An American lesbian and her partner are being deported from Indonesia after her viral tweets touting the island of Bali as an LGBTQ+-friendly oasis.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Kristen Antoinette Gray, a graphic designer from L.A., and her partner, Saundra Michelle Alexander are being deported for "disseminated information disturbing to the public.”
Pink News reports that the couple traveled to the South-East Asian nation in 2019 as "digital nomads," while L.A. Times says the the couple arrived in Bali in January 2020. Either way, they ended up staying in the country throughout 2020 lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Gray drew the attention of authorities after tweets promoting the couple's $30 e-book, Our Bali Life Is Yours, went viral. In the since-deleted thread (viewable in screen captures), Gray tweeted, “After getting rejected for jobs and living off savings trying to make my business pop, my girlfriend and I decided to book one-way flights to Bali, Indonesia.”
“This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at much lower cost of living. I was paying $1,300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400,” boaste one Gray’s tweets.
(As locals noted, the monthly provincial minimum wage in Bali, is $177 a month.)
Gray also described other “major benefits” to moving to Bali including the “luxury lifestyle,” and it being “queer-friendly.”
It was the latter that drew the most criticism, in light of the attacks on LGBTQ+ people in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, from authorities and fundamentalist groups.
As Pink News noted, "In 2020, Bali authorities announced they were investigating four hotels for 'catering to gays,'.... Lawmakers, meanwhile, have pushed legislation that would force queer people into government-sanctioned centres to 'rehabilitate' their sexualities. Trans people are plunged into tortuous exorcisms, and are accused of being possessed by 'evil spirits.' Only recently, a gay couple in the province of Banda Aceh, the only patch of the country where Sharia law is imposed, was forcibly dragged out of their homes and face being lashed 100 times."
Also drawing criticism was Gray encouraging travel to the nation while the pandemic rages on. She tweeted that their e-book included “direct links to our visa agents and how to get into Indonesia during COVID.”
At a news conference, Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the ministry of law and human rights, said Gray may have violated a number of immigration laws by offering "easy access to Bali through the recommended agency," selling the e-book, and offering travel consultations for $50. Taking the latter as indicaton that Gray was working in Indonesia without a business visa, Manihuruk said, “She is suspected of carrying out business activities by selling e-books and put a rate for consulting [on] Bali tourism.”
According to the L.A. Times, in a statement that Gray made to reporters after immigration officials announced the couple's deportation, she said, “I am not guilty. I have not overstayed my visa. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am deported because I am LGBT.”