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‘Waria’ documents struggle with identity

Students got an inside look at the life of transgender Muslim students during the movie screening of “Tales of the Waria.”

The film takes place in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, and focuses on the love lives of four transgender or gender nonconforming, defined as when someone does things differently from the “norm,” individuals.

Shawna Irissarri, a student coordinator, said the term “waria” umbrellas a diverse group of people.

“The waria aren’t just transgender women,” Irissarri said. “It also covers a lot of different identities, but because it’s not a Western identity, it’s harder for us to really pigeon-hole it into something like, ‘Oh, it’s just transgender women,’ or ‘Oh, it’s just effeminate gay men.’”

The film screening was held last Tuesday on the second floor of the Henry Madden Library.

The event provided different cultural perspectives on gender identity and sexuality, two important topics, said Irissarri.

“It helps people to be more accepting of diversity and to acknowledge that the Western view of things is not the only view,” Irissarri said.

A student who asked to be referred to as “Toby,” found Mama Ria’s expressed need to make Ansar happy in the film particularly appealing.

“She was only second place because she wasn’t a ‘real woman,’ and I felt that was really unfair,” Toby said. “I felt like if she was in a different society, she could be more of a woman than she’s feeling like she has to be because of where she lives.”

Toby added: “I think it’s important to show that people are also gender-nonconforming and trans in other countries that don’t have certain influence.”

According to New Day Films, the queer story consultants and crew filmed for over three years to provide a first-look into transgender struggles and Islamic culture in Indonesia.

According to director Kathy Huang in a Huffington Post article, the team hopes that the film will show that there is room for different gender expressions, identities and sexuality in Islam.

Irissarri said the Cross Cultural and Gender Center plans to hold its annual Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20 from 5-9 p.m. in the North Gym.