SIDRAP, Indonesia — 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.
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This story originally appeared on RNS as part of a series on the intersection of faith, ethnicity, and sexuality, brought to you with support from the Arcus Foundation.
Alexandra Radu is a journalist based in Malaysia.