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PHOTOS: For Indonesia’s Buginese community, trans women play key role in Muslim weddings

Indonesia’s predominantly Muslim Buginese community recognizes and respects five separate genders. One group, the calabai, maintains a unique and valued role planning local wedding ceremonies.

SIDRAP, Indonesia (RNS) The Buginese people (or Bugis) form the largest ethnic group in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The predominantly Muslim community recognizes and respects five separate genders including trans women, (calabai), trans men (calalai), and gender transcendent individuals (bissu). According to tradition, calabais are often booked months in advance to manage all wedding related activities, from decorations to costumes and makeup.

In former times, “You couldn’t have a ceremony without the help and management of the calabai. We were the right hand of the king when it came to ceremonies,” said Haji Idha, a calabai community leader in South Sulawesi. Many Buginese weddings still make use of calabai services.

Religion News Service photos by Alexandra Radu

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Click on any photo below to view a slideshow documenting Indonesia’s transgender Buginese community. Some individuals photographed asked that their full names not be used.