3 years ago

Balancing benefits and harm: Chemical use and bodily transformation among Indonesia's transgender waria

Members of Indonesia's diverse male-to-female transgender community often describe themselves as waria. Waria do not equate being feminine with being female. They do not want to be women; they aspire to be like women. It entails cultivating mannerisms and wearing make-up and women's clothes, shaving one's legs and styling one's hair. But some go further in their practices of self-administered, chemically assisted bodily transformation. Methods Field research took place in Makassar, the capital city of South Sulawesi; in a smaller town in the regency of Bulukumba on the south coast of Sulawesi; and in the special region of Yogyakarta in Java. Data were collected through repeated in-depth interviews with ten waria youths aged between 18 and 26 in each site; interviews with pharmacists, drug and cosmetics store clerks; three focus group discussions at each site; and participant observation. Results Our respondents saw their bodies as ‘projects’ they can manipulate with pharmaceutical products and cosmetics. To lighten their skin, they experimented with different brands of exfoliating liquid, whitening cream, powder, foundation, face soap and skin scrub. To grow breasts and reduce muscle mass, they experimented with different brands and dosages of contraceptive pills and injections in order to get faster, better and longer-lasting results. Conclusion Harm reduction programs often neglect chemicals that are not narcotics, not related to sexually transmitted infections, and which are legally and freely available. Safety issues arise when otherwise safe products are used off-label in large quantities. Drug policy-makers are paying insufficient attention to the safety of cosmetics.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0955395914001637

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