Trailblazing trans woman Dorce Gamalama buried ‘as a man’ after family ignored her last wishes

Dorce Gamalama

Popular trans entertainer Dorce Gamalama has died in Indonesia from complications related to COVID-19, but her family has decided she should be buried as a man.

Gamalama, a well-known pop singer and TV presenter who even had her own talkshow, the Dorce Show, passed away in hospital in Jakarta on Wednesday (16 February). She was often referred to as Bunda (mother) Dorce.

The 58-year-old had been diagnosed with COVID-19 three weeks previously, and other health conditions including Alzheimer’s and diabetes increased the severe complications associated with the virus.

Gamalama had been openly trans for decades, having undergone gender affirmation surgery in 1983 and even winning a legal battle to have her gender legally recognised.

In an interview last month, she referenced her deteriorating health in an interview and announced: “[I would like to be buried] as I am now. Because after my surgery, I have a female genitalia, so women should bathe me, and bathe [and bury] me as a woman.”

However, as a devout Muslim, she added the decision would ultimately lie with faith leaders.

Following her public announcement that she would like to be buried as a woman, the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), Indonesia’s top Islamic scholars body, said in a statement that the body of a trans person must always be buried according to their gender assigned at birth. So, despite her final wishes, her family and religious leaders decided that she should be bathed and buried as a man.

Carahanna Marianne Sam, a trans campaign manager at an NGO in South Jakarta, told The Jakarta Post that despite her limited involvement with the LGBT+ community in Indonesia, Gamalama made a huge impact by being visible.

“I hope we can have more Dorce Gamalamas in Indonesia,” she said.

“She’s still a hero. Just by being out there and existing, she already has done more than half of what the rest of us have done.”