Life as a Mermaid: Being Transgender in West Borneo
BY Cindy Clarissa
June 14 2012 6:28 AM ET
[Editor's note — We asked why Clarissa referred to Aulia as a 'he' if he is transgender. Here is her reply: "With regards to your question on why I refer to Aulia as a 'he' instead of a 'she' for me it's because I sense a deep struggle between Aulia's female identity and his/her belief in religion. Aulia is a devout Muslim, brought up in a deeply religious family, and still lives in a highly religious community. In the context of Aulia's religion, to turn oneself into a woman when one is born physically as a man means going against God's will. And my reference to Aulia as a 'he' is a way of respecting that, the belief that seems to be Aulia's only pillar of strength in the darkest times. I don't know if that makes sense, it probably doesn't."]
Love can be found in the most unlikely places, so can greatness. I was fortunate enough to have met Aulia during my visit to West Borneo this year and shared a slice of his life. He told me he sees his life as that of a mermaid, split between two realms. Having been born with a female identity trapped in a male’s body, he had fought hard within and without to be where he is today.