Letters from Ger
A digital exhibition exploring the life of Ger van Braam
The letters exchanged between Ger, a lesbian in Jakarta, and Barbara Gittings, the editor of The Ladder magazine in the US, have opened a new world for the Queer Indonesia Archive. Records of the lives of lesbians in early 1960s Jakarta are not easily found, making this one of the oldest lesbian materials in our archive.
Since our first encounter with Ger and her letters, the QIA team has been trying to uncover her life story. We have searched through archives and libraries in three countries, sent numerous emails with inquiries to historians and distant family members of Ger, and actively participated in genealogy groups on Facebook. This pursuit led us to stories that unfolded in a rented house in East Jakarta, a plantation in Central Java, and ultimately, a home in Breda.
Over a year after this investigation began, the QIA team has gathered enough stories about Ger to create a small virtual exhibition about her life. This exhibition contains snippets of the life story of a lesbian who emerged from her solitude and found community in the form of friendship, family, and love.
To bring Ger’s words to life, we wanted to connect her to the communities of lesbian, bisexual and queer women in Indonesia today. To do so we invited community members to read her letters aloud and bring their own voices to her words. We also invited former members of the US’ first national lesbian rights organisation, Daughters of Bilitis, and the Lesbian Herstory Archive to bring the words of Barbara Gittings to life.
Ger and Barbara’s friendship was the bridge between two worlds, and both of them were fighting to expand the possibilities open to all women. You will find the video and voice recordings of these remarkable women throughout the exhibition.