Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Ledgerwood, Judy, 1959-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Anthropology


Transgender people--Indonesia--Java--Social conditions; Gender identity--Social aspects--Indonesia--Java


The purpose of the following thesis was to investigate how transwomen (otherwise known locally as waria) of Indonesia, navigate their gender identities within their specific locales in central Java. Particularly, I focus how my respondents do this within Yogyakarta, which I define as a cultural hub where local custom and law known as adat predominates and two other field sites located in the periphery of Yogyakarta. Due to the importance of local culture in the general central Javanese region, I hypothesized adat serves to help create space and belonging for my transwomen respondents within each locale. While previous research has focused on the experiences of transwomen living in industrial cities further removed from local culture of Indonesia, I hope to bring to light the contemporary experiences of transwomen living outside the industrial locales of Java in hopes of bringing a more holistic understanding of this dynamic people. More specifically, I sought to investigate how transwomen navigate their identities within their work, social, and religious realms. I did this by conducting primarily qualitative research spanning the course of approximately two months in the summer of 2015. My research found that the trans*community (an umbrella term for many variations of transgender individuals) is a diverse one with individuals holding complimentary and analogous beliefs particularly concerning their identity. While adat does play a role in helping to create space for my transwomen respondents as they navigate their occupational, social, and religious lives of their society, it has not wholly been sufficient due in part to the vying hegemonic gender ideologies that at various periods of time challenge and seek to dismantle local adat. Thus, my respondents have needed to boldly and innovatively carve out space for themselves physically, digitally and even linguistically in order to navigate their respective communities. For instance, my respondents demonstrate various instances of agency in stepping outside of the boundaries and stereotypes ascribed to the waria community. Moreover, these instances may take the form of active engagement in various forms of activist work or simply circumventing or disregarding discriminatory national and religious laws and ideologies in order to achieve their respective wants and desires in society. As briefly mentioned, this research demonstrates the role technology and social media is presently serving towards not only bridging locals with one another but also locals with foreigners. Thus along with the physical space which my transwomen respondents have carved out for themselves through both adat and activism, the digital space also serves as a nexus where transwoman love and community are realized. Additionally, my respondents are actively engaged in direct communication with foreigners via social hangouts, social media, and even travel abroad. Thus, my respondents can even engage in global discourses of gender. My research found that while my respondents live in various unique locales and may be divided by socio-economic class, which may contribute to a sense of disunity, they share many common experiences and modes of navigating their respective communities as transwomen. These shared narratives and various intersectionalities in experience throughout central Java align with Boellstorff's argument that Indonesia can be considered as a single ethnographic unit. Additionally, waria can be thought of as being "truly national" as they are found across islands, ethnic groups, and yet unified in various instances like language and gender experiences, which they articulate boldly and innovatively.


Advisors: Judy Ledgerwood.||Committee members: Susan Russell; Mark Schuller.||Includes bibliographical references.


vi, 149 pages




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