​Dolly Revisited Part 2: “Where sperm come to die”

Yolan, a 25-year-old transgender prostitute, points out her favorite spot in the Kembang Kuning Cemetery

In November 2014, Coconuts TV went to Surabaya to film a documentary on the aftermath of the closure of Dolly, once Southeast Asia’s largest red light district.

Coconuts Jakarta’s Andra Nasrie came along for the ride and in this series he recalls his journey deep into the Surabaya sex trade and his encounters with three very distinct sex workers.

In part 2 of the three-part ‘Dolly Revisited’ series (check out part 1 here), the Coconuts team chats with a friendly transgender prostitute who services her clients at a cemetery.

With Dolly effectively boarded up, we were curious to see what spillover, if any, there would be to Surabaya’s other lesser-known red light districts. Little did we know that one of the places affected was the Kembang Kuning cemetery.

Kembang Kuning, or ‘Yellow Flower’, is a hilly cemetery located dead in the center of the hustle and bustle of Surabaya. It has been around since Indonesia was under Dutch rule, and the large cemetery predominantly serves as a final resting place for the Dutch and the Chinese.

It is also teeming with transgender sex workers at night.

We deliberately hung back in our hotel on our second evening in Surabaya. Our guide, Fuad, specifically told us to be ready after 11pm, as a trip to Kembang Kuning to find sex workers would’ve been futile any earlier.

Close to midnight, we hired a taxi willing to drive us through Kembang Kuning. The road was narrow – just barely wide enough for two cars. Even with minimal lighting, large, grey gravestones stood out majestically on the hills on either side of the cab.

Soon enough, we spotted what were unmistakably transgender sex workers every ten meters or so, sitting on gravestones while blowing hopeful winks and kisses at every passerby. Fuad told the cab driver to pull up when he spotted a prostitute he said looked “friendly enough to have a chat with.”

Fuad rolled down his window as she approached our cab. Fuad explained that we wanted to interview her for a documentary. I could see that she was taller and much bigger than anyone in the cab. We were all worried that our approach would be met with hostile resistance.

“Sure, that’s alright,” she said in a soft, sweet voice, much to our surprise.

We got out of the cab to the questioning stares of other prostitutes in the area – after all, two in our group were caucasians carrying film equipment. Our new friend ushered us out of everyone’s sight. deep into the cemetery, where we could have a more relaxed chat.

It gets lonely here

She introduced herself as Yolan. Now 25, she said she has been working out of Kembang Kuning for six years. Yolan’s humongous E cups were spilling out of her tight dress, but apparently that’s no guarantee of a steady flow of clients.

“There are happy times [here in Kembang Kuning], but there are sad times when there are no clients,” she said, dabbing the beads of sweat off her forehead with a tissue.

Yolan admitted that her cash flow was better before the government shut Dolly down.

“Whenever it gets lonely here, I’d go to Dolly to serve clients or busk there. People used to pay a lot more in Dolly.

“I was there [during the closure of Dolly] and I took part in the protests. I was sad and angry; it all rolled into one,” Yolan said.

Truthfully, I found it hard to imagine this sweet and unassuming woman getting angry.

Despite only serving one or two (if any) clients a night, Yolan said things weren’t so bad in Kembang Kuning. In fact, she said she felt quite safe providing sexual services at a cemetery.

“We have our own community of transgenders here who look out for each other. People can’t just start working here without our approval,” she said.

The transgenders of Kembang Kuning also do not worry about police raids since they’re generally accepted by the locals. Hence, there’s hardly anyone to file complaints about their activities to the police.

Unwanted visitors

That said, Yolan is scared of ghosts. And she claimed to have seen two during her time in Kembang Kuning.

“I’ve seen two ghosts, one was a figure in white with no facial features, dragging itself on the floor. Over there I saw a large, supernatural snake. Both times I was doing it. I was shocked but the client didn’t see. I just turned my back on the ghosts,” she said, admitting that she still gets scared of ghosts every time she goes to work.

After paying Yolan Rp 150k for the interview (which is what she would get for giving a quick BJ), she took us to her favorite spot in the cemetery. She demonstrated to us how her client would sit on the large gravestone, while she would kneel in front and pleasure him. She even showed us how she’d bend over if a client preferred to go through the back door.

As Yolan returned to her spot, we decided to venture deeper into the cemetery. It became apparent that we were on the Chinese side of the Kembang Kuning cemetery. The thing with Chinese gravestones is that some of them have portraits of the deceased carved right onto the gravestones. Portraits looking on, forlorn, silently witnessing as their grave gets dishonored by whatever lewd behavior goes on in there every night.

“This is where sperm come to die,” Coconuts TV’s producer Katrina quipped, as we were taking in our surroundings. If I weren’t so worried about disturbing the peaceful silence of the cemetery, I probably would’ve burst out laughing.

Click here to get to part 3, “Drive-through convenience.”


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