Travel influencer Kristen Gray, who spent 2020 in Bali and went viral for a Twitter thread encouraging others to move to the Indonesian island, is now being deported, multiple outlets report.
The 28-year-old self-described “digital nomad” and her girlfriend Saundra Alexander, 30, are, as of Wednesday morning, awaiting a flight back to the United States while in immigration detention, according to the Associated Press.
Gray’s viral Twitter thread caught the attention of the local government, which claims she was carrying out business endeavors in Bali without having the correct visa to do so.
Kristen Gray and her girlfriend had been living in Bali, an island in Indonesia with a large tourism industry, for about a year as “digital nomads”
But her recent Twitter thread about her experience in Bali while promoting the sale of the couple’s e-book received huge backlash
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Indonesia has restricted foreigners from coming to the country since Jan. 1 to control the spread of Covid, and public activities have been restricted on the islands of Java and Bali
Her tweets were considered to have “disseminated information disturbing to the public,” which was the basis for her deportation, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
A statement from the office highlighted her descriptions of Bali providing comfort for LGBT and being easily accessible during the pandemic. It also referenced tweets with links to her e-book, which had direct links to agents who were offering help to foreigners who wanted to move to the island.
“She stated that she could provide easy access to Bali through the recommended agency and offered the low living costs in Bali, that it is comfortable and LGBTQ-friendly,” Manihuruk said at a news conference Tuesday.
Gray supposedly was offering an e-book costing $30 and a follow-up consultation about becoming an expatriate in Bali for $50. “She is suspected of carrying out business activities by selling e-books and put a rate for consulting (about) Bali tourism,” Manihuruk said.
Gray, however, thinks she did nothing wrong and is being deported for speaking out about LGBT
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“I am not guilty,” Gray told reporters after Immigration officials announced the deportation. “I have not overstayed my (tourist) visa. I am not making money in Indonesian rupiah. I put out a statement about LGBT and I am deported because of LGBT.”
While homosexuality is technically legal in Indonesia (except Aceh, a province with strict Islamic laws), there has been a disturbing rise in persecution against LGBT individuals in recent years, which international NGO Human Rights Watch labeled as an “anti-LGBT moral panic” in 2018.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that only around 9 percent of Indonesians say homosexuality should be accepted.
Social psychologist Benny Siauw personally thinks the way Gray mentioned Bali as a queer-friendly place is highly ignorant. “She was not aware of her privileges as a foreigner, with a stronger currency that gives her more safety compared to the underprivileged local LGBT people,” Siauw told Bored Panda. “Here, the LGBT communities have been facing persecutions and other forms of discrimination long before she came [to the country].”
“Every time there’s sensational news about LGBT, the homophobes use it as an opportunity to show up on social media and speak out loud with so much hate. Of course, at the very least this leads to unnecessary distress for local LGBT people,” Siauw explained. “It is a daily struggle for them, whether we’re talking about family or peer acceptance. That being said, every time big LGBT news breaks out, everything becomes much harder for them, especially in such challenging times like this pandemic.”
The psychologist said that numerous people have contacted him, expressing how sick and tired they’ve become to find themselves in this situation. “They already have enough homophobia to deal with in their lives. Nobody needs that hate in the first place. In a country where conversion therapy has been promoted, this whole ordeal might lead to further self-stigmatization … and we know that this process might also lead to self-hate that directly causes a lot of mental distress.”
“With all of these considerations, I really hope that media platforms, both national and international, would be more careful in covering this case. Especially when it comes to clickbait titles [about Gray being deported because of her LGBT statement] because it is a very gross oversimplification of the whole thing,” Siauw said.
Image credits: nuicemedia
Twitter immediately started reacting to the news
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