Sanggar Swara

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Program Kami

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Pengurus

UMEAK – Kanzha Vinaa
June 14, 2021

Saben

Hai, aku Kanzha Vinaa, aku seorang transpuan. Aku ingin mengajak kalian menelusuri perjalananku dari rumah ke rumah tempatku bertumbuh. 

Mari kita mulai dari sebuah rumah di dalam sebuah gang yang padat, di sebuah kota kabupaten—bangunan beton satu lantai dua kamar tidur, halaman belakangnya ditumbuhi pohon jambu air yang selalu berbuah manis walau sering berulat di dalamnya.

Di rumah ini aku memulai masa remajaku. Saat itu aku baru akan memasuki sekolah menengah pertama. Perasaanku campur aduk, senang dan takut, terutama karena biasanya bertemu dengan orang-orang baru bukanlah hal yang menyenangkan bagiku. Sebagai anak ‘laki-laki’ yang kemayu, aku kerap menjadi sasaran perisakan—oleh sesama murid, guru, bahkan orang-orang yang kulalui di jalan kerap melakukan hal serupa. Mereka menyebutku banci. 

Ada yang berbisik-bisik kemudian tertawa saat melihatku melintas, ada yang meneriakiku kemudian lari cekikikan, ada juga yang menimpukku dengan batu, kayu, atau sisa minuman dan makanan. Anak-anak tetangga sering melempari kerikil ke atap rumah sambil berteriak, “Bencong! Bencong!” Pernah kukira teriakan itu adalah panggilan mereka untuk mengajakku bermain. Tapi mereka tak pernah mau bermain denganku—begitu aku keluar rumah, mereka selalu lari menjauh sambil tertawa-tawa.

Suatu siang, saat kelas 2 SMP, aku izin ke toilet dan mengambil jalan pintas di belakang gedung sekolah. Di ujung jalan, aku terpaksa melewati segerombolan kakak kelas yang sedang bolos mata pelajaran. Salah satu dari mereka meneriakiku, “Bencong!” Aku mempercepat laju langkahku, tapi mereka sigap menghalangi. Habislah aku dipukuli. Tak hanya itu, dua orang dari mereka mengeluarkan penisnya lalu menyodorkannya tepat di depan mukaku. “Hisap! Hisap!” bentak mereka sambil tertawa terbahak-bahak. Aku berteriak minta tolong, dan mereka pun kabur sambil berseru-seru, “Bencong! Bencong! Bencong!”

Sejak saat itu, aku sering tidak masuk sekolah, hingga surat peringatan dari pihak sekolah sampai ke rumahku. Surat itu harus kusampaikan ke orangtua, tapi karena takut dimarahi aku melipatnya jadi kapal-kapalan kertas dan menghanyutkannya di siring samping rumah. Tiap datang surat baru dari sekolah, hal yang sama kuulangi, Hingga akhirnya guru datang ke rumah dan menemui orangtuaku. Aku menyampaikan semua yang kualami di sekolah, raut muka Bapak langsung berubah, dia menatapku sengit seperti akan segera menghukumku. Guruku pamit, dan Bapak langsung melepas ikat pinggang. Bag, bug, bag, bug! Perih sekali tiap kali ikat pinggang menyayat kulit punggung. Meski aku menjerit dan berteriak kesakitan, Bapak tak berhenti memukul. 

Aku berharap bisa pindah sekolah, tapi kata Bapak, “Tak usah sekolah kalau hanya mau jadi banci! Memalukan. Aib keluarga. Kita tak ada keturunan menyimpang!” Aku diberhentikan sekolah. Menurut Bapak, membantunya menggarap kebun kopi akan memperbaiki sifat kemayuku.

Ketenong 

Ketenong adalah nama sungai di kaki Bukit Barisan yang menjadi patokan tempat kebun kopi kami berada—tiga jam dari pusat kota dengan menggunakan angkutan umum, kemudian dua jam berjalan kaki atau satu jam naik motor rakitan khusus dengan roda yang dilapisi rantai. Pondok kami di Ketenong berdinding bambu, berlantai papan, dan beratap kayu. Kolong rumah dijadikan gudang untuk menyimpan hasil panen. Di halamannya yang luas kami menjemur panen kopi. Tempat ini tak asing bagiku, karena di sini aku dilahirkan dan dibesarkan hingga kami pindah ketika aku dan abangku harus bersekolah. Dan sekarang aku kembali ke sini, mungkin untuk selamanya. 

Sejak itu, Bapak sepertinya sangat membenciku. Hampir tiap malam dia mengingatkanku: dosa, malu punya anak sepertiku, aib. Aku sama sekali tak berani menjawab, hanya duduk menunduk, bahkan untuk menatap matanya saja aku takut. Dia memintaku berjanji, aku akan berjalan dengan tegap tanpa gemulai sedikit pun, bicara dengan jelas dan tegas. “Laki-laki harus berwibawa!” begitu terus katanya.

Setiap malam aku menahan diri agar tak menangis. Cahaya lampu minyak tanah yang temaram berhasil menutupi raut sedih di mukaku. Sejujurnya aku tak mengerti sama sekali, mengapa orang-orang begitu benci kepadaku, aku hanya seorang anak kecil, aku tak mengerti banci yang mereka maksud.

Setahun berlalu, aku kerap menggunakan baju besi di depan Bapak. Tiap melangkah aku mengatur gerakanku supaya tidak gemulai—walau itu menyiksaku lahir dan batin. 

