My name is Tono. I was born in Bandung: this is the capital of West Java provinces. My Dad worked for the government. It was a beautiful place, but now it has become a big city. I lived in Java and there’s fifteen million people there so can you imagine? It’s still beautiful though.
I realised I was gay when I was a kid, about six years old. I was really happy if I was near big and muscley guys. My Dad had a project to build some buildings so he had a lot of staff to help him: I really loved to get showered with the workmen!
I was a homebody.
When I was in junior high school I liked my mate. I felt really confused: why did this happen to me when all my male friends at junior high have girlfriends and I don’t have any interest in girls? It was a very difficult situation at that time because I come from a not really good family. It’s not a broken family but it’s not really a complete family: my Mum was always gone somewhere; I didn’t know where my Dad is and I had to take care of my sister and brother, so I was a homebody taking care of things. I’m the second eldest, but my older brother lived with my grandmother. My sexual desire for men... I don’t want to blame my parents, but I probably was trying to find a father figure.
All of my male mates thought I was a girl because I had to take care of the girl things at home. I cooked and I washed clothes and I cleaned the house, did all these very girlish things. In Indonesia this is not common; it’s not part of the culture for boys to do these jobs. My friends always made a joke about it and called me a fag and a queer. So I just stayed at home.
We were really sexually confused.
I grew up in a small village, so I had to move to the city in order to go to senior school. At that time I discovered that my desire for other men is very strong. In the third year of my senior high school I met this guy in my class who was really close with me. When we did sport – we had to do sport every week – we’d change clothes together and sometimes because we sat next to each other, he’d grab my thigh. That’s the first experience that I had with mutual masturbation. We were really sexually confused and we never talked about it. I don’t know if he’s married today or what. I was seventeen. I kept in contact with him until I was twenty-two or so but just as friends.
At that time I had to work part-time to earn some money for food and everything. I had a part-time job as a Master of Ceremonies leading meetings and training sessions in five-star hotels in the city. I was very young at that time. While I was working I met this man who was eight years older than me. We chatted a lot because he was staying in the same hotel as me. He was very wealthy actually - he stayed in the hotel for a year. He was from another province. The first time I met him it was as a friend.
At the time I never thought our relationship would become serious. Once he invited me to his house. We slept together a few times – nothing went on – and then one night he kissed me and said, “I love you”. It was confusing at that time: I was eighteen, nineteen.
I thought, “What is this about? Man and man and we love each other?” It wasn’t my first sexual experience with another man but it was the first time a man told me he loved me and that was confusing and strange. I said, “Let me think!” It took a while for me to get used to the idea of a relationship, but I needed a man who could become my boyfriend; someone who could care for me. Finally I had someone in the same bed that I could hug or kiss or make love with. After about two or three months I got used to it.
Asian and Caucasian.
He was really open to his family – his sisters but not his brothers. His Mum knew about him because of his reputation; he took a lot of guys to his house! Not that many, actually, but a lot for Indonesia! He was a good person, a really good person. He’s really attractive actually; not just for me, for everybody in Indonesia, because he has Caucasian blood too. Indonesian people - Asian people - really like Caucasian people.
We had a serious relationship, but I’m not really lucky because he had to go to the States to take his Masters degree. So, we separated but we were still in a relationship – we were boyfriends – and I respected that: I never cheated in the three years we were separated.
Then he came back to Indonesia and we were together again. And then he had to go back to the United States. It was another two years. And then I heard that he had another relationship with someone at that time. His boyfriend from New York called me and said, “Let him go because we have a serious relationship”. I was really sad at that time. I told his sister about this – we were really open – and his sister talked with him. He apologised to me and then we broke up.
I think his boyfriend saw pictures of me in his apartment and tried to find out who I was and wanted me to go. It was very confusing and it made me very disappointed. We had been together four years. He’s still in the United States. I think he’s still with that other man but we still contact each other because honestly I don’t want to lose him: I like him.
And then I met someone in Bandung, a local guy. I don’t know if I fell in love but we had a very long relationship, about one year. He cheated a lot on me so we broke up. Then my ex-boyfriend came back to Indonesia from the United States and we continued our relationship.
In 2002 I came out to my Mum and Dad. I think they were really disappointed but Mum said, “It’s OK. If it makes you happy with your own choice”, and my Dad said the same. But they were really disappointed. Mum was crying; my Dad was crying too. I think they wanted to see me get married and have children.
I think I was a good example for the family because my brothers are really a mess. My sister is really good but all my brothers are a big mess: they do drugs. I have three brothers; two are getting better; I mean they can cope with the drugs and everything but the other one is really damaged. He has to go to jail. I took him to Bali for rehab; he was on everything.
I was a positive example.
I think my Dad was disappointed I was gay because I was a positive example for my brothers and sister. There are a lot of things that make them really proud: I do a lot of positive things. I’m really good at organising things so I was involved in a health and culture mission that took me out of Indonesia to Japan and South East Asia. But if your good son is gay it’s a let-down.
