A reader writes:
I’m just finishing up a four-year assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. There can't be three million transvestites in Jakarta but there may well be that many in Indonesia.
The pervasiveness and quasi-acceptance of transvestitism here is amazing. One of the country’s leading talk-show hosts is a transvestite, and transvestite entertainers are stock figures in TV variety shows. I’ve noticed that they sometimes appear as panelists on Indonesia’s numerous, wildly popular "American Idol"-style talent competitions.
Less appealingly, a lot of them are prostitutes. They charge less than females. An Indonesian friend told me that they typically service guys who work nights, such as "truck drivers, cab drivers, police, and security guards." A Saudi diplomat once fumed to one of my colleagues that this couldn't really be a Muslim country if transvestite hookers were allowed to patrol the street in front of his five-star hotel during Ramadan. (Knowing the Saudis he probably availed himself of this amenity before leaving town.)