Diam-diam Emak membiarkanku menemaninya masak di dapur. Ia menyuruhku menjadi diriku saja saat aku bersamanya, bahkan dia membolehkanku mengulek cabai. Sesekali ia berdendang dan aku bergoyang lincah. Namun, begitu terdengar suara langkah kaki menaiki anak tangga, kami langsung berhenti. Kembali berpura-pura. Jangan sampai Bapak melihat tarian gemulaiku nan lincah.  

Suatu pagi aku dan Emak merapikan pohon-pohon kopi yang sedang berbunga, memangkas dahan-dahan dan memilih dahan baru yang akan menjadi pohon kopi berikutnya.

Aku tergerak untuk bertanya, “Mak, apakah Emak juga malu punya anak seperti aku?” 

Emak sejenak diam dan mengajakku duduk di atas rerumputan hama kopi. Dia menatapku, memelukku, dan berkata, “Apa pun yang sudah lahir dari rahimku ini, dia adalah darah dagingku.”

Katanya lagi, “Emak tak pernah malu, bahkan Emak senang karena kamu adalah anak yang paling rajin, lucu, sekaligus pintar di antara semua anak Emak.” 

“Tapi kenapa Emak jarang membela saat Bapak memarahiku?”  

“Menurut bapakmu, setiap kegagalan kalian adalah kesalahan Emak yang tak bisa mendidik anak-anaknya. Emak kerap juga dimarahi oleh bapak kalian. Jika lima-limanya anak Emak membuat kesalahan, maka Emaklah yang dianggap gagal.” 

Betapa sedihnya aku mendengarkan perkataan Emak. Hatiku remuk, Emak tak pernah salah mendidik kami, dia melakukan segalanya dengan tulus cinta dan kasih sayang. 

Sejak saat itu, aku tahu Emak juga memikul beban yang berat.

Suatu siang, ketika aku sedang menanam bunga di pekarangan pondok, terdengar suara abangku yang baru pulang dari pasar pekan di warung pojok. Pasar itu cuma digelar satu hari dalam sepekan, maka disebut pasar pekan. Abangku pulang tidak sendiri, ada anak seumuranku yang ikut bersamanya. Aku tak percaya—ia adalah sahabatku Vani.

Aku langsung memeluknya. Hampir dua tahun kami tak bertemu sejak aku tak lagi bersekolah. Puluhan pertanyaan langsung kulemparkan kepadanya. Oh, sungguh aku merindukan sahabatku ini.

Kami pertama bertemu di bawah pohon jambu di belakang rumahku dulu. Aku memergokinya hendak mengambil buahnya. Awalnya aku ingin marah, tapi begitu ia bicara aku lihat ia juga kemayu dan gemulai sepertiku. Kami pun berkenalan. 

Aku mengajak Vani berkeliling kebun kopi. “Ada apa kok ke sini?” 

Ia bercerita bahwa ia diusir oleh keluarganya. Ia juga habis dipukuli oleh abangnya karena ketahuan berdandan dan mengikuti kontes kecantikan waria. Kulihat ada legam di lengan dan badannya. Karena itu, ia memutuskan untuk menemuiku. Aku pun menceritakan apa yang kualami selama di sini. Kami berdua merasa perih.

Aku minta izin kepada Bapak agar Vani bisa tinggal bersama kami, kukatakan ia mau bantu-bantu aku di kebun. Sebelum itu sudah kuajarkan kepada Vani bagaimana caranya menggunakan baju besi di hadapan Bapak. Ia tidak keberatan sama sekali, malah dia langsung menugaskan sebagian lahan kopi untuk digarap oleh Vani. 

Minggu kedua Vani tinggal bersama kami, aku berencana kabur dari rumah agar kami bisa terbebas dari baju besi. Kuajak Vani ke serondong, pondok kecil tempat berteduh saat hujan, untuk menyusun strategi. Kami menyepakati akan pergi besok pagi. 

Pagi itu kami berpura-pura hendak merapikan kebun, sambil membawa keranjang anyaman bambu yang sudah kami isi dengan beberapa lembar baju. Kami mengikuti jalan satu-satunya ke desa warung pojok—perjalanan ini makan waktu dua jam, kami menelusuri sisi jalan yang ditutupi oleh semak-semak dan pohon kopi agar tidak terlihat, sesekali kami berlari, sesekali kami berhenti dan merunduk ketika ada suara motor. Benar saja, setelah setengah jalan, aku melihat Bapak melintas berboncengan dengan Paman. Tentu mereka mencari kami. Ah, jangan sampai tertangkap, aku tak mau kembali ke sana! Kami melanjutkan perjalanan sampai ke jalan desa yang sudah beraspal. Sedikit lagi, kami hanya perlu masuk ke dalam angkutan antarkota kemudian meninggalkan semua ini.

Setelah mengendap-endap dan melihat kiri-kanan, kami berlari menuju mobil angkutan yang sedang mangkal, satu-satunya yang ada di situ. 

Ternyata abangku sudah menunggu di dalam.

Habislah sudah. Gagal semuanya. 

Vani diminta untuk tetap di dalam mobil, sementara aku digebuki habis-habisan oleh abangku. Aku dan Vani terpisah—ia dipulangkan ke rumahnya dan Abang membawaku kembali ke kebun. Selama di atas motor aku menangis, gemetar membayangkan apa yang akan dilakukan Bapak nanti. Sudahlah, aku pasrah. 

Setibaku di pondok, Bapak sedang mengasah parang di halaman. 

Aku bahkan tak berani turun dari motor yang sudah terparkir. Bapak menghampiriku. Mukanya penuh dengan amarah, napasnya terengah-engah. Bapak menarikku turun hingga jatuh, aku ditempeleng dipukul ditendang sampai akhirnya ia mengayunkan parangnya ke arahku. Secepat mungkin aku berlari masuk ke pondok. Emak dan Abang memeluk Bapak, berusaha menenangkannya. Ia masih murka, segala sumpah dan serapah diteriakkannya kepadaku.

