JAKARTA, Indonesia — Barack Obama’s former nanny, Evie, is overwhelmed by her jolt from transgender slum-dweller to local celebrity. TV crews troop in and out of her tiny concrete hovel. Estranged relatives finally want to meet. She even has a promising job offer.
Evie, who was born male but considers herself a woman, decided after enduring years of abuse and ridicule she’d be better off trying to just fit in. She stopped cross-dressing and has since eked out a living hand-washing clothes.
But since being the subject of a recent article by The Associated Press about the struggles of transgender people in this predominantly Muslim nation, the 66-year-old has been showered with attention. It’s mostly because of her long-ago connection to the now-U.S. president — though she hopes it might generate more openness on gender issues.
“After living without hope for so long, like I was locked in a dark room, I now feel like the door is open,” said Evie, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. “It’s like the winds of heaven are blowing hope for me.”
“Even my relatives who never cared about me are now coming to see me.”
Though many newcomers to Indonesia are surprised by the quasi-acceptance and pervasiveness of transgenders — seen on TV, working in salons — they are usually the object of scorn.
“I realize this won’t last long,” she said. “But I think my story might help open people’s eyes so they will respect us more.”