A calalai is a person in Bugis society who is assigned female at birth but takes on the roles of a heterosexual male. Calalai dress and present as men, hold masculine jobs, and typically live with female partners to adopt children.


Trailer CALALAI in-betweenness01:38

Trailer CALALAI in-betweenness


In 2015, a book entitled, "Eksistensi Calalai dalam Budaya Sulawesi Selatan" (Existence of Calalai in South Sulawesi Culture) was written by Lily Sugianto, Aflina Mustafainah and Catharina Indirastuti and published by the Ardhanary Institute, supported by HIVOS SEA. The book's epilogue was written by Prof. Dr. Nurhayati Rahman and Dr. Dede Oetomo.


Excerpt from the book's introductory chapter:

"Thinking about one's own identity is centered activity 'self concept', where 'cogito' is celebrated as the authority of consciousness. But the self-concept was realized that this was not simple when dealing with social identity. Here, the concept of 'self' no longer centered on cogitonya itself, but is determined by the social cogito. Descartes' Cogito is claimed as the great concept of conscious thought begins to turn into the concept of the unconscious. Social identity and then categorizes the 'self' as masculine or feminine, based on gender. The unconscious gender stereotyping makes this process happens automatically, without any deep thought, all seemed to have determined "from nature". Gender stereotyping as a social phenomenon of unconscious influence 'self' to express their gender identity.

According Koentjaraningrat (1987: 85), the cultural values ​​consisting of conceptions of life in the minds of most citizens on matters they consider very precious. The value systems that exist in a society is the basis of philosophy or reference values ​​in the act and behave. value system is then passed on from generation to generation through the tradition of speech. It can be concluded that, knowledge of gender is the knowledge that are historically. It was established through tradition said to the oral tradition. At this stage it was realized that, the language was not able to express thoughts that are beyond the metanarrative. Characteristic of language as a medium of expression that is well conscious mind tends to confine a reality into an absolute system, to the meaning of a reality feasible as a "differentiating" as well as "delay" and "hide" meaning asalinya. Quoting Max Weber, Clifford Geertz (1973) says "Man is like being caught in a web of meaning that had spun itself." The language of hegemony ended up stuck in the dichotomy of binary between right and wrong, the spirit-matter, facts, myths, imaginary and real. Culture into the fray meaning, where the gender discourse as a shaper of human identity in it.

This paper presented to trace the meaning calalai in battle. These searches originated from ancient Bugis cultural value system embodied in the classic La Galigo manuscript. This value system inherited from one generation to the next through said tradition (oral tradition). Until the 19th century (during the occupation of the Netherlands), said the tradition of La Galigo together and copied into a sheet of papyrus by a woman named Retna Kencana Colliq Pujie White Pancana Toa Matinroe ri Tucae queen of the kingdom Pancana. His work was later taken up by the Dutch government, is now a museum of his work is in Leiden, The Netherlands.

According to La parish in Women Bugis, culturally, South Sulawesi put the potential of women is more important than men, in contrast to the majority of cultures in the world that puts men as a symbol of excellence. See for example the naming of "La Galigo". In semiotic letter 'I' in South Sulawesi attributed to women, while 'La' to men. Giving the name of "La Galigo 'contains a symbolic meaning which icons perfect man and savior of society preceded by the symbol' Woman 'and the symbol' Male '. Literally, this means that the meaning of the perfect man is that has elements of femaleness and maleness are balanced. Philosophical foundation in perfection is balance and fairness.

Given the author's own knowledge of the letter 'I' and 'La' in the original tradition is still very limited, then on October 19, 2015 last, the author made a visit to Makassar to dig up information on the subject of Prof. Dr. Nurhayati Rahman and mother Basiah, S.S., M.A.

On that occasion Nurhayati explained that as a masterpiece, La Galigo contains ancient Bugis language conventions. This Convention appears in literature, metrum (teacher song, teacher wilangan), and groove. For example a poem must consist of five lines, hence the name of the character was certainly composed of five syllables, for example, I We Cudaiq. So says La Galigo should always added the letter 'I' in front of it. Nurhayati added that the placement of the letter 'I' in the title of the book, is meant to distinguish whether the book is a discussion of the text or the figures. Said La Galigo refer to the text, while the word I La Galigo referring to the figures. In the context of this figure, the letter 'I' is neutral and not gender. Thus, the letter 'I' can be placed on either sex. Placement of the letter 'I' can also review when I La Galigo words to be sung, because the pronunciation of La Galigo which only consists of four syllables, considered incomplete and will result in the rhythm becomes key. Therefore must always be added to the letter 'I' to make it more complete.

According Basiah, there are two opinions if Questioning the letter 'I'. The first opinion says La Galigo said referring to the title of the work or the work of La Galigo, while the word I La Galigo referring to the figures. A second opinion is leaning on a syllable patterns, said that the letter "I" in I La Galigo is to recruit five syllables. Pronunciation La Galigo which only consists of four syllables are considered incomplete, thus the addition of the letter 'I' in front of it in order to become more complete. The letters used as a marker of gender Makassar Bugis society is 'We' and 'La', where the 'We' refers to the female gender, while 'La' refers to the male gender. But in its development now under Basiah, the letter 'La' is still maintained as a marker of the male gender. While the letter 'I' can be attributed to women, for example in naming the I Sitti.