I didn’t get into drugs because my family was a mess and I didn’t want to make it worse. My ex-boyfriend also had a very good impact; he didn’t smoke or take any drugs and was a very organised person, so I just followed his example.
Back from Miami.
When he came back from Miami we tried to re-establish our relationship again but there were so many intrigues! I didn’t explain to my parents about him, but my Mum knew who he was to me.
That relationship kept me safe from HIV. My sexual behaviour is not as serious as others. I don’t really like one night stands or cheating on my boyfriend. I like anal sex but he didn’t, so we’d do something else.
In 2002 we broke up. Our relationship had become very dull and he was too good for me. He’s physically good; he’s handsome, he’s awesome. He had everything and I had nothing: I was just a village boy who had nothing and he was sophisticated with a luxury car and apartment and everything, so I could see we were not on the same level even though I love him very much.
It made things difficult for me: he’d do a lot of things that wouldn’t match with my feeling. For example we’d have dinner out with his family every weekend, which would cost $200 for one occasion and I’d just think, “Oh my god, my family can eat one month for this amount”. That’s not his fault.
The other problem was, because he has money and a good job and is very handsome, a lot of people are attracted to him so he has a lot of chances to do something naughty. He had an affair with some of my friends and my friends told me about that. I thought I’d give him three chances and after the third time that was it. We broke up in 2004.
After that I changed. Before that I was a good boy and only had sex with my boyfriend, but after I broke up this made me so disappointed I just went with a lot of people and had fun and fucked around.
By this stage I’d already moved to Jakarta, which is a very big city with ten million people, so it’s really easy to meet men there. You just go to a shopping centre or mall and go to the toilet and see another person and check each other out. At that time I’d fuck in a public toilet. It was very dangerous there, yes. If I was caught, the security would ask me for money or I would go to jail, which happens a lot in Jakarta. At that time I did a lot of sex-parties but I kept myself safe.
Sex parties in Jakarta are not quite open. It’s not announced to people on a mailing list or internet; it’s just between four to ten people - among friends. I would go just because I wanted to know what they were like. I found them confusing because for almost twelve years I was making love with one person, so I was giving everything with passion to that person, so when I went to a sex party, even if was only four people, it was confusing: who should I take? Sometimes I couldn’t get hard.
I’m not the kind of guy who has a type and says I just want hunky guys or I just want slim guys, but sometimes, if I tried to do a threesome or a foursome, one or two of them wouldn’t match what I want so it would really turn me off. But with one-on-one sex, even if they’re not my physical type I can find something that makes it interesting and turns me on.
I went to a sauna in Sydney recently and met a very interesting guy but I have a boyfriend so I just can’t do anything. I was just looking around and he grabbed me. I tried but I couldn’t do anything, my head was somewhere else. I just like one-on-one; I don’t want to party any more, no more three or foursomes!
In Indonesia sex parties are very common; there would be one every weekend or once a month. We have gay bars in Jakarta, maybe three of them and in Bali, of course, there are mixed bars, but we don’t have any saunas. I heard that this year Jakarta a small gay sauna opened. Most of the sex venues you have here we don’t have. We have some massage parlors in which you can do anything else after the massage – or no massage at all! Then I had to move to Bali.
You cannot say gay life is open there but in the local community acceptance is higher than Jakarta. That’s because of the tourism; it’s a very international destination. You can find a lot of gay men in Bali. You couldn’t compare it with Melbourne or Sydney but gay men in Indonesia want to go to Bali because there’s more going on.
In 2007 I met someone else and we got really serious, so going to the sex parties stopped. I have a very nice boyfriend now but he’s living a long way away from me: he’s living in Bahrain. He’s quite young – 26 – and he’s from a wealthy family too. He’s quite spoilt; he just spends money. I asked him to become more mature and think about how you earn your own money and use it wisely. He got a job with a coffee company and had to go to Bahrain. He is barista. He’s there for another year.
I just let him go. We have a good relationship. If he wants to do something with someone else he can. I heard from some friends that he played around with a friend of mine. It’s OK; how can you spend three years without having sex? But I always ask him to keep safe. I told him if he wants to have sex just be safe. That’s because I love him.
Please be safe.
It was very hard to have that conversation. I had that conversation with my ex-boyfriend also. I always said to him if you want an open relationship please be safe, but he always said, “No, you are my boyfriend and I don’t want you to do crazy things with other guys and I won’t do it”. But in fact...!So when I spoke to my current boyfriend about it and said if you want to have fun it’s OK, he got really angry and said, “Why do you always say that? I don’t want to do anything with anyone else”. I said, “But I heard for a fact that you had fun with my friend!” He was very quiet after that and said OK!
When someone’s angry in those sorts of conversations it’s just a reflection of what they are doing. My ex-boyfriend was really angry, saying that wasn’t the type of relationship he wanted – an open one – but he actually did sleep with other men...