Aku tak menyangka sebenci itu ia pada anaknya. Tekadku semakin bulat, dalam hati aku berjanji akan pergi. Aku akan bertahan sementara di sini, sampai waktu yang tepat untuk terbebas.

Indok

Suatu hari sebelum pasar pekan, Bapak memintaku membeli kebutuhan pokok—beras, gula, minyak sayur, telur, dan garam. Malamnya aku duduk di halaman. Langit begitu cerah, banyak sekali bintang, suara-suara binatang malam terdengar nyaring, bulan seakan menyapaku. Hatiku berkata, ini saatnya. Aku bergegas kembali ke pondok. Kulihat Emak sudah tertidur, begitu juga Bapak. Mataku berkaca-kaca menatap wajah Emak yang terlelap.  

Aku terbangun saat suara-suara ayam mulai bersahutan. Kusiapkan tas keranjang yang mau kubawa. Emak merebus air di atas tungku, menyeduh kopi, dan membuatkan gorengan pisang untuk sarapan. Bapak menghitung uang untuk kubawa berbelanja. Matahari mulai naik, pertanda aku harus bergegas agar tak telat ke pasar pekan. 

Suasana di sana begitu ramai, semua petani keluar dari kebunnya dan berbelanja memenuhi kebutuhan pokok. Kubelikan semua barang sesuai catatan dan menitipkannya dengan Paman yang kebetulan juga sedang berbelanja. Kemudian aku menuju mobil angkutan yang siap berangkat ke kota. 

Aku kabur! 

Aku bebas! 

Aku siap dengan babak kehidupan selanjutnya! 

Setelah menempuh perjalanan dua jam, aku sampai di terminal pusat kota. Tujuanku selanjutnya adalah ke rumah Vani. Aku tak sabar menemuinya.

Tapi sesampainya di sana, orang rumah Vani mengatakan ia sudah setahun pergi ke Jakarta. 

Aku tak punya tujuan lagi. Kuputuskan kembali ke terminal. 

Menjelang malam, terminal semakin sepi. Para pedagang menutup kiosnya, mobil-mobil angkutan terparkir kosong. 

Aku duduk di salah satu kios yang tak bertembok, hanya empat tiang kayu menyangga atap seng yang sudah berkarat dan bolong-bolong, lantainya juga hancur. 

Namun, ada hal lain menghidupkan malam di terminal. Beberapa orang turun dari motor, berdandan cantik, berambut panjang, berbaju mini dan seksi, dan bersepatu hak tinggi. Mereka berdiri di pinggir jalan sambil sesekali menggoda laki-laki yang lewat. Aku sama sekali tak takut, malah kupikir aku tak sendirian di sini.  

Saat turun hujan mereka berteduh di tempatku duduk. Aku tersenyum menyapa mereka. Ada yang membalas, ada juga yang mengusirku. “Anak kecil ga boleh di sini. Pulang sana!”  

Aku memberanikan diri bercerita bahwa aku kabur dari rumah. Belum selesai ceritaku, mereka menatapku kemudian tertawa sambil berkata, “Ternyata anak!”   

Aku tidak paham maksudnya. Satu dari mereka berkata, “Begini, anak, kita semua di sini adalah waria, dulu mudanya sama seperti kamu, ada yang diusir, ada yang kabur dari rumah. Hidup gak bisa bohong, kita gak bisa berpura pura. Sekarang kamu boleh panggil kami Indok.” 

Sepanjang hujan mereka juga balik bercerita. Sebagian dari indok ini punya salon, saat salon sepi pengunjung mereka ke terminal untuk sekadar berkumpul dan mencari laki-laki yang mau membayar jasa mereka.

Hujan tak kunjung berhenti, sementara malam menuju pagi. Para pedagang mulai berdatangan, membentangkan lapak jualan. Para indok bersiap pulang. Hanya aku yang tak punya tujuan. Semesta Mahabaik, seorang indok mengajakku bermalam di rumahnya. 

Indok ini berbadan tinggi-besar dan bersuara sangat lembut, rambutnya pendek dipotong gaya Demi Moore. Rumahnya tak jauh dari terminal. Ia menyewa kios sederhana di bawah rumah panggung kayu di pinggir jalan raya. Selain tempat tinggal, kios itu ia jadikan tempat usaha salon. Ada dua cermin dan kursi di ruang depan, juga lemari kaca besar yang di dalamnya tersusun rapi produk-produk kecantikan dan baju serta aksesoris pengantin. Dinding salon yang terbuat dari kayu rapuh dilapisi kain dekor warna salem dan krem yang apik. 

Aku belajar banyak tentang ilmu salon, juga bertemu dan berteman dengan orang-orang sepertiku. Setiap indok salon pasti punya anak angkat, mereka senang membanding-bandingkan anak siapa yang paling cantik dan akan kelak menjadi ratu kontes kecantikan waria.

Waktu terus berjalan, dan aku terus menyimpan ketakutan—takut dicari keluargaku. Aku tak mau pulang, tak mau hidup menggunakan baju besi lagi, meski sebenarnya aku merasa rindu yang teramat kepada Emak. Hampir setiap malam aku memikirkan bagaimana setiap harinya Emak mesti menghadapi ocehan Bapak dan lagi-lagi dianggap gagal mendidik anaknya.

Suatu hari aku memberanikan diri untuk bersolek. Aku duduk di depan cermin salon dan minta Indok untuk mendandani. 

