“Priawan” Identity Construction in Indonesia Preliminary Study of the Third Gender

Dwi Prasetyo, Myrtati D. Artaria

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Gender identity in Indonesia remains problematic, as there are persistent cases of transgender shaming. The development of Indonesian gender identity is based on binary assumptions that women and men are the only two genders in the context of social construction, and that there is no third or fourth gender. However, it is socially accepted that there have been other genders beyond the existing binary genders, from the beginning of the 18th century in the classic La Galigo texts of the ancient Bugis in South Sulawesi. These texts have recognised five types of gender. A transwoman is someone who is male yet is female in appearance. However, there are also cases of priawan; females who prefer to look like males. Priawan are biological females. They have not been well recognised in public discourse. This research was conducted in Jakarta and Surabaya, which represent the two biggest cities in Indonesia. Five respondents were interviewed using the snowball sampling technique, and the interview contained semi-structured questions. In this study, we found that it is not possible to automatically determine gender identity according to biological sex. By using Butler’s theoretical performance approach, priawan form their subjective identity through the construction of self-identity. On the path to the creation of self-identity, the priawan often suffer from harassment from society, in the workplace and even from their family. We conclude that priawan belong to the third gender, in which their body remains female but they feel and represent themselves as males.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmpowerment and Impairment in the Global Digital Age
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings of the 4th International Conference on Contemporary Social and Political Affairs (ICoCSPA 2018)


  • social construction
  • identity
  • Priawan
  • sexuality
  • gender


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