I’m very lucky because I got all the information about HIV and sexual health since 1992. I have done some bareback in the nineties but maybe two times in a year – and I put myself at very high risk doing that. That was because condoms and lube were very hard to find at that time. Then after 2000 I was always prepared with condoms. I didn’t need them with my ex-boyfriend because he wasn’t into anal sex, but with the boyfriend in Bandung we used condoms and with my current boyfriend I always use condoms. During the 1990’s I didn’t really like sex because I was scared of HIV.
After I started volunteering in sexual health I got a lot of information. There are not enough HIV education programs for men who have sex with men, for gay, bi or transgender people in Indonesia. We have some small programs run by local organisations, which are funded by USA and Australia. Gay men in Indonesia have very good access to the internet and mass media so sometimes they just get information from there. There are also organisations that do outreach in the eight or ten big cities in Indonesia, so most gay men probably now know what HIV and AIDS are. But if you talk about sexual health in general they don’t know.
Lube is expensive.
Locally made condoms aren’t really expensive but the imported ones are. The problem is that lube is quite expensive. Tubes of lube that cost two dollars here in Australia cost eight dollars in Indonesia. We have lower incomes so that’s very expensive.
In Jakarta safe sex behaviour is very low, according to last year’s survey. I work for the Burnet Institute. We do outreach to sex-workers but we don’t have any programs for their clients, who are from the upper-middle class. It’s very difficult to reach the upper-middle class. They think they are very well informed and that because they have a high education they’re OK. If you talk to a sex-worker they’re likely to say “I can protect myself by using a condom and lube”, but if you talk to someone with a high education they’re more likely to say “I can fuck someone and then pull out my dick before I come”.
Because we don’t have any comprehensive campaigns like you do in Australia we can’t find out if gay men do safe sex or not. I train NGO (Non-Government Organisation) staff or doctors about HIV - basic HIV knowledge, mother to child transmission, ARV’s (anti-retroviral drugs: the drugs used to suppress HIV in HIV-positive people).
In the last two years the percentage of the gay population in Indonesia with HIV has increased from 3.7 to 5.6%. I would like to give more attention to gay men because most of the HIV programs are concerned with harm reduction for injecting drug users.
I’m a Muslim. After my first sexual experience I felt it was a sin so I didn’t want to do it again – but I really did want to do it again! I didn’t feel comfortable about it. It’s a problem for most gay men in Indonesia. We are Muslim. I still pray and I go to Mosque. We read the Koran. I don’t want to hurt anyone; I just want to do something good for my community. That’s it.
I think I’m not a good Muslim, because homosexuality is not right in my religion, but I still pray and do most of what my religion tells me, which makes me feel a little better. Being gay, I don’t feel I am a bad Muslim any more but many people would.
Catholics, Buddhists and Hindus.
All of my boyfriends have been Catholic and they pray every morning at six o’clock! My friends in Jakarta are all active in the mosque or the church or they’re Buddhist… And every full moon the Hindus have a big ceremony in a park in the city. All the men wear white shirts. Afterwards, at eleven o’clock in the evening, they just find someone to fuck. Even in Jakarta, all men go the mosque for Friday afternoon prayer and after that they’re with someone to have fun.
A romantic experience of religion.
I have a romantic experience of religion. I love to stay in the mosque and hear someone reading the Koran; I find it very peaceful. If I have too many problems I try to communicate with Him. I always ask Him why did you create me as a gay? But then I think, well, God created me gay so everything is OK. If I have something I cannot bring to another person I will bring it to Him.
I’m happy being HIV negative! Last year I had a very bad experience; I was very drunk and someone - I don’t think he raped me, but we didn’t use a condom when he fucked me. Around that time I had also had a very bad motorbike accident, after which I had a very bad nervous problem. My doctor said my T-cell level was too low and that my nervous system was very confused. I couldn’t walk; only my left hand worked. This was either because of the accident or because I was HIV-positive. My nervous system is coming back to normal. I think it was the impact of the crash that affected it.
That bad sexual experience happened in June and I had an HIV test the following February. When I got tested I was scared because I seemed to have some symptoms for HIV. I was worried about the night I had sex when I was very drunk. It was very rough sex. I’m a versatile-top mostly but that time my arse was bleeding very badly. I didn’t get tested straight away because I was too scared. He’s very cute but not a good person. Both of us were very drunk.
I stopped drinking.
I stopped drinking because I had a broken heart: I liked someone but I didn’t want to tell him. On New Year’s Eve I wanted to tell him that I loved him. He said he already had a boyfriend. That made me stop drinking: I just wanted to show him I was a strong person. I stopped for nine months.
Now that I’m a stronger person.
As an HIV-negative person I want to say that I think it’s kind of a miracle that I’m HIV-negative. I wasn’t really clean or safe in the beginning of my life, or after I broke up with my boyfriend. That’s because sometimes when you feel down you do crazy, unsafe things. I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it back then. I am a counsellor now so people can talk to me about these things. Now that I’m a stronger person I don’t think I would do something crazy like that again. I think the accident and the sexual assault changed that.