Indok tertawa, “Benar mau didandanin?”

Keinginanku kuat. Aku minta sekali lagi dengan sedikit memaksa. 

Indok menyuruhku menutup mata sampai selesai prosesnya. Aku merasakan setiap sentuhan peralatan rias di wajahku—bedak, eyeshadow, pensil alis, bulu mata palsu, pemerah bibir, dan rambut palsu. Aku tak sabar melihat hasilnya.

Indok menyuruhku membuka mata.

Aku terkesima. Aku terlihat cantik sekali, dengan rambut palsu hitam panjang dan ikal. Indok juga meminjamkan aku bra dan dress babydoll warna hitam dengan corak polkadot. Oh, ini luar biasa! Aku berjoget senang berputar-putar, dan berkali-kali menatap wajahku di kaca. 

“Siapa namamu?” tanya Indok.  

“Vinaa!” jawabku dengan cepat. 

Kami tertawa lepas. 

Sejak saat itu namaku adalah Vinaa.

Belek 

Selama berbulan-bulan aku tinggal bersama Indok, keluargaku ternyata beberapa kali mengunjungi salon-salon untuk mencariku. Aku selalu bersembunyi, bahkan kutitip pesan kepada teman-temanku agar mereka tidak memberitahu keberadaanku. Namun, suatu ketika Emak datang ke salon Indok. Aku tak bisa menolak menemuinya. Perasaan rindu dan sedih meluap melihat Emak berdiri di hadapanku.

Kupeluk Emak sambil menangis sejadi-jadinya, dekapannya terasa begitu hangat. Aku meminta maaf karena telah kabur dan meninggalkan mereka. Emak hanya memelukku erat. Matanya berkaca-kaca.

“Ayo pulang!” katanya. “Keluarga khawatir.” Emak menjamin Bapak tak akan memarahiku apalagi memukulku. 

Awalnya aku tak mau, tapi Indok menyakinkanku. Jika nanti Bapak marah, maka aku bisa kembali lagi tinggal bersama Indok. 

Akhirnya aku mengemas beberapa baju dan berpamitan kepada Indok. Mata Indok berkaca-kaca, dengan senyum lebar ia memelukku. “Jangan takut,” bisiknya. 

Sepanjang perjalanan pulang aku menceritakan banyak hal kepada Emak: pekerjaanku, teman-teman baruku, para indok yang kutemui, juga namaku sekarang Vinaa. Namun, Emak sepertinya belum siap mendengarkan. Ia tak merespon, raut mukanya sedikit sendu, pandangannya jauh dan dalam sekali, seperti memikirkan sesuatu yang teramat rumit. Emak hanya memintaku untuk tak menceritakan semua itu kepada Bapak. 

Setibanya kami di kebun, aku berjalan persis di belakang Emak, perlahan-lahan kami melewati halaman pondok yang luas. Kulihat Bapak sedang mondar-mandir meratakan jemuran kopi yang mulai menghitam di bawah terik matahari. Aku menghampirinya dan mencium tangannya. Tak sepatah kata pun keluar dari mulutnya. Aku ingin mengambil hati, kubantu dia meratakan jemuran kopi. 

Hari-hariku di sini kuhabiskan membantu orangtua, mulai dari mengambil air di pancuran untuk kami minum, membersihkan rumput hama kopi, memanen, dan yang paling aku suka adalah diam-diam membantu Emak memasak di dapur. Sejujurnya, aku tak lagi betah, aku tak mau berpura-pura. Kuputuskan selepas panen kopi nanti aku akan pergi lagi. Kali ini lebih jauh, jauh ke seberang langit sana.

Dipoa Lenget

Aku tak mau berpura-pura, membuat orang lain bahagia sementara jiwaku meronta-ronta. Aku pergi diam-diam, meninggalkan Ketenong. Tujuanku kali ini adalah Jakarta.

Vani yang memberitahuku cara ke Jakarta—kami terhubung kembali karena ibunya memberitahuku nomor HP-nya. Kata Vani aku mesti naik travel menuju bandara, membeli tiket di loket, kemudian sesampainya di Jakarta naik taksi ke alamat yang sudah diberikan. 

Aku berangkat dengan dua temanku—satu yang dulu tinggal bersama dengan Indok, dan satu lagi yang dulu suka main-main ke salon Indok. Kami memilih penerbangan malam hari, ini pengalaman pertamaku naik pesawat. Aku duduk persis di samping jendela. Aku menikmati setiap gerakan awak kabin mempraktekkan petunjuk keselamatan. Benar-benar luar biasa, meluncur di atas awan, hanya gelap di luar jendela, pikiranku ikut melayang-layang membayangkan kehidupanku ke depan. Sesekali aku dan kawanku bertatap muka sambil senyum-senyum kecil menahan tawa. 

Kurang dari satu jam perjalanan, pilot mengumumkan bahwa sebentar lagi pesawat akan mendarat di Bandara Soekarno-Hatta. Kami bergantian melihat ke luar jendela, di bawah terlihat sangat gemerlap warna-warni lampu seperti kunang-kunang. Semakin rendah pesawat, semakin jelas yang terlihat—jalan-jalan ibu kota, kendaraan-kendaraan yang melaju, dan gedung-gedung pencakar langit. Semua terlihat begitu mewah terang-benderang. Aku begitu terpesona. 

Kami memesan taksi menuju alamat yang Vani berikan: Jalan Minangkabau, Manggarai, Jakarta Selatan. Supir membawa kami menerobos jalanan ibu kota—padat, sesak, dan semuanya bergerak begitu cepat. Aku merasa masih seperti mimpi. 

