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Southeast Asia, explained

Indonesia: The plight of Obama's transgender former nanny

AP: Evie, a devout Muslim, scrapes by in a Jakarta slum
Indonesia waria obama transgender 2012 03 05Enlarge
A transgender named Novi waits at Transgender Koran School on July 29, 2011 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/AFP/Getty Images)

The Associated Press has a tracked down a figure with a unique past occupation -- former nanny to Barack Obama -- for a report exploring the plight of transgender Indonesians.

It seems that Evie -- born a little boy named Turdi -- is 66 and scraping by in a Jakarta hovel.

Her account is rife with abuse: beatings, a forced shaving incident and soldiers snubbing out cigarettes on her body. The report suggests life has been cruel to the devout Muslim and former prostitute in the decades after she was hired by Obama's mother on the strength of her fried steak-and-rice skills.

"Today Evie seeks solace in religion, going regularly to the mosque and praying five times a day," writes the AP. "She says she’s just waiting to die."

To explain the woes of the "waria" -- that's essentially "shemale" in the Indonesian tongue -- I'll turn to longtime Jakarta-dwelling writer Daniel Ziv, who wrote this in his book "Jakarta Inside Out":

"The reality for most 'waria' is a long way from a Priscilla-like acceptance by mainstream society ... nearly all 'waria' eventually drift into 'mejeng,' or sex work, where they find a large client base of men on the prowl for something different."

I suspect the AP story will attract a lot of gawking fascination in Evie and, in hyper-polarized America, some hyperbolic AM talk radio speculation regarding her influence on a young Obama. She started working in his childhood home in 1969. His memories of her are probably faint. 

But perhaps Evie can spin the attention into a book deal, earn some cash, move out of the slums and, ideally, reinforce her desire to live.

http://www.globalpost.com/globalpost-blogs/southeast-asia/obama-transgender-nanny