As a kid, I loved going to weddings with my parents. I never really knew the brides and grooms—we were there mainly for the free delicious food. I secretly loved the elegance of weddings. Everything, from the flowers to the pastel tablecloths, to the lavishly-dressed guests, just seemed special. Back then, I'd always thought my own special day would come sooner or later. Now, as a 24-year old gay person who identifies as non-binary living in Indonesia, I doubt that there will ever be a discussion of marriage in my future.
About two years ago, I began receiving invitations to my friends' weddings. They used to come once every few months or so, but then they began to flood my social calendar, so much so that I have at least one to go to every weekend. Being invited to these weddings makes me happy, of course, but somehow, depressed. Knowing that marriage equality isn't in the immediate future for queer Indonesians, I can’t help but feel alienated from my friends, a lot of whom identify as straight.
Three weeks ago, I was invited to a wedding of a friend from elementary school. She had sent the invitation through a group chat. I was in town on the day of the wedding, and I felt obliged to show up. I brought a dear friend along to act as a bumper, thinking maybe it wouldn't be so depressing this way. But when my friend and I greeted the bride—the only other person I knew in the room—she shrieked, shook our hands, and pointed to my friend, "Is this the future wife?"
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In Indonesia, you will be asked the question, "When are you going to get married?" and its variations at any given social gathering once you've entered a certain age. But all my closest friends know my sexuality, and we don't ask each other that question. Hearing that from someone I hadn't seen in years caught me off guard. My friend, being the wonderful person she is, saved me by laughing it off. But I left the wedding feeling confused and hurt.
The incident made me realize that I've been living in a bubble. Though I have a lot of straight friends, the people who know the truest parts of me are mostly queer. Somewhere along the way in the last six years I guess I'd forgotten that most Indonesians grow up and tick off the same boxes one by one: graduate college, get a job, get married, buy a house, raise a family, worry about mortgages and school tuition. Meanwhile, living in a country where it's getting more and more painful and dangerous to be gay, I just wake up every morning hoping to survive another day.
Last month, Taiwan proposed Asia's first same-sex marriage law. It was long overdue, but it’s absolutely a step forward for our fundamental rights as queer people. But seeing the news only made me even sadder, seeing that it would never happen here. Not in my lifetime at least. Here, many people still don’t accept homosexuality as a valid sexual orientation, let alone acknowledging our existence and that the lives that we lead are more or less, the same. There could never be a future for legalization of gay marriage in Indonesia. Values and norms that are based on religion are so deeply rooted in Indonesian culture that whatever it is that we do will forever be deemed as immoral and sinful. Even as we try to function like any other human being, we're labeled a "public nuisance." How in the world can we expect the government to give us the right to marry?
A week ago, a friend hired me to take her maternity photos that she planned to share with her family and on social media. As the shoot went on, I kept thinking about how our lives are so different because what she's allowed and expected to do due to her sexuality. During a break, when she asked about my love life, I stuttered. I didn't know what to say. I didn't feel like explaining to her my Grindr hookups. There were those who ghosted me, those who seemed too good to be true, and those who made me feel like shit—but there is no real future between me and any of them. To put it simply, I don’t have the kind of relationship trajectory that she, like other straight people, has. Back at home after the shoot, I felt even more lonely than usual. I found myself pondering the same question over and over:
"What do you do when the supposed goal of adulthood—in this case, marriage—doesn’t exist for you?"
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. What I certainly know is that there will be more wedding invitations that I will receive this week and weeks to come. Indonesia's wedding season, which is anytime before and after the holy month of Ramadan, will come for all of us, ready or not. With each wedding I go to the pain will only deepen. Meanwhile, all I can do to cheer myself up is to hit the store and stack up on Batik shirts so I don't have to wear the same ones.
This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.