An Interview With Indonesia's First Gay Porn Star

Fabio Toba tells us "I thought being a porn star would be a fun job before I started acting, but I realize now that it's a difficult job."

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11 January 2019, 8:00am

Image courtesy Fabio Toba

I'll be honest, I've been looking at gay porn since the days of internet cafes and floppy disks. It's honestly harder to find porn today in Indonesia since the government ministry's decided to focus on blocking adult websites. It's even harder to find gay porn—hell, the government even blocks LGBTQ dating apps in Indonesia.

I live abroad now, where it's a bit easier. But that doesn't mean it's any easier to find porn starring men who look like me. I didn't think there were Indonesians working in the gay porn industry at all. And then, one day, I heard about Fabio Toba.

Fabio Toba—it's a stage name—was born in Medan, North Sumatra, but he now lives in Germany, where local attitude toward the queer community don't involve insane shit like conversion therapy exorcisms or the constant threat of raids by thuggish homophobic "vigilantes." Fabio Toba is doing something he could never do in his native Indonesia. He even has fans today who feel inspired by his career choice and bravery. Did Fabio Toba ever think he would become an unlikely role model? I gave him a call to find out.

VICE: Hi Fabio. How did you end up in Germany?
Fabio Toba: At first I moved there because my boyfriend was a German citizen. After years of dating, we got married in 2013. The wedding was really simple and only family and close friends were present.

Now we’re divorced but we still live together. Dealing with a divorce in Germany takes forever. Maybe by next year we’ll be officially divorced.

How did you get into the adult film industry?
Since I live in Europe, why not? I’ve never seen any Indonesian with the balls to get into the adult film industry. I wanted to be one of the first porn stars from Indonesia.

Actually, I’ve always wanted to do this. But when I was younger, I didn’t have the confidence. On Grindr, I used to get turned down a lot. For years I went to the gym religiously, got tattoos, and built confidence of my body.

Aside from that, when I still lived in Indonesia, there were cultural issues, and then there were my parents. While I am in Germany, I don’t give a shit.

I built up the courage to contact Tim Kruger (a German porn actor and producer at TimTales studio) through Facebook and Instagram. It turned out he didn’t have any Asian actors in his studio. He said ‘OK, when do you want to start?’ I didn’t need to go through the whole casting process and just flew straight to Barcelona, Spain to shoot my first film in February 2017.

How’s your first filming experience like? Was it nerve-wracking?
I was both excited and nervous. I also felt embarrassed because I come from a more conservative culture. My producer understood and even encouraged me. My first shoot took five hours.

That’s a long time.
I wasn’t a professional back then. I looked at the camera a lot. I was very shy. My co-star Fostter Riviera helped me calm down. Fostter said this was my debut, so I should just take it easy. The film crews were all nice too.

Were you tested for HIV and STD before filming?
Of course. Since it was as shoot for a production house that put out bareback scenes, I was worried. The TimTales producers told me that most of the models in the industry were HIV positive. But we have PrEP (an anti-HIV drug) in Germany. I was then referred to a local clinic to be tested. I started taking PrEP as prescribed by the doctor.

Were you still worried or afraid after taking PrEP?
Yeah, at first. But at least, I wouldn't be discriminated here in Germany if I became infected. You can still have a job, et cetera. My fear began to ease, and I get medical check-ups every six month.

Indonesia still doesn't have much sex education and teachers rarely address safe sex. Although gay porn shows bareback scenes, but most Indonesians don’t even know what PrEP is. What’s your thoughts on this?
It’s still safer to use a condom. I think PrEP is only available in Thailand, not yet in Indonesia. Using PrEP doesn’t mean you’re completely protected, though. Gay people should always be careful and check their health regularly. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

On Instagram, I saw posts about gay men in Indonesia who died at such young age. They were 20, 25, or 35 years old. I’m not assuming they died of AIDS, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If I go back to my country, I’d like to campaign for HIV tests. Most gay men only know how to have fun, but are unaware of the risks.

Is it really fun to be a porn star?
I thought being a porn star would be a fun job before I started acting, but I realize now that it's a difficult job. It takes a long time to shoot. Aside from the actors, there are directors and film crews who work behind the scenes too. You have to concentrate during the filming.

Sometimes, I'm paired with someone who’s not my type. I have to pretend that we enjoy it even though we’re not attracted to my co-star. I have to be professional. I also have to maintain my body: hitting the gym regularly, drinking lots of water, getting enough sleep, and so on.

How many films have you been in?
So far, I’ve acted in 13 scenes for several production houses in Europe. I’m taking a break now to take care of my visa. Porn movies are just a way for me to express myself. I don’t see it as my main job. Some porn stars do consider it their full-time job, but I don’t. My main job is bartending.

Does your family in Indonesia know about your sexual orientation?
My extended family doesn’t know that I’m gay. My dad’s family is of Middle Eastern descent. My parents have been divorced for a long time. I live with my mom when I go back to Indonesia and she knows that i’m gay. She visited me here in 2016.

So, your family doesn’t know about you being a porn star?
They know. My mom found out through Instagram. I think it was four months after my first shoot when my mom sent me a WhatsApp, asking ‘what are you doing in Germany?’ So I responded, ‘working,’ to which she replied with ‘don’t lie to me.’ And then I asked her what’s going on. My mom knows that I like posting pictures with foreigners. So she asked me if I ‘play in blue films.’ When I said yes, she went ‘Masha Allah. Why did you do that, son?’

I insisted on my decision, so she told me to take good care of myself.

Are you up-to-date on the news about the LGBTQ community in Indonesia? Have you heard about the gay exorcism in West Sumatra ?
I did. It’s very sad. I also couldn’t believe that people were connecting natural disasters to the LGBTQ community. For them, LGBTQ people are the scum of the earth. But we’re human beings just like them. It’s disappointing that the government acts that way towards my community, but what else can I do? The majority of Indonesians are Muslim, so it’s difficult for them to embrace LGBTQ. I really hope that my fellow LGBTQ can be accepted in Indonesia, because we’re born this way. We don’t choose to live like this.

Are you afraid to go back to Indonesia, knowing that the people are hostile towards sexual minorities?
I’m not afraid at all as long as I still live here. But I have to limit myself when I’m in Indonesia. I have to be careful so I don’t violate the norms.

I saw from your social media that you already have fans now. Is it your objective to inspire people to join adult entertainment?
I didn’t mean to be a role model for anyone. I mean what’s good about being a porn star? I don’t want to inspire anyone, but If someone want to follow my path, then it’s up to them. But being a role model as a porn star isn’t a good thing.

I just want people to not be afraid to be themselves. Be who you are. That’s it.


Amahl S. Azwar is an openly gay Indonesian writer who lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand with his husbro.