His friends and relatives in Sibetan village, Karangasem, know him as a transgender and simply call him Kadek.
Last Sunday, Kadek and thousands of Hindus attended Bale Paselang, a major religious festival at Sibetan’s largest temple, Pura Pasar Agung.
Because the temple lies atop a small hill, the crowd had to navigate along a muddy, narrow roadÂ blanketed with cold mist.
Having waited for years for that festival – the last one was held 32 years ago, Kadek trekked along the path with burning enthusiasm.
He wore a traditional Balinese male costume, including udeng headgear, light make up, and his nails were painted glossy orange.
During the main ritual, Kadek was assigned to Bale Paselang, a six-pillar pavilion in the temple’s inner sanctum, and the main focus of the temple festival. There, he assisted High Priestess Ida Pedanda Istri Karang in preparing the offerings and the ritual paraphernalia.
“Finally I could contribute my energy and time to this religious festival. The fact that I was tasked with assisting the officiating high priest has clearly improved my social standing as a transgender,” he said.
His main task, and the one he was most proud of, involvedÂ decorating and dressing up the three statues inside the pavilion. Those statues represented the physical manifestations of the visiting gods. One was clearly a statue of a god, and the other one of a goddess. The most interesting statue was the third one, that of a god dressed in a woman’s costume. The statue also wore make-up.