Di Jakarta aku menyewa sebuah kamar kos kecil yang hanya berisi kasur, lemari kayu, dan kipas angin. Kamar mandi terletak di luar untuk digunakan bersama oleh para penghuni kos lainya. Malam hari terasa sama panasnya dengan siang hari, kipas angin seperti tak ada fungsi. Dan ketika musim hujan, banjir menggenangi kamarku. Jauh dari nyaman, tapi terasa begitu aman.

Di ruang sempit ini, aku tak lagi berpura pura. Di ruang sempit ini, aku menaruh segudang harapan, untuk hidupku ke depannya, menggapai kembali semua yang tertinggal di masa lalu.

Bunga Kopi

Segala pengalaman masa lalu memberikan pelajaran yang berharga untuk hidupku, meskipun aku tak sepenuhnya bisa melupakan luka-luka menyakitkan yang turut tumbuh bersamaku. Yang bisa kulakukan adalah mencoba berdamai dengan semuanya. Tak mudah, tapi setidaknya aku terus mencoba. Melalui puisi ini kupulihkan semuanya, karena setiap baitnya adalah obat. 

Harum bunga kopi di pagi hari,
Semerbaknya damai penuh kenangan.
Saat ‘ku kecil, diriku kerap menghirup aromanya,
Sebelum mengering lalu menjadi buah.
Sekarang sering teringat, aku kerap menyendiri,
Menangis bersama aroma bunga kopi.

Harum bunga kopi di pagi hari
Semerbaknya menghantarkan pada labirin-labirin memori.
Semilir angin memperjelas arah jalan menuju pada titik sakit.

Harum bunga kopi di pagi hari
Menjadi saksi,
Sumpah serapah penuh amarah darinya yang kupanggil Bapak.
“Menguning Telan ku lem pitak dang madeak uku Bapak.” 
Sepenggal kalimat nan menyakitkan,
“Menguning Telan ku lem pitak dang madeak uku Bapak.” 
Terngiang-ngiang, perlahan menggerogoti kala sepi dewasa ini

Harum bunga kopi di pagi hari,
Sampaikan pesanku pada semesta.
Izinkan aku menjumpai kecilku,
Biarkan aku memeluknya,
Mengusap airmatanya,
Menemani kesendiriannya.

Kecilku, terima kasih telah menjadi bagian dari perjalanan kisah ini.
Izinkan aku membawamu tumbuh bersama
Menjadi manusia yang sebenar-benarnya.

Dan teruntukmu sang pemilik sumpah,
Biarkan aku melupakan serapahmu
Izinkan maaf ini mengobati kecewa,
Meredam marah,
Mengembalikan benci pada cinta.

Harum bunga kopi di pagi hari.


© Kanzha Vinaa



UMEAK

Kanzha Vinaa

Translated by Tiffany Tsao

Saben

Hi, my name is Kanzha Vinaa. I’m a trans woman, and I’d like to take you all on a journey with me through all the places I called home while I was growing up. 

Let’s begin with a house in a cramped alleyway, in the regency capital—a one-story, two-bedroom concrete structure, with a jambu tree out back. The fruit it bore was always sweet, though often full of worms.  

In this house, I began my adolescence. I was just about to start middle school at the time. My feelings were a mixture of happiness and terror, mostly because meeting new people was never an enjoyable experience. As a “boy” whom everyone saw as girly, I was often an object of ridicule—with other students, with teachers, and even with people I’d pass in the street. They would call me a banci. 

Some of them would whisper to each other and laugh whenever they saw me walk by. Some would yell something at me, then run away, snickering. Some would pelt me with rocks, sticks, or old drink containers and food wrappers. The kids next door would often toss pebbles onto our roof and scream, “Bencong! Bencong!” I once thought that they were calling me to come out and play. But they never wanted to play with me—when I’d emerge from the house, they would always run away, laughing. 

One day, in my second year of middle school, I had to go to the bathroom, so I excused myself and took a back way, behind the school building, to get there. At the end of the lane, I had no choice but to pass by a group of older students who were cutting class. “Bencong!” yelled one of them. I quickened my pace, but they were determined to block my way. In the end, they beat me up. Not only that, two of them took out their penises and shoved them into my face. “Suck it! Suck it!” they yelled, whooping with laughter. I screamed for help, and they ran off, chanting, “Bencong! Bencong! Bencong!”

From that day on, I started skipping school, to the point that the school sent a warning notice to my house. I should have given the letter to my parents, but I was afraid they would get mad at me, so I folded it into a paper boat and set it afloat in the gutter by the house. Every time a new notice arrived from school, I’d do the same thing, until, finally, a teacher came in person and met with my parents. I told all of them everything I had experienced at school. The expression on my father’s face darkened and he stared fiercely at me, itching to punish me. The teacher left and Father immediately undid his belt. Pak! Pok! Pak! Pok! It stung each time the belt sliced into the skin of my back. I groaned and shrieked in pain, but Father still wouldn’t stop whipping me. 

I thought maybe I could change schools, but Father said, “You don’t need to go to school if all you want to do is be a banci! You’re a disgrace to us! We don’t have deviants in this family!” He pulled me out of school. According to Father, helping him at our coffee farm would improve my girly ways. 

Ketenong

Named for the river at the foot of the Bukit Barisan mountain range, Ketenong was home to the plot of land where my family farmed coffee. It was three hours from the city center on public transport, followed by either two hours on foot, or one hour on a specially modified motorbike with chains wrapped around the wheels. Our little house in Ketenong had walls of woven bamboo, a floor made of wooden boards, and a timber roof. The area beneath the house was used to store the beans we harvested. Our yard was spacious, and there, we would lay the coffee beans out in the sun to dry. I was no stranger to this place, for it was here that I had been born and raised, until we moved so that my older brother and I could go to school. And now we were back. Perhaps for good.

