That Gay Guy is an interview series in which I chat to gay guys from all different parts of the world. They share personal stories about what it’s like to be a gay man where they are from, and this time it’s the turn of Barda who lives in Bali, Indonesia.

gay bali

Hi Barda. You grew up in East Java, Indonesia. What was it like to grow up there?
I grew up in a village in East Java where everyone knows everyone which is not a bad thing. I have a lot of friends growing up and we did a lot of outdoor activities – playing kites in the rice field, swimming at the water spring, cycling, etc. Being gay is not an easy thing (Indonesia is the most populated Islam country) in terms of you can express your love without being judge. They will not harm you or anything if you are doing it very discreetly and moderately but they will talk behind your back. I have a few friends who was a bit effeminate – it was tough for them because of the teasing. Although, I also got a bit of teasing as I am not sporty and athletic enough.

Did you realise that you were gay as a kid, and how did this affect your childhood if so?
I did not realise myself as being gay when I was a kid. I was just a normal kid. However, there are some older boys who paid attention more to me and took them as their favourite kid and give me perks. I was a pretty kid back then and a smart one too. There are some older boys who I think they are gay and one in particular always gave me some benefits when we play games, bought me snacks or drinks, or took me to game centre. However, I am not sure if it is a sexual harassment because what he did was just asked me to sit on his lap or caressing my hair when I played games but he never touched me.

Are you out to your family? If so, how was that coming out experience? If not, why have you chosen not to come out to them?
I have not come out to my family because I have a very devoted Islamic family. I also do not think that I need to come out to them as I am not very close to my family. Although, I have one cousin knows about me being gay.

You now live in Badung on the island of Bali – why do you live there?
I chose to live here because I have always wanted to live in Bali. Then, my brother who has been living here in Bali for years told me that the money is better than in Java. The final decision was I met my ex boyfriend in Bali few years ago on my first visit. I hoped I would meet someone again if I live here but nope!

gay guy baliDo you ever go out on the gay scene in Bali? Could you describe it for me?
I was on the scene for my first few weeks in Bali as I had a ladyboy friend but then I think the scene is not for me. Basically, it is all about money here. If you go to Dhyana Pura street where all the small and loud gay bars are, you will see ladyboys in front of the bars trying to get customers, money boys (male prostitutes – professional or amateur ones) will hang out every night at the bars, old expats, seasonal old tourists from Australia and Europe mostly, and sexually racist young tourists, and a few local tourists. They also have some gay-friendly or gay-run beach shacks in the area with the same patrons except the ladyboys.

Do gay men in Bali face any challenges? Are they different from the challenges faced by gay men in other parts of Indonesia?
In Bali being gay is not as frowned-upon as in other parts like in other part of Indonesia but still it is not well accepted and we need to be really careful not to do any public display of affection. Recently there is a big news about an interracial wedding photo on Facebook of an Indonesian and a White man with a Hindu priest in the photo. It led to a police investigation and Hindu organization.

How do you normally meet other gay men where you live?
Grindr mostly. Couchsurfing second. I bumped into great guys few times at bars (straight ones) or beaches.

Why should gay travellers visit Bali? Is there anywhere else in Indonesia you recommend they visit?
As travellers in general I’d recommend Bali and some other parts of Indonesia but as for a specific gay travellers well you might bump into a lot of local boys and Aussie boys as it is very close to Australia.

What is your favourite thing about living in Bali?
My favourite about living in Bali is the magical atmosphere because of the Hindu traditions and all the temples. I love the beaches and I love the fact that Bali is a holiday destination so I meet a lot of Couchsurfers.

You have travelled to some other countries. Is there anywhere in the world you particularly enjoy for gay travel?
I have not travelled that much but I have heard a lot of stories about the gay scene in South America and Europe. The gay scene in the States is quite interesting.

Finally, can you describe gay Bali in three words for me?
Money. Racists. Open-Relationship.

A huge thank you to Barda for sharing his stories about gay life in Bali!

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