clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Gay runner in Indonesia confronts a family and culture intolerant of LGBT people

A gay runner in Indonesia lives his truth in the face of intolerance.

Denny Faj is a runner in Jakarta, Indonesia.

After being outed as gay by my brother, my devout Muslim father in Indonesia gave me a choice — follow his rules and stop living as an out man or choose my own path and be disinherited.

When I told my father that I wanted to be free to be myself, he immediately became angry and furious. He told me to get out. I just cried and fell silent, speechless. I couldn’t move from my seat and did not know what to do.

Until being outed in 2015 when my brother stumbled across a gay porn video I had stupidly loaded on my computer, I was feeling happy as a gay man and distance runner. In addition to the video, my brother also discovered text messages that showed I was dating a man and he told my parents.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country and hostile to LGBT people. Nonetheless, when I came out to my best friend, Vivi, in 2013 in high school she was accepting. I later brought my first boyfriend to meet her and told her the whole story about my sexual orientation.

After I came out to Vivi, I got the strength to tell others and my circle of friends became a great support system. But that still left me terrified of telling my family.

While my father is a Muslim, my mother is Christian, but both are very devout. My brother who outed me was of no support and when I got my father’s ultimatum, I had no one in my family to turn to.

I grew up in a family who expected me to be the one who would bring success to our name. I have two brothers, but only I graduated with a college diploma while my brothers made it through high school.

My mother tried to persuade me to change and leave anything connected to being LGBT. My parents associated being gay with rampant sex and drugs, even though that was not my experience.

In the end, my parents said they would give me a second chance if I swore a Muslim oath about honoring God. I felt that I would not be able to fulfill this vow, because I would never be able to change, as they wished me to be straight.

I was told that if I violate the oath, they would not consider me their child anymore.

Since that day, things have been low-key between us, but my mother regularly gives me advice about being closer to God.

But I know there will be a time for me to let them know that I am still part of the LGBT environment. That’s when I have to make a decision and choose for my own life, because I have the right to determine my life, not them. I really love them and I just hope they accept me for who I am.

I am still looking for my life partner and hope to settle down and start a family, living with someone I love like couples I see in other parts of the world. For now, I am grateful that there are so many friends that I consider to be a family who always support me.

Denny Faj, 27, lives in Jakarta, Indonesia, and is a member of Adidas Runners Jakarta. He can be reached via Instagram (@dennyfaj) or email (dennyfaj@gmail.com)

Story editor: Jim Buzinski

If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (kandreeky@gmail.com)