From that point on, Father seemed to genuinely hate me. Practically every night, he would tell me again and again: of how sinful I was, how he was ashamed to have a child like me, what a disgrace I was. I didn’t even dare to reply. I just sat with my head bowed, too scared to even look him in the eye. He would extract promises from me: that I would walk like a man, without any hint of sashay. That I would speak clearly and firmly. “A man must command respect!” he would say.

I spent every night holding back my tears. The light from the oil lamp was dim, and helped conceal the sadness in my face. I really didn’t understand it at all. Why did people hate me so much? I was just a kid. What did they mean by calling me banci? 

A year passed. I donned my armor whenever I was with Father. Every time I walked, I made a conscious effort not to sway from side to side—though it tortured me, body and soul.

Secretly, Mother let me keep her company when she was cooking in the kitchen. When we were together, she would tell me to just be myself, and even let me use the mortar and pestle to pound chilies. Sometimes she would sing as she worked, and I would sway along. But the moment we heard feet coming up the steps to the house, we’d stop straight away and resume pretending. We couldn’t let Father see my graceful, flowing movements. 

One morning, Mother and I were pruning the coffee plants that were in bloom, trimming branches and choosing the cuttings we would use to grow new trees.

I felt I had to ask her something. “Mak, are you also ashamed to have a child like me?”

After a moment’s pause, she invited me to sit with her on a patch of weeds. She gazed into my eyes, hugged me, and said, “Whoever comes out of my womb will always be my flesh and blood.”

“I have never been ashamed of you,” she continued. “On the contrary, you make me so happy. You are the funniest, cleverest, and most hardworking of all my children.”

“So why don’t you defend me more when Father gets mad at me?”

“According to your father, I’m the one to blame for all our children’s failures—because I haven’t raised you right. Your father gets angry at me a lot too. Whenever my five children do something wrong, he thinks I’ve failed as a mother.”

How sad it made me to hear these words. My heart broke, for Mother had always taught us well, and everything she did, she did with sincerity and love.

From that moment on, I became aware of the heavy load that Mother also had to bear.

One day, as I was planting flowers around the house, I heard my older brother’s voice. He had just returned from the pasar pekan—the weekly market in the nearby village of Warung Pojok. The market was held only once a week, hence its name. My brother wasn’t alone. There was a kid around my age with him. I couldn’t believe it—it was my friend, Vani. 

I ran to Vani and hugged her. We hadn’t seen each other for nearly two years, since I’d stopped going to school. I peppered her with dozens of questions. Oh, how much I had missed my friend!

We had first met beneath the jambu tree behind my old house. I’d caught her trying to take some fruit. I was about to get mad, but when Vani opened her mouth, I realized her movements were soft and girlish, like mine. We had gotten to know each other better from there.

Now, I took Vani around our coffee farm. “What on earth are you doing here?”

She said that she’d been driven away by her family. She’d also been beaten up by her older brother because she’d been caught wearing makeup and competing in a drag pageant. I saw that her arms and body were covered in bruises. Because of what had happened, she decided to come find me. I then told Vani what I’d been going through here. We were both in so much pain.

I asked Father whether Vani could live with us, saying she wanted to help out on the farm. Before asking him, I’d taught Vani how to put on armor in front of Father. He didn’t mind at all and even allocated a specific section of land for Vani to tend. 

The second week after Vani came to stay with us, I started planning for us to run away so we wouldn’t have to wear armor anymore. I took Vani to the serondong—the small rain shelter out in the fields—so we could strategize. We agreed to leave early the next day. 

The next morning, we pretended we were going out to do some pruning, and brought along a woven bamboo basket, which we’d already filled with some folded clothes. We followed the only road into Warung Pojok. The whole journey took two hours and we kept to the area next to the road, thick with brush and coffee trees, to avoid being seen. Sometimes we broke into a run, sometimes the sound of a motorcycle engine made us stop and duck. Sure enough, halfway there, I saw Father go by, riding on the back of Uncle’s motorbike. They were looking for us, of course. Oh, please don’t let us get caught. I don’t want to go back! We kept going until we reached the paved roads of the village. A little further, and all we’d have to do was board one of the public inter-city minibuses and leave all this behind. 

Crouching furtively and casting glances left and right, we ran to a waiting minibus—the only one at the stop. 

My brother was waiting for us inside. 

It was all over. Our plans were ruined. 

My brother asked Vani to stay in the minibus while he beat me soundly. Vani and I were separated—she was returned to her home, and my brother brought me back to the farm. As we rode back on his motorbike, I wept, trembling at the thought of what Father would do. All right, then. Whatever will happen will happen. 

When we arrived at the house, Father was busy sharpening a parang in the yard.

Even when the motorbike had been parked, I didn’t dare get off. Father came toward me, his face filled with rage, his breathing heavy. He dragged me off the bike so roughly, I fell on the ground. He slapped me and kicked me before, finally, swinging the parang in my direction. I ran into the house as fast as I could. My mother and brother held him, hugged him, trying to calm him down. He was still in a fury, swearing and screaming all sorts of curses at me. 

I never could have imagined that he was capable of hating his own child so much. My resolve grew. In my heart I vowed to leave. I would stay here only for a while, until the time was ripe for me to be free. 