In his book Ritumpanna Wélenrénngé: A Bugis Classical Literature episodes Galigo, Fachruddin Ambo Enre explains the historical background involving five syllables I La Galigo, as follows:

The person who first wrote about Galigo and introduced him to the outside world, is Th.S. Raffles in his book The History of Java, published in 1817. He recorded a little about its contents and how to read it, it says consists of units of five syllables ending with a pause. The rhythm is called the series 'daktilus' and 'trokhaeus'. According to him this epic poem is the only kind of literature among the Bugis known author, that I La Galigo, son Sawerigading.

 Half a century later the introductions then followed with keen interest to know seriously. B.F. Matthes ever stayed in Makassar between the years 1848-1879, punctuated twice sabbatical in the Netherlands - a lot of time and effort to get a script and a description of the story Galigo. The collection consists of 26 books were submitted to the Nederlandsche Bijbelgenootschap (NBG), the main material includes the story from the beginning to the end. He was also named this story is the epic poem. The episode originally been the publication by using a script lontaraq accompanied by a description meanings of some words. Somewhat different from the description Raffles, he simply stated that the story was known in the interior of South Sulawesi with the name La Galigo, which is also the name of one of the characters who play an important role. Regarding rhythm, said is very simple, in the form of a verse consisting of five syllables when the pressure falls on the second syllable of the back, or four syllables when the pressure falls on the last syllable. The language is called ancient Bugis language that is not used anymore.

Relying on the statements above, especially the meaning of that letter 'I' is not just a marker of gender but also symbols exceeded because it is neutral and not sex, then in order to respect the process over and meaning of diversity embodied in the content of the manuscript, and for all writers will use the word I La Galigo.

I La Galigo manuscript is divided into episodes that tell about the creation of the world, the first man lowered onto the surface of the earth to lay the foundations of human civilization Bugis, and the history of the kingdoms of ancient Bugis. On the episode of creation, told King Luwu namely Guru, the firstborn of the Great Gods in heaven down to earth (Tomanurung) by hacking from a piece of bamboo. However, because it is less able to manage the population and the system of government then sent a sky god, goddess of the sea, We Nyili 'Timo' to assist the Guru. Along with that down also a first Bissu named Lae-lae as complement the presence of Bugis ancestry. The relationship between Guru and We Nyili 'Timo' with other deities can be done through Bissu role. Meanwhile, in the next episode has a story Sawerigading apply We Cudai trip to China. The central figure in La Galigo is We Tenri Abeng, twin brothers Sawerigading. Sawerigading respect sister described as the Goddess of Wisdom. We Tenri Abeng was consort Botinglangi (the highest peak of the Kingdom Khayangan), the wife of "Remmang ri Langi". As the chief priests of the gods who inhabit the heavenly, Tenri Abeng We got the title "ri Bissu Langi".

Through this manuscript world community began to recognize Bissu tradition, especially after an anthropologist Australia Sharyn Graham publishing research results in Sex, Gender and Priests in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. In his research, Graham explained that, since the first South Sulawesi community has recognized four types of gender and one para-gender [8], namely; uruane (male), makunrai (female), calalai (women dressed as men), calabai (men dressed as women) and the gender-Bissu. Bissu is a great religious leader Bugis pre-Islam which has a role as an inter-dimensional link between man and God. Because it's not just anyone can be Bissu, there are certain prerequisites that must be owned by a prospective Bissu which since androgynous little ambiguous, has two elements female gender and men (two spirits), and able to communicate in both nature. As an adult, he was required to follow a series of other trials before it is inducted into a Bissu.

This publication certainly surprised many, especially religious conservatives. In their glasses, Bissu phenomenon is nothing more than an ancient myth that no longer correspond to contemporary religious context. First, because the role of a priest Bissu ancient Bugis religion is contrary to the concept of religions (modern), where a decent person ordained as priests were male masculine and heterosexual. Second, the femininity inherent in a Bissu biologically male already been labeled as the 'action' against nature by narrative religions (modern). Third, this feminine side was already labeled 'had abnormal' by Western knowledge. So how can a person who has marked abnormalities and accusatory nature became a priest? History-based violence against Bissu religious conservatism can be reviewed through the events DII / IT and the 1965, where the impact is still felt by them until today. At this point the writer sees a disconnect history; metagender concept as originally signified local knowledge is sacred turned into profane. The incident also describe how art goes beyond (transcendence) in Bissu tradition, is coercive uprooted from sakralitasnya.

Different welcome precisely demonstrated by the LGBT group, the group celebrated Graham findings as evidence that the real estate human gender is a notion that is so complex, that is not attached to the body of material fact, and can not be naturalized only on two categories of gender alone. But lately seemed tendency for people to always relate gender identity and expression to sexual orientation. Though talking about gender expression, sexual orientation and gender identity are three different things. Lack of information on gender plurality Bissu make the figure as synonymous with transvestites.

Despite all the controversy over who should be underlined is, to this day the people of South Sulawesi believe I La Galigo is literary bequeath local wisdom values ​​about the way of life and making the Bugis community. In other words, I La Galigo is signified (signified) ideological knowledge about how to live and fetched Bugis society which is based on the concept metagender. This concept is represented by the figure of Bissu as bookmarks (signifier) ​​that human gender is not a static phenomenon, therefore, gender can not be materialized into a biological body. Because the materialization process of gender into the biological body will not only give birth gender norms (gender norms) alone, but also gender segregation (gender segregation); where there is the superior and inferior (gender role). Marker is then known as the South Sulawesi metagender system that includes men, women, Bissu, calabai and calalai. Metagender system is a wealth of cultural default Bugis, and departed from the wealth that a man Bugis find a group identity. And this book is specifically dedicated article on calalai."

See alsoEdit



This article was written by Roy Tan.

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