• Lessons in Humanity

    May 5th 2015. Nora Dooley writes about our third year with Rumah Cemara in Bandung, Indonesia.

    Every day, teams from CAC and our partner organizations battle all over the world for the rights of women and girls. And Indonesia is no different – from sex trafficking to lack of equal opportunities – this week with Rumah Cemara would certainly address the issue of gender equality. As a coach, however, my understanding of the issue’s scope would be forever changed.

    Why? Over a third of the participants identified themselves as transgender. Moreover, the rest of the group never flinched over the matter, as if this was a run-of-the-mill dynamic.

    The reality? This just doesn’t happen – anywhere in the world, let alone in conservative, religiously traditional Indonesia.

    This being the first time I have worked with openly transgender participants, I had to rethink my approach to some of our games. I chose the honest approach – and being honest, I know very little about the transgender community. So what do I do? What CAC always does: ask questions.

    I asked the group, who has more choice in Bandung (after addressing that men have the most) women or transgender? The quick answer: women.

    How do we work towards female empowerment when most of the participants are far more oppressed than women? Now we’re getting into some serious psychological/nature vs. nurture/scientific vs. social deep water that I will not pretend to be able to navigate. I will say, however, that people are people, and no matter where we come from, how we were raised, or what gender we identify with most, everybody wants to laugh, love, and share who they are with people who want to listen.

    I wanted to listen. So I asked and asked and after four days of questions, I can say I understand just a little bit more. But more importantly, I learned lessons in bravery and the true power of unity from a group of incredible human beings.

    This pack of about 30 participants laughed and Mingle Mingled their way to a new level of social inclusion, a level where the term ‘social inclusion’ was an afterthought, overshadowed by human compassion. This training, thanks to Rumah Cemara for inviting all the different organizations, created a bubble of understanding and tolerance in a community and country where many of these participants are excluded from spaces and activities that so many of us take for granted.

    To top it off, the leaders put their creative minds together and came up with five new games to teach children and adults messages about stigma, discrimination, the effects of cigarettes, access to healthcare, and bullying.

    I look forward to the day when the participation of a transgender community will not be the focus of a blog, but as it stands – this entire group deserves recognition, with extra kudos to 3-year partners, Rumah Cemara for giving us the opportunity to learn new lessons in humanity.