Indok

Time passed, and then one morning, Father asked me to buy some staples at the weekly market the next day—rice, sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and salt. That night, I sat in the yard. The sky was so clear, and so full of stars. The night creatures could be heard, loud and shrill, and the moon shone as if it were greeting me. It’s time, said my heart. I hurried back to the house. I saw Mother was already asleep, and Father too. My eyes filled with tears at the sight of her face, deep in slumber.

I woke up to the sound of chickens crowing and clucking. I prepared the woven basket tote I was going to bring. Mother was boiling water on the stove, brewing coffee, and frying banana fritters for breakfast. Father was counting out the money I would take to go shopping. The sun was beginning to rise, signalling that I should hurry so I wouldn’t arrive at the market too late.

The atmosphere was so lively there. All the farmers were there, shopping for necessary food items. I bought everything on my list and left them in the care of my uncle, who happened to be shopping that day as well. Then I made my way to a minibus that was about to depart for the city. 

I had escaped!
I was free!

I was ready to live the rest of my life! 

After two hours on the road, I reached the main terminal in the city. From there, I went to Vani’s house. I couldn’t wait to see her. 

But when I got there, Vani’s family said she’d left for Jakarta a year ago.

I had nowhere else to go. I decided to return to the terminal.

The terminal grew emptier as darkness began to fall. The merchants shut their kiosks. There were rows of empty minibuses, parked for the night. 

I sat down in a kiosk that had no walls, only four wooden poles propping up a rusty zinc roof that was full of holes. Even the floor was cracked and broken.  

Still, there were other things that made night in the terminal come alive. I saw some people get off their motorbikes in long hair and pretty makeup. They were wearing sexy, revealing outfits and high heels. They stood by the road and flirted now and then with the men who passed by. I wasn’t frightened. Not at all. Rather, I thought, I’m not alone anymore.

It began to rain and they ran to where I was sitting to take shelter. I smiled at them in greeting. There were some who smiled back, and some who tried to shoo me away. “This is no place for children. Go home!” 

I worked up the courage to tell them that I’d run away from home. I’d barely finished my story when they looked at me and laughed, saying, “Oh, it’s a daughter!” 

I didn’t understand what they meant. “It’s like this, sweetie,” one of them said. “We’re all warias here. And we were once young runaways, just like you. Some of us were kicked out, and some of us ran away. Life shouldn’t be a lie, and we can’t pretend. From now on, you can call us ‘Mama.’” 

As the rain fell, they shared their own stories. Some of the mamas owned salons. Whenever business was slow, they’d come here to the terminal just to hang out, or to look for men who were interested in paying for their services. 

The rain didn’t stop, and night turned into morning. The merchants began arriving and laying out their wares. The mamas got ready to go home. But I didn’t have anywhere to go. But Thank the Good Universe, one of the mamas invited me to stay at her place. 

This mama was tall and broad-shouldered, with a very gentle voice. Her hair was short, cut Demi-Moore style. Her home wasn’t far from the terminal. She rented a small shack underneath a wooden stilt house by the side of the main road. Apart from being her home, the place also served as her salon. There were two mirrors and chairs in the front room, along with a large glass cabinet where beauty products, and bridal clothes and accessories were neatly displayed. The salon walls, made of old, brittle wood, were covered in a decorative cloth of a delicate salmon-and-cream hue. 

I learned a lot about the art of running a salon. I also met and made friends with other people like me. And of course, every salon mama is bound to have her adopted daughters and enjoy commenting on which one is the prettiest and will win a pageant someday. 

More time passed, and I continued to live in fear—fear that my family would find me. I didn’t want to go back home—didn’t want to wear armor anymore; though I missed Mother terribly. Nearly every night I thought of the scolding she was getting from Father every day—how he thought her a failure of a mother for not raising her child right. 

One day, I finally plucked up the courage to get myself dolled up. I sat down at one of the salon mirrors and asked Mama to put makeup on me.

She laughed. “Are you sure?”

I was. So much. I asked again, a bit more forcefully. 

Mama told me to shut my eyes until she was finished. I felt every sweep, every dab, every touch—the powder and eyeshadow, the brow pencil and false lashes, the lip gloss, the wig. I couldn’t wait to see the results. 

She told me to open my eyes.

I was stunned. I looked so pretty with these long, wavy, black locks framing my face. Mama also lent me a bra and a black polka-dot baby doll dress. I feel out of this world! I did a little dance of joy and twirled round and round, looking at my face in the mirror again and again.

“What’s your name?” asked Mama.

“Vinaa!” I replied promptly.

Our laughter rang out, happy and free.

That’s been my name ever since. Vinaa. 

Belek

It turned out that my family had been visiting different salons in search of me during the months I’d spent living with Mama. I remained in hiding. I even sent messages to my friends not to tell them where I was. But one day, Mother came to Mama’s salon. I couldn’t bear to not talk to her. At the sight of Mother standing there, my heart overflowed with sadness and longing.

I hugged her and cried my eyes out—how warm her arms felt around me. I asked her to forgive me for running away and leaving them. She only held me tighter. There were tears in her eyes.

“Come home!” she urged. “We’re all so worried.” She promised that Father wouldn’t beat me, or even get angry.

At first, I refused, but Mama assured me that if my father did get mad at me, then I could come back to live with her. 

In the end, I packed some clothes to take with me and bid Mama farewell. Her eyes filled with tears, and with a grin, she gave me a hug. “Don’t be scared,” she whispered. 

During the journey home, I told Mother a lot—about my job and my new friends, about the mamas that I’d met, and also that my name was now Vinaa. I don’t think she was prepared to hear any of it. She kept quiet, and with a somewhat mournful expression on her face, she stared far into the distance, as if puzzling over something very complex. Her only response was to request that I not tell Father any of it.

