Dangdut, Indonesia’s most popular music genre, is a realm of gender contestation. Since the 1990s, the role of professional dangdut singer—once equally filled by men and women—has been dominated by women. In an atmosphere of increasing Islamic fervour, pious consumption, and moral panic, the public perception of gender and sexuality has serious implications for men who sing dangdut on television. Regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation, male singers must prove themselves to be properly gendered to maintain their positions as entertainers. However, proper masculinity is a difficult target to hit, especially considering the gender diversity of off-air and backstage realities. Men use several tactics to boost perceptions of masculinity and acceptability. One way in which men who sing dangdut endeavour to prove themselves cowok banget, or super manly, is by employing symbols of Islam and the Middle East—filtered through an Indonesian lens—to communicate masculinity.
Queer films are largely absent from Indonesian cinema and television screens due to the country’s current climate of LGBT ‘moral panic’. This article examines how, two decades after the reformation, Indonesian film practitioners are forced to navigate complex configurations of power and knowledge—negotiating social, political, and religious entanglements through their cinematic practices. My analysis is focused on komunitas film (film community/ies) and, more specifically, events and activities surrounding Luhki Herwanayogi’s short film On Friday Noon (2016), which chronicles the emotionally and physically fraught journey of a transgender Muslim woman as she seeks to perform Friday prayers. Drawing on this example, the article explores the disruptive potential of cinematic practice to challenge and nullify the ostensible binary between Islam and queerness, showing alternative ways of being Muslim in contemporary Indonesia, where piety and sexual identity often come together in unexpected ways.