of her posts said the couple’s e-book had tips about how to move to Indonesia during COVID-19 and bypass strict rules that bar entry of foreigners.
The viral social media posts also attracted the attention of Indonesian authorities who detained and arrested Gray. Though the couple’s visa was valid till January 24, authorities said they had violated rules that prohibit those on a tourist visa from working. The couple were deported on January 20, 2021.
‘Indonesia Is Not Queer Friendly’
The social media posts and the deportation also shone a light on Indonesia’s crackdown on the LGBTQI community. Though homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, except for the Aceh province which follows Islamic Shariah law, in recent times there have been raids on gay bars and arrests of LGBTQI people. In March 2020, a bill was introduced in the Indonesiaan Parliament that would force LGBTQI people into conversion practices and “rehabilitation” in religious institutions.
Some expressed fears that the social media posts and subsequent deportation would impact the local LGBTQI community. In a video shared on Twitter, a TikTok user reminded Gray that Bali was far from queer friendly if you were a local. She asked Gray to recognise the fact that Bali might have seemed queer friendly as she was a foreigner and because she had “economic leverage since the Indonesian local community was financially dependent on keeping her happy”.
a message from a local queer to kristen gray pic.twitter.com/olaXcTiwB7
— y'all_sick (@NArtist05) January 18, 2021
“Please recognise that for the rest of us Indonesians on the island, this is not a queer friendly place. Our gay communities are often shut down and raided by authorities and Indonesia has tried to mandate conversion therapy for us in the LGBTQ+ community.”
She said that the majority of (LGBTQI) Indonesians were “deeply embedded in the closet because of the astounding homophobia we face on a daily basis. This place isn’t queer friendly,” the person signs off.