When we arrived at the farm, I walked directly behind Mother. Slowly, we crossed the large yard next to the house. I saw Father moving back and forth, spreading out the coffee beans as they began to darken beneath the sun’s rays, making sure they were evenly distributed. I went over to him and kissed his hand. Not one word came from his lips. Trying to win him over, I began helping him spread out the beans.

The days on the farm were spent helping my parents, beginning with me going out to get fresh water for us to drink. I’d pull weeds, harvest beans, and do the task I liked most—secretly help Mother cook in the kitchen. To be honest, I didn’t feel at home anymore here. I was tired of pretending. I decided that I would leave again after the coffee harvest. I’d go further this time—all the way across the sky.

Dipoa Lenget

I didn’t want to put on an act, to make other people happy even as I felt my own soul was struggling. I went quietly, and left Ketenong. This time, I was headed to Jakarta. 

It was Vani who told me how to get there. We were in touch again because her mother gave me her cellphone number. She told me to take public transport to the airport and buy a ticket at the counter. Then, when I reached Jakarta, I was to take a taxi to the address she’d given me. 

I went with two other friends—one of them had stayed with me at Mama’s place, and the other used to like hanging out at Mama’s salon. We decided to take a night flight. It was my first time on a plane. I sat right next to the window. I was captivated by the flight attendants’ movements as they demonstrated the safety features of the aircraft. It really was amazing—soaring above the clouds, nothing but darkness outside, my imagination flying as well, to the life that lay ahead. Every now and then, my friends and I would catch each other’s eyes, and we’d suppress our giggles behind smiles.

Less than an hour into the flight, the pilot announced we’d soon be landing at Soekarno-Hatta airport. We took turns looking out the window. We could see the lights below, colorful and twinkling, like fireflies. As the plane descended, the view became clearer—the roads of the capital, the vehicles coming and going, the towering skyscrapers. It all looked so bright and grand. I was spellbound.

We took a taxi to the address Vani had given us: Jalan Minangkabau, Manggarai, South Jakarta. The driver took us through the big-city streets—busy and crowded, and with everything moving so fast. I still felt like I was dreaming.

Later, in Jakarta, I ended up renting a small room in a boarding house. There was nothing in it but a mattress, a wooden wardrobe, and a fan. The bathroom was separate, to be shared with the other residents. The night felt as hot as the day—the fan was of no use. And in the rainy season, my room would get flooded. It was anything but comfortable. And yet, how safe I felt.

There, in that tiny room, I didn’t have to pretend anymore. There, in that tiny room, I stockpiled hopes for my life ahead, to take back everything that I’d left behind.

Bunga Kopi

Everything that I’ve gone through has taught me a valuable life lesson. Even though I can never fully ignore the painful wounds that continue to remain and grow with me, what I can do is try to make my peace with it all. It’s not easy, but at least I keep trying. May this poem I write bring full restoration, for there is healing power in every stanza. 

The scent of coffee blossoms in the morning,
A peaceful aroma, steeped in scenes from the past.
As a child, I would breathe in their fragrance
Before they shriveled and turned into fruit. 
I recall now, how often I’d go off on my own
To weep amid the sweet-smelling coffee blossoms.

The scent of coffee blossoms in the morning,
An aroma taking me into memory’s labyrinth.
A gentle breeze guides my path, toward the site of pain.

The scent of coffee blossoms in the morning
Bear witness
To fury-filled curses from the one I call Father.
“Menguning Telan ku lem pitak dang madeak uku Bapak.”
Those hurtful words.
“Menguning Telan ku lem pitak dang madeak uku Bapak.”
They ring out, eroding the quietude of my grown days.

The scent of coffee blossoms in the morning, 
Send my message to all the world,
And grant me permission to meet my little self
So I can hold her,
Dry her tears,
Keep her company.

Little Self, thank you for being part of my story.
Take my hand so we can grow together,
Flourish as the human beings we were meant to be.

And as for you, o curse-giver,
Let me forget your damning words,
Allow my pardon to heal disappointment, 
Soothe anger,
Turn hatred back into love.

The scent of coffee blossoms in the morning.

© Kanzha Vinaa

English translation © Tiffany Tsao


Kanzha Vinaa is a trans woman, activist, and feminist. Currently the chairperson of Sanggar Swara, she is actively fighting for the rights of LGBTIQ+ people. In addition, she is continuing her formal education and reaching her goals. 

Tiffany Tsao is a writer and literary translator. She is the author of the Oddfits series, as well as The Majesties, which was longlisted for the 2019 Ned Kelly Award. Her translations of Indonesian fiction and poetry include Dee Lestari’s Paper Boats, Laksmi Pamuntjak’s The Birdwoman’s Palate, and Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s Sergius Seeks Bacchus, which was shortlisted for the 2021 NSW Premier’s Translation Prize.

Cindy Saja is a freelance graphic designer and illustrator. Her works are mostly about social issues in Indonesian society. She has been drawing since childhood, and after completing her fine arts degree in 2011 she started working as an illustrator. She has collaborated with writers and artists such as Gouri Mirpuri, Butet Manurung, Erikar Lebang, Rene Suhardono, Rani Pramesti, and others. Currently, Cindy is freelancing at the book publisher Kompas, and is preparing a personal project.


Story-writing mentor: Eliza Vitri Handayani
Poetry-writing mentor: Khairani Barokka

Karya ini merupakan bagian dari CERITRANS: Cerita Transpuan Lintas Batas (2021)

This work is part of CERITRANS: Trans Stories Transcending Borders (2021)

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