Shinta Ratri will forever be missed as somebody who fought for religious inclusivity on behalf of those who may have felt deserted and alone.
The trans icon, best known for founding a pesantren (Islamic school) for trans women, passed away this morning at the age of 60, as confirmed by LGBTQIA+ rights group GAYa Nusantara founder Dede Oetomo.
"[Shinta] will be buried at the pesantren at 2pm," Dede said.
Shinta, who was herself a trans woman, founded Al Fatah pesantren for waria (a portmanteau of the Indonesian words for woman and man) in 2008 with two other trans women. The school was dubbed the first and only Islamic school for trans women in the world.
As Al Fatah's headmistress, Shinta dedicated her life towards helping other trans women who may not have found acceptance elsewhere.
Running the pesantren did not come without challenges. Al Fatah briefly shut in 2016 amid threats from hardline Islamic groups, who view transgender people as sinners and deviants. The school reopened with the support of human rights groups, religious figures, and local authorities.
In 2019, Shinta received the Front Line Defenders Award honoring her dedication and courage as a human rights activist.
Today, some 40 students are enrolled in Al Fatah, where they are taught prayers and Quran comprehension, among others. Most importantly, the pesantren serves as a safe space for trans women to exercise their right to religious worship.
Tributes have been pouring in for Shinta, including from UK-based trans scholar and Chevening Award recipient Amar Alfikar.
May Shinta rest in peace, and may her legacy continue to inspire us to strive towards a better, more inclusive world.