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In Indonesia, trans women face unique challenges due to climate change: ‘hard to make money’

Joya Patiha, a 43-year-old Indonesian transgender woman, first started to notice that changing weather patterns in the mountain-ringed city of Bandung were affecting her income as a sex worker a decade ago.

The rainy season was lasting longer across the West Java province, winds were stronger and in some particularly bad years Patiha lost up to 80 per cent of her earnings.

“No one is coming out during the longer rainy season,” Patiha said. “It is very hard to make money during that unpredictable weather.”

That’s because many trans women, like Patiha, are shut out of the formal economy and survive as buskers and sex workers, occupations that rely on them being able to solicit clients outdoors.

Sherly Wijayanto, a 28-year-old transwoman from the capital Jakarta, worked as a busker for around seven years until the increasingly volatile weather made her seek other options.

“I no longer want to endure the heat and rain on the streets,” said Wijayanto, who joined trans-led arts group Sanggar Seroja, where she now sings with the theatre company and runs the social media channel.

As well as seeking to adapt their precarious livelihoods to the new climate reality, these women and the groups that support them are also seeking to raise awareness of the challenges posed by extreme weather in a nation composed of more than 17,000 islands.

Despite gender-fluid communities being historically accepted in Indonesia, a rising tide of conservative Islam in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country has fuelled anti-LGBTQ persecution.

LGBTQ individuals are sometimes blamed for problems related to climate change, according to Arif Budi Darmawan, a researcher at the Bandung-based Resilience Development Initiative.

“Those outside the binary category