top of page

Shinta Ratri's Legacy

On February 1, 2023, in Yogyakarta, Indonesian icon of LGBTQIA+ rights and trans woman Shina Ratri passed away at the age of 60. Ratri was known as a leader of an Islamic boarding school and provided safety for trans women. According to the New York Times, she passed away due to a heart attack.

Ratri transitioned as a teenager and has since been a key figure that has demonstrated how Indonesian individuals can practice their faith regardless of cis-heteronormative expectations.

In 2008 with two colleagues, Ratri founded Pesantren Wariah al-Fatah, a school and simultaneous safe space for transgender women to have in a largely Muslim region where men and women often pray separately at Mosques.

Researcher Kyle Knight had sat down with Ratri to talk about militant Islamists who forced her to shut down the school during the ‘fever pitch’ of an anti-LGBTQIA+ campaign that started in 2016 in Indonesia. Knight reported that in February, the Islamic Jihad Front (FJI) demanded for the school to be closed down.

“Two nights later, the FJI summoned Ratri to the community meeting hall. [...] “I told them about how Islam accommodates diversity: people with disabilities, waria [trans women], all kinds of people deserve Allah’s love,” Ratri explained. “I recited passages of the Qur’an, and explained how we teach waria [the Indonesian word for trans woman] how to face death as Muslims, how to pray as Muslims. I told them about how I was a boy when I was born, but my soul is that of a woman.” (Knight, 2016).

Many Indonesian individuals cherish the impact that Shinta had on LGBTQIA+ rights and the safety of transgender women to practice their religion in a safe space without discrimination.

This is especially needed after a new law was passed in Indonesia in December 2022 that reportedly banned sex outside of marriage with additional limitations on free speech. This new rule can oppress transgender women and same-sex couples who are legally forbidden to marry. Therefore, Shinta’s school is even more needed for trans women and couples to be safe from anti-LGBTQIA+ oppression.

According to Italian photographer Fulvia Bugani, who lived with waria in the school for almost three weeks in 2015, “They come to Yogyakarta just because they know about this school. [...] they know that there they can pray and live like a woman in a good atmosphere”.

It is an achievement for the school to be recognized by the many that need or respect its purpose and bring hope for people to continue using the spaces she cultivated for safety and inclusive faith.

Shinta has demonstrated an inclusive and open heart for people regardless of gender or sexuality. In October 2021 on the Metro TV talk show “Kick Andy”, Shinta stated that “it is our destiny to be waria; it is not a choice” (Knight, 2016).

For many transgender Indonesian individuals, it may be comforting to know you do not hurt your faith for who you are – being Muslim and being LGBTQIA+ is a valid experience.

Our condolences and rest well, Shinta.

Editors: Danielle C., Lang D., Joyce P., Leila W.

Photo Credits: La Prensa Latina Bilingual Media


bottom of page