A lesbian social media influencer who promoted Bali as “queer-friendly” and an “LGBT haven” during the pandemic is facing deportation from Indonesia.
In a series of tweets, American Kristen Gray described how she and her girlfriend, Saundra Alexander, were enjoying the island after arriving early last year.
“This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at much lower cost of living,” she tweeted.
“I was paying $1,300 ($AU1,675) for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400 ($AU515).”
She also praised Bali for being “queer friendly” and an LGBT haven.
Gray also plugged her e-book as “a guide to how we did it and how you can do it too” including tips on “getting into Indonesia during COVID”.
Authorities accuse Kristen Gray of violating her visa
However her tweets went viral and sparked backlash from not only Indonesia’s conservative authorities but also the country’s LGBTIQ community, who face widespread discrimination.
This week the immigration office brought Gray for questioning and accused her of violating her visa.
Officials claimed Gray’s suggestion that Bali was a welcoming place for LGBTIQ travelers was “unsettling” members of the public.
However Gray’s lawyers argued she had a social visa valid until January 24.
But officials accused the woman of conducting business through her e-book sales without a business visa. Gray also offered paid consultations to travellers about Bali.
They were also outraged at her claims Bali was easily accessible to foreigners during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Indonesia restricted the arrival of foreigners on January 1 to stop the spread of the virus.
The reason Kristen Gray thinks Bali is queer friendly is because a)she’s a foreigner, and b) economic leverage means financially dependent locals won’t say much.
If Bali is queer friendly, then why am I told daily I am diseased and need conversion therapy to be cured?
— Kai Mata🏳️🌈 (@kaimatamusic) January 18, 2021
Couple awaiting deportation in immigration detention
Kristen Gray responded to the furore after her deportation was announced.
“I’m not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa,” she said.
“I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah.
She went on, “I put out a statement about LGBT, and I’m deported because I’m LGBT.”
Authorities sent both women to immigration detention while waiting for a flight to the United States.
Homosexuality is not illegal in most of Indonesia. However, leaders have increasingly targeted the country’s LGBTIQ community with homophobic rhetoric and police raids in recent years.
Over 4,000 Indonesians have died from COVID-19 since the start of the year.
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