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Kai Mata on Being Queer in Indonesia and Conversion Therapy - Tunes Tuesday Interview Transcript

Maud Mostly: Hi! I'm Maud Mostly and my pronouns are they/them, and welcome back to Tunes Tuesday, a series where I talk to 2SLGBTQ+/Queer bands and musicians about their music, their experiences and so much more. Today, I am joined by Indonesian singer-songwriter, Kai Mata. How are you doing today? Would you like to introduce yourself?

Kai Mata: I'm doing so very well. Thank you very much. Once again, my name is Kai Mata, I am an Indonesian musician, and currently one of the very few openly LGBTQ+ musicians in this country. My preferred pronouns are — any of them — because Indonesia is known for a very gender-neutral language, which I appreciate, and thus you can call me any pronoun possible. They're all okay for me.

MM: Amazing, thank you for that introduction, and I really appreciate that, you now, little fact about language. So as you mentioned, you are an openly queer musician in a country where LGBTQ+ people are currently criminalized in a lot of ways, and you speak to this experience a lot through your music, but also you use your social media as a place to advocate for human rights. Do you have anything to say to other people in countries where they feel their love, their pride and or their identity are still being criminalized?

KM: Yeah, there's so much to say on that. I want to tell every individual person in this world that they are worthy of living, worthy of loving and worthy of being loved for who they are, no matter their sexual orientation, their gender identity. And I also want to tell people who do not identify within the LGBTQ+ community, that us having rights helps you, because us having rights is helping end the stigma of things that keep us from being able to express who we are, the things that keep us in boxes. All of us, regardless of our gender orientation, do not fit in what the typical gender roles are. And if we were given that ability to express it, each individual, we'd be in one world where we'd feel a lot happier, I think.

MM: Absolutely, and that reminds me of the beautiful quote that I believe is attributed to Marsha P. Johnson, which is: “None of us are free until we're all free”. So you bring up an excellent point there. And then within this advocacy, you also speak specifically about conversion therapy quite a bit, and when it comes to that conversation around conversion therapy, what do you wish more people understood?

KM: That's a good question, and it's very nuanced and requires a huge discussion, to be honest. I would start by saying that it's not therapy, it's torture, psychological research and studies have showed that it often leaves individuals with trauma that lasts decades. Our sexual orientation and our identity is not something that needs to be cured, it is not something that needs to be fixed. We are not diseased, all we are, are humans who want to be who we are and express the love we have for one another. And in the discourse within Indonesia, we are seeing a further push to mandate conversion therapy for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. What that means is that anyone can be targeted because of what people perceive them to be, in the case where that mandating conversion therapy is to shove the LGBTQ+ community further into the closet, further into the shadows, and to stifle our voices even more than they already are silenced. And unfortunately, that is something of a reality we face in this country and in many parts of the world.

MM: Absolutely, and I really appreciate you adding that local context to it, and a lot of people don't even know that conversion therapy exists or still exists, but most people don't even know if it's still legal in their countries, and in majority of countries it is. So if you're watching this video and you don't know about your own local laws around this, I highly recommend looking into that, because you don't know it's a problem if you don't know it's happening.

So this has been an incredible but a bit heavy of a conversation, and I do really want to touch on more of you as a very talented musician, so you recently released your single Wine and say you want to share island vibes with others and listening to it, definitely had me feeling like I was escaping winter for a moment, which I was incredibly thankful for. But outside of its island vibes, it also tells a really sweet story of new love. So can you share more about that story and what inspired you to write it?

KM: Of course, I live on an island called Bali, Indonesia, and it is a place that is very well-known for being a major international tourist destination, and there's something magical about going on a first date with a glass of wine — if you drink wine — while sitting on a beach, with feet in the sand and lovely company, and seeing the most stunning vibrant sunset reflected in the eyes of a new person that you — that I — was getting along with. That was refreshing and revitalizing. The song Wine was written after the end of a relationship that I thought was going to last as long as forever could be, and it didn't, and I'm glad it didn't, but this was a song in which I had hope of new experiences, future, and also wanted to recognize that the cheeriness of the island could be reflected in the relationship I was embarking on and that the beauty of the relationship I was embarking on also further enhanced the beauty of the island.

MM: Absolutely, I love that. That is gorgeous. And I also love hearing this bit more of background that it actually kind of comes from this place of heartbreak, but instead of it being, you know, a sad song where you're still longing and yearning, you're actually really vocalizing those steps of moving forward and looking out there for what's next for you. I don't think we see that a lot, and I think that's a really positive take. Yeah.

KM: Thank you.

MM: Thank you for doing that and thank you so much for joining me today you can listen to any of their music at any of the links down below make sure to also support her on social media. Thank you for joining me today, and make sure to say too for next week's Tunes Tuesday. Kai Mata will be playing us out.

*Wine by Kai Mata begins playing*

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