Indonesian LGBT+ magazines find a second life online

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05/18/2021

Two men embracing on a magazine cover was more than risqué for Indonesia, thought LGBT+ researcher Ais, when he first discovered a trove of retro LGBT+ zines in Bali last year. “Suddenly it felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself,” said Ais, 29, who does not want to reveal his full name due to the sensitivity of the matter, of his discovery of the zines. “Turns out I have a history.” The LGBT+ zines, or community-based publications printed in small batches, were distributed across the Indonesian archipelago during the 1980s and 1990s, a sign of more permissive times in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Although homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, with the exception of sharia-ruled Aceh province where same-sex relations are banned, it is generally considered a taboo subject. The country is also becoming less tolerant of the LGBT+ community as some politicians become more vocal about Islam playing a large role in the state. The find gave Ais and Beau Newham, an Australian who works in HIV prevention and support, the impetus to digitise as many LGBT+ zines as they could find by scanning old copies and posting them online. Their website Queer Indonesia Archive